“Where did I come from?” I asked my mother. At only seven years of age I questioned everything. Of course Mom gave me an answer that most parents give their child when they ask the “where do babies come from?” question—something irrelevant and easy enough to change the topic. The funny thing was, that’s not what I was asking. What I really wanted to know was who I was, and why I was there in that house with her.
I wouldn’t say I had a hard life because I didn’t. Things were easy, which would explain why I always felt like a princess. Yet, that wasn’t enough to hide the fact that I felt a certain unease. It wasn’t apparent, no one could tell. I guess I had this fear that if I did express my feelings, ask questions, or show concerns, I would get shut down. My mother had always reminded me of how blessed I was and how grateful I should be, but that still wasn’t enough for me to subdue that feeling that I know would forever reside in me.
I’ve always known I was different. It wasn’t that hard to tell. Even though all the obvious things there were, I had hoped my mother would be the one to tell me. Yet, even when she eventually did, there was this underlying telling of facts that came with it all—just something I had to understand. The fact was that it had already happened. I was here, alive, and better off than I could have ever imagined, and that was that.
My name is Yasmin Shadae Winston and I’m different. “Winston”, the title that I carry, the name that follows the self I know I am, is not me. Winston was one of the obvious realities that affirmed my difference. My family is the “Khans” and I, a “Winston”. At first the difference never bothered me because I had no need to feel different, but when it all came down to the truth, I was.
I always knew it was hard for my mother to talk to me about it, even if she admitted it wasn’t. The situation was not infidelity, even if that was what it sometimes seemed like. Mom gave birth to me from a previous relationship she shared with Kenneth Winston, my father. Yet, all I share with the man is his last name, physical features, and blood. Other than that, he is—and means—nothing to me. He means nothing because when I think of him, I think of failure. A man of the streets, immature, naïve, and willing to make the quickest dollar. A drug dealer was and is not the father for me. It would seem harsh the way I describe the man, but I can’t not show how much of a disappointment he is to me. Maybe it was because Mom rarely spoke of him, and when she did, it wasn’t anything good. The only positive thing was that at one time Kenneth did want me. He did love me, but was love really enough? What about my future? My life? I guess he didn’t love me that much.
When I think about my life and all the twenty-one years of my existence, I think about how much I know God has blessed me. I think about the stories my mother sometimes tells me of her past and of how different my life could have been.
I was only four years old when my mother got married to the most amazing man I know. My stepfather is the only man who has ever loved me like a father should and the only man I could ever call “Dad”. Of the farthest memories I can retrieve from the depths of my mind, he is there. His are the hands I’ve held, the daddy I knew would protect me from all the monsters in the world, the man I knew would be there for me forever. Of course my mom has had a huge role helping to mold me. But my stepdad (daddy) has been my reason for being the strong, independent, woman I am today.
As hard as it is to express how I feel, what comes easiest is to say that love has always surrounded me. My mother is not the affectionate type, but my dad has always filled that void. Thinking back on my situation of being what one would call the “outside-child”, my step-dad had no reason to love me. I was not his. Yet, he did. And he does. He loves me unconditionally, and I know this because not once have I ever felt as if he loved my brother and sister, who are biologically his, more than me. If anything, I’ve always felt that he has loved me more. This man gives me hope and is the reason why I push myself so hard to be successful. He is special and different than most guys out there, and I know that not everyone has it as good as I do. And if I were ever to be in the same situation as my mother, I’m not sure my kids would have it as good as I do either.
My biological father, Kenneth, has missed out. He has given up the opportunity to love and cherish his own child to someone who does it better. I’ve never seen Kenneth. I don’t even know what he looks like, and I don’t think I want to. In writing this I am angry at his stupidity. I am angry at all the fathers out there who give their children up out of selfish gain. I am angry because I know that things didn’t have to be like this, but they are. Yet, in a sense, I also feel joy because I don’t believe that if I did share a relationship with my biological father it would be anything like what I have with my stepdad now.
If I ever built up the courage to look for my father, to see him, or even speak to him I would want to say just this:
In case you’ve forgotten, you have a daughter out here in the world—amongst other children as I have been told. I know you loved me for a very small part of my life, but what about the rest? Were the drugs worth it? Was the game worth it? Was I worth it? I don’t care if you want to change. I don’t care if you want me in your life now. Because it’s too late for me. Someone