"I Belong Here"

"Where do you belong?"

A question that some, if not most of us, get asked over and over throughout our lifetime.

A question that evokes thousands of responses, but how often do you take the time to stop and truly think about your own definition of “belonging”?

What are the elements that make up “belonging”? What does it mean to truly belong somewhere? How does it make you feel?

What are the elements that make up your sense of belonging?


EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • On Environment: “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with”

  • On Growth: Surround yourself with people who will challenge your thinking

  • On Transition: Learn how to say, “No”

  • On Development: “Listen to people who are like you and follow in their footsteps”


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The Decision to Call Them, “Mom & Dad”

A decision had to be made.

She said, “After being a foster for a little while, you just start wondering, ‘I want a family… I want to feel like I belong …’ You’re pushed to these strangers home and it didn't feel right to not know what to call them. I didn't want to call them, ‘uncle’ or ‘auntie’… They didn't feel like an ‘uncle’ or ‘auntie’… I knew that these people could potentially be really good for me in my life. That’s when I thought, ‘Maybe I should ask if I can call them Mom & Dad…’”

Do you remember the first time you called your parental figures, “Mom & Dad”? How did you feel after saying those words?

A set of questions that may be difficult for some, if not most of us to recall, but for Whitney, it’s a memory she’ll never forget.

What type of role have your parents played in your life?

If given one word to describe either of your parents, what would that word be?


EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

On Foster Care: “Bloom where you are planted”

On Trust: Take one step at a time

On Adversity: Know who you are

On Self-Worth: You are worth it


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What makes you trust the people closest to you?

How does one develop trust? What are the elements that make up trust?

He said, “What I’ve seen in the past from my experience is trust really came from those who were consistent in my life …”

It is through consistency that we are able to tell whether or not people are fully invested in the relationship at hand.

  • Do they trust you enough to reveal deeper parts of themselves?

  • Do their actions speak louder than their words?

A set of questions that most of us seek answers to, as we try to form healthy and trustworthy relationships.

What questions do you seek answers to as you’re developing trust in a relationship?


EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • On Mentorship: Find people who will help you see the bigger picture in life

  • On Developing Trust: Learn to observe your environment

  • On Leadership: “Actions always speak louder than words”

  • On Self-Narrative: “Why” do you want to share your story?

The Decision

She couldn’t tell anyone.

For five months, she sat alone, in her college dorm room, getting sick, not wanting others to know.

She said, “When I was a junior in college, I found out that I was pregnant. I was at a strict religious school and at the time … it was definitely frowned upon… I always dreamed of being a mom one day, I just knew it wasn’t the time. I had no way of providing the kind of life I thought my baby deserved. I really wrestled with this decision of what to do, how to handle the situation and while I was thinking through that, I had to hide my pregnancy…”

A decision had to be made.

She said, “In the end, when I realized that I couldn’t give her everything she deserved, I went ahead and made an adoption plan for her … Leaving the hospital without my newborn was probably the single hardest thing, I have ever done in my life … The loneliness that envelopes you, the doubts, the fears, the worries of not doing the right thing or not ruining someone’s life … But, I knew at the time that I loved her so much, that I wanted more for her than I could give …”

For Adrian, doing the best she could with what she knew at the time was the only option.

What is the hardest decision that you have had to make in your life?


EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • On Decisions: Know that you’ve done your best based on the information available

  • On Storytelling: Use your story to encourage and bring hope to others

  • On Judgment: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes

  • On Acceptance: Find a way to work through your fears and keep moving forward


Keep Moving Forward

Transitions.

She was in 63 different foster homes between four and 21 years of age.

63 different placements, a number that is simply unimaginable to most, if not all, of us.

She said, “The experience going through 63 foster homes was a tough one to swallow because I knew what I was entitled to … and I also had to face the fact that there are going to be times that the people who are responsible for providing services to you, providing care to you, don’t love you …”

But, despite all of the challenges and the constant transitions, it was through the foster care system that Felicia Wilson ended up meeting a foster parent who changed her life for the better.

A foster mom that helped Felicia embrace her own identity, and feel comfortable in her own skin.

A foster mom that helped Felicia realize the importance of accepting the cards she has been dealt with in this lifetime and figure out a way to play them to her advantage.

A foster mom that helped Felicia develop confidence in her own abilities, which led her on an unexpected journey of starting, “Fear Everything & Rise,” a platform to better prepare young people affected by foster care with the tools necessary to grow and live prosperous lives beyond the child welfare system.

I asked, “If you were given one word to describe your foster mom, what would that word be?”

