My name is Padriana Grace and I’m proud and humbled to admit I’m saved by God’s grace. I currently am a senior at Clark Atlanta University and study Early-Childhood Education. I am originally from Rockford, Illinois but moved to Utah when I was in fifth grade. I can vividly remember dreading the idea of having to leave all my family and friends in Rockford to move to a place where my family and I wouldn’t know anyone. I didn’t realize my story was on the brink of being written at just 10 years old. Living in Utah came with a new reality that I didn’t know existed.
Utah has about a 1.8% population of African Americans, so I quickly found myself as someone who didn’t look like the majority of individuals in Utah. I felt like an outcast because wherever I went all eyes were on me but not in a flattering manner. Some of my peers had told me I was the first black person they had ever seen in person (that’s how small the African- American population is in Utah) I found myself becoming embarrassed that I was black because I didn’t feel celebrated or accepted. I was suffering from low self-esteem and insecurity but I didn’t dare admit it to anyone, not even my family or closest friends.
I often felt left out from my peers because I never experienced typical teenage/ high school experiences that most of my peers were experiencing. While I watched the majority of my girlfriends get asked to school dances and prom in the most creative and cutest ways possible, I was the girl that never got asked to one or been to one.
I couldn’t relate to my friends about boys or crushes because none of the boys within my community gave me positive attention. When they would give me attention, it was unflattering remarks or hurtful jokes. No one wanted to date the only “dark-skinned black girl” in the school. This led me to adopting a false/tough persona. Since I was always rejected or never considered as a “pretty” girl to my Utah society, I started to act tough and rude to people before they could hurt me first. Yes, I was the mean girl that cussed in every sentence in front of my peers and adopted a “rebel” personality to cover up my wounds and insecurities.
The few guys that I would come across that showed me any form of attention, I settled for. Most of the guys I dated kept me a secret and made up excuses for why people couldn’t know we talked. I never felt confident enough to tell other people a guy actually liked me without feeling like I wouldn’t get laughed at. I turned to men and their perception of me to define who I was. I stayed in toxic relationships that left me empty even when I knew they were no good for me because I feared loneliness and rejection. I would give all of myself to the guys I dated to only find that it never seemed to be enough. Men and the desire to be loved was my priority and addiction. When I felt I wasn’t desired, I felt empty handed and purposeless.
While most 14 year old girls minds are developing innocent crushes, I found corrupt comfort in a grown man. I was still a 14 year old child and I accepted attention from a 19 year old man who had already been out of high school while I was still in middle school. I gave myself away to a man who I knew had his own sort of internal issues. I took the first form of attention of what appeared to be as a man in my community finally desiring me. Positive self- esteem and self-worth is the most crucial and powerful asset a person must learn to internalize early on; or else, low self-esteem and insecurity can be the ultimate root to settlement and destruction. Even though I was fortunate to grow up in a two-parent home with my mother and father who showered me with unconditional love, they couldn’t help me fight my self-esteem battle because I hid it from them and anyone close to me. I was embarrasaed to admit the kids at my school rejected me.
When I turned sixteen, my father died. My father is the one man I never imagined saying goodbye to so early in my life. I thought when I’d have to say goodbye he’d at least be 70. I was wrong. I do not tell my story to receive a pity party. I tell my story to glorify King Jesus and illustrate how He delights in taking our mess and transforming it into messages. If it weren’t for being lost, rejected, and loosing my father, I’m afraid to admit the person I may still be. My pain is ultimately the seeds that led me to God. God took everything I once thought was breaking me and used it for my good. Had I never gone through storms, I wouldn’t have any testimonies.
It doesn’t matter what man I turned to or who was giving me love, it was never enough because I didn’t love Padriana first. Without loving myself first, anyone else’s love could never be enough. I was lacking a love that could only be found through Jesus. When I went off to college, my relationship with God began to take off because God removed me from my old lifestyle and all I once knew. He presented a clean new slate for me to start over in a new state where no one knew me. I always knew of God because I grew up in church but its not enough simply just knowing of Jesus. Healing and completion took place when I gained a relationship with God and began to get intimate with Him. I can proudly say, I am not the woman I use to be. There are days where tears just heavily roll down my cheeks because I’ve found that I have fallen in love with Jesus. The love I turned to the world for, God had everything I was looking for all along. Always remember, there is reason behind every season, and purpose behind your pain. I am living proof.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” -Romans 8:28