Let Your Past Fuel Your Future

Good day to all, my name is Dameon “D.” Pichetrungsi, and D-LargeI am a former foster youth from Los Angeles, CA. I was eight years old when a friend’s mother noticed some bruises on my face and arms from a recent beating by my father. The next thing I remember is being taken by the police and placed with relatives in Hawthorne. From there I was bounced from one foster care facility to another, going from Long Beach to Compton to Panorama City to Pacoima. I don’t even remember the names of some of the cities; there were more than 20 by the time I was 12. Just as I would acclimate to my surroundings, a new social worker would visit and take me somewhere different, leaving me lost and disconnected once again.

After a short stint of reunification with my biological father, which only resulted in more emotional, mental and physical abuse, I was back to bouncing between placements until I was 14 years old and put in a group home in Granada Hills. After several months I grew tired of the resident staff withholding money, locking up food and constantly inflicting various forms of abuse. I ran away and lived life as a teenage transient.

The best education I ever received was during my time on the streets. Hard lessons, life lessons, all the lessons a misspent youth can endure I learned in the streets of Los Angeles. I connected with a group of gang bangers and drug dealers, who welcomed me into their unique “family” with open arms. I started dealing, stealing cars and beating people up for them. I’d stay at friends’ houses, or in their parents’ cars, or break into homes under construction where there was running water, and sleep in there. I remember going through the aisles of the supermarket, opening up the bread package, then going to the meat aisle and grabbing a few cold cuts. That’s how I would eat, for a long time. At the same time I was still going to class every day and I was on the football team, excelling. Nobody knew.

Except, that is, for one teacher at Kennedy High School, Mr. Blum, who pulled me aside one day and told me that I was in serious jeopardy of going to jail or dying before I was 18. That just happened to be what my father told me the last time I saw him. Not long after that, one of my close friends got shot and killed right in front of me, and I thought, “Yeah, this would be a good time to retire from this life.”

Eventually, I called an old foster brother, just to talk, and he told me that there was an opening at the group home where he lived, Journey House in Pasadena, and how different it was from any other place we’d been to. I spoke with Journey House’s director Tim Mayworm, who asked me one question: “What do you want to do with your life?” I told him I just wanted to go to school like a regular student, and the next day I moved in.

However, after emancipating from the system, there would be plenty of obstacles that I was not prepared for. There was no training on how to feel when you have to face your demons on your own. There was no training on how to integrate yourself into a setting that looks at you differently, mostly with pity, because you were a foster child. Until eventually, all the stereotypes and stigmas get to you, and you shell yourself into your self-loathing, and cut off everything and everybody.

To sit here at 38 years old and tell you that all the pain and scars of a turbulent past have been healed would be a lie. However, I have learned that if you focus all your life on the pain and scars and what other people may think of you, then you can never truly appreciate the blessings that are trying to heal you. For me, my healing came in the form of my writing, my wife and my two beautiful children. Their pure joy and laughter erases any notion of feeling unwanted, voiceless, abused, and especially, boiling rage. My daughter, Deeana, and my son DJ, not only serve as motivation and constant reminders to do more for the greater good, but they also serve as the best therapy money can pay for.

There comes a time when we have to let go of what is holding us back from fully living our lives. Never forget the past, but rather, use it to motivate you to overcome whatever it is that is posing as an obstacle. That’s the message that I want to leave with every foster youth, former and current: no matter how painful your past, you owe it to yourself to make something of your future. Now, go LIVE.

Published on May 29, 2013 as part of Children’s Rights’ “Fostering the Future” campaign. The opinions expressed herein are those of the blog author and do not necessarily represent the views of Children’s Rights or its employees. Children’s Rights has not verified the author’s account.