Defining Moments: Finding Peace After Foster Care

“Maya Angelou’s book, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ was definitely that pivotal moment for me,” Sharrica said. “I think about how she responded to the tragedy in her life by turning in. It was profound to me because when you don’t have anything or anybody else – you can turn in.”

Sharrica at her graduation from UCLA. Photo courtesy of Sharrica Miller.

How does one find peace within themselves? There is a lot of discussion right now about mindful meditation, communing with nature and that old standby, the power of positive thinking. But sometimes it’s hard to sit in your own thoughts, especially when your mind won’t slow down, and the thought of rethinking anything brings on a panic so profound that … well, it becomes easier to just not go there.

Spending most of her childhood either living with a loving mother addicted to heroin and a father in and out of prison, or being shuttled to various foster homes, Sharrica found reading and writing as a way to find her own peace as a young girl growing up.

Sharrica with her mother and younger brother. Photo courtesy of Sharrica Miller.

Reflecting back now, raising her own child and having earned a Ph.D. in nursing, she talks about how she overcame some of her childhood trauma.

“I feel very strongly that things can happen to you in your life and they’re sort of hovering here in this space and you decide if you’re going to internalize that as your self-worth,” Sharrica said. “I was a foster youth and I take out of that the resilience aspect, the ability to adapt, to change – to any situation, any family, any environment, and just be okay. I take that strength. Then, being able to find my family and people that are not blood-related to me. And that, too, is a strength that I take from foster care. And so, I find peace by changing my perspective of events to suit my own narrative and what that means to me.”

In Angelou’s autobiographic novel, the bird’s voice – the song – is the only part that can escape the cage and be free. For Sharrica, no matter what home she was going to, she took all of her notebooks.

“That’s what I held on to,” she said. “I would let the clothes go. I let everything go. I took my notebooks.” Going in, writing everything down worked for her. For those in pain, think about finding a creative outlet to express yourself – to let out your own voice.

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Mira Zimet is an award-winning educational and documentary filmmaker. She launched The Storyboard Project in 2014 to give foster youth transitioning into adulthood the opportunity to tell their story using a visual medium. She is on the board for Peace4Kids. Follow her on Facebook at /thestoryboardprojectlaYouTube at /thestoryboardprojector Twitter at @SPBYourStory

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