On Monday March 21, 2016 I spoke at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Meeting (UN), at the United Nation’s New York Headquarters. Me, the girl from downtown Charleston, SC, who at one time did not believe in herself enough to share her voice with anyone.

The girl that was told by the actions of others, that her voice, body, and mind did not matter. There I was, standing behind a podium sharing about my metamorphic life shift, except this time, I held my head a little higher as I allowed myself to rest fully in the feeling of complete belonging.

The ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study was what I was there to discuss. I shared about how it felt learning my score and how the knowledge of it has impacted my life.

I first learned of ACEs two years ago. ACE encompassed ten questions that inquired about a participant’s exposure to abuse; household dysfunction; and neglect as a child, and how it relates directly to adverse health outcomes during adulthood. The higher scores correlate to a higher chance of depression, substance abuse, and/or chronic health issues.

My ACE score is a nine.

For me learning of my score was deeply impactful. I felt relief. I was not crazy. I thought of moments when it felt as if my struggles seemed to always win. Not the external struggles that tend to be more tangible, but the internal ones that seem to never want to leave. I shared that by fully knowing and understanding what I was up against within myself helped me to anticipate and better prepare for the residual survival actions I take when I encounter adversity, both internal and external. I spoke about how I learned of my score a mere short two years ago, and how my life and relationship with my mother has deepened even more since. I talked about how learning of my score helped me to have not only more compassion for myself, but for my mother as well.

I am proud of myself.

I felt less nervous than I thought I would be.

I belonged.

It was amazing to see different countries represented so well. I received a number of flyers from different groups sharing about their causes and passions. I saw women dressed in ornate outfits and headdresses having their photo taken. I viewed this with a sense of pride and awe. I smiled as I walked by because it felt good to be a part of an interwoven tapestry of diversity. I thought of my ancestors. I wondered of the possibility that I was related to some of the African women present that day. I thought of my generations yet to come into this life. I thought of my presence at the UN, and it being a stepping-stone for my upcoming generations — the generations that my children will help to user in. I wondered how many of them will stand where I stood that day, and how many of them will walk even further than I have.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

By Tanya Robinson

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