Claim Your Own Success

Success is divine. It is that feeling you get when you finish first in the race – that feeling you get when you reach the top of the mountain. For some, it is the last race. For others, there is a bridge on top of the mountain which leads to the bottom of another. But for most, success is addicting.

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It is okay to be addicted to success though, considering the long list of things people are typically addicted to. And so long as you define it properly. For youth and adults in and out of the system this may prove challenging. For one, many youth have not been exposed to success, having come from troubled families or difficult situations involving prolonged alcohol abuse, drug use, and mental or physical abuse.

These youth need positive role-models more than anything.

Some youth may even come from families of “successful” people, but those same people were the source of the problem. In these cases youth may over time associate success with the traumas they suffered before foster care. This creates its own host of issues.

I will not pretend to know or understand what success is. I belong to the second group – the group who finds the top of the mountain which only leads to the bottom of another. I have found that this mentality can be an issue sometimes, giving way to a feeling of, “I made it here, but what now?” and “so what, I did that, but can I do it again?” It is the feeling of not being satisfied, of always moving on to the next thing.

I owe a large part of my success to my foster parents. They are “successful” people and possess the positive traits a young man or woman should learn to foster in themselves. I could list those traits, but I do not believe that is helpful to anyone. Not to youth, to foster parents, or to professionals in the system. The truth is that things work differently for everyone.

The trick is to claim your own success. If you are a current or former foster youth, you must take charge of your success. You must own it. If you fail, blame yourself, reflect on what went wrong, and change your strategy. If you are a foster parent, you must take responsibility for your youth’s success. You must own their failures – just as they would, and you must guide them through their challenges. If you are a professional in the system, you too must follow this pattern.

But only the youth should claim the success.

There is a reason for this which goes against the “it takes a village to raise a child” mentality so many subscribe to. And the reason is that while "it takes a village to raise a child” it takes strength to survive trauma, and that strength belongs to the youth, and to the youth alone. They alone must bear the burden of their past.

Of their decisions.

Of their family.

Of their life.

Written by: Alexander S.

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