She said, “Loving … As a kid growing up not having that stable mother figure in your life … being a kid that went through 63 foster homes … I’ve always wanted that simple hug … I always wanted to know that someone accepted my flaws … I wanted to know that no matter what decisions I made, right or wrong, at the end of the day I wouldn’t be judged … I wanted to know that if I fell short of anything I tried in life … somebody would still accept me and love me the same…”

If YOU were given one WORD to describe either of your parents, what would that word be?


EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • On Independence: With freedom comes great responsibility

  • On Growth: Push yourself outside of your comfort zone

  • On Letting Go: Let your wall down and let others in to help you

  • On Acceptance: Accept the cards you’ve been dealt in this life, and learn how to play them


Want to Connect with Felicia?

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Embrace Who You Are

He had three different names before he was three months old.

He said, “The first name I ever had was Jeremy Jones… In the foster homes … I was Toby … Now my given name, Aaron Parchem…”

For Aaron Parchem, silver medalist at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, adapting to new environments was not an option, but rather a necessity.

It is a skill that not only helped Aaron Parchem during his early childhood years, but also during his time as a figure skater.

He said, “In skating… when I tell people that I was a figure skater for the first time, you get kind of a blank look like, ‘Is this guy messing with me?’ … I’ve come to expect it and that is what it is … I don’t look like a figure skater … I didn't even when I did it … I am a straight, black male in skating… When you’re unique, you’re going to elicit unique responses…”

Embracing his identity and surrounding himself with giving people were the only ways to break through some of the remarks Aaron had received along the way as a figure skater, a profession that has taught him life lessons that cannot be replaced.

Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I happy with who I have become?”


EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • On Challenges: “People rise to the occasion when they’re challenged”

  • On Empowerment: Live in the service of others

  • On Support Groups: Find people who’ll support you no matter what

  • On Self: Develop a good understanding of who you are on the inside (feelings, values, and tools that you can use to accomplish your goals)

Seeing is Believing

“Anything is possible if you believe in yourself.”

He said, “I didn’t want to be a Catholic nun, but I wanted to be the Executive Director… I wanted to be the person who was able to make things happen for children… So, at 12 years old I started signing my name, ‘Nathaniel J. Williams, Executive Director.’”

He consciously thought of the end result, felt what it would feel like once he did achieve the end goal, and spoke it into the universe every opportunity he was given.

12 years later, his dream became a reality.

“Executive Director,” a title that became a part of Nathaniel J. Williams’ identity, and has been a part of it ever since.

As I was once told, “Seeing is believing.”

For Nathaniel J. Williams, it was no different.

In fact, one could argue that it is through visualization, Nathaniel J. Williams was able to acquire all of the positions he has had throughout his life including direct care worker, foster parent, nonprofit and for-profit organization founder, talk show host, and international motivational speaker.

What can you do today that will put you one step closer toward achieving your goal?


EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • On Traumatic Experiences: Embrace them

  • On Environment: “Your five closest friends are often going to be an indicator of how successful you’re going to be”

  • On Visualization: Think it, feel it, act on it

  • On Gratitude: Be grateful for what you do have, not focus on what you don’t have


Want to Connect with Nathaniel?

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Just One Person At A Time

He was afraid to let the people know the real him.

He said, “I was ashamed, embarrassed and … afraid that people in my professional career were going to see this side of me…”

A situation that made Travis Lloyd realize the importance of living the story he wanted to live, and not the story that others wanted him to live.

A situation that made him realize the importance of continuing with his work, to inspire others who were living or lived in a similar upbringing that he did, even if it meant sacrificing everything to become something.

As fellow adoptee, Colin Kaepernick once said, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

For Travis Lloyd, it was no different.

He said, “I had just written my first song called, ‘No one else’ talking about no one else understands what’s going through my head… I had never showed anyone that song before… I performed this in front of 600 teenagers from all over the country who all grew up in foster care… I was shaking when I did it… Afterward… these kids just started attacking me… They wanted my signature, they wanted to talk to me, they wanted to share their stories with me… That felt so good to me to know that I was able to inspire them, to know that it’s possible to do something bigger… But, I still wasn’t to the point where I was ready to do that… I was ashamed… embarrassed… afraid that people in my professional career were going to see this side of me… So, I changed my name on social media…”   

A name change that at first allowed Travis to continue developing his message.

Since then, Travis has become one of the leading voices for foster youth around the world.

What are the sacrifices that you’re willing to make in order to continue doing what you love the most?


EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • On Public Narrative: “What are the 3, 5, 7 things that I want the world to know?”

  • On Building Confidence: Define your “why” first

  • On Struggles: Know that you’re not alone

  • On Opportunities: Stay open minded


Want to Connect with Travis?

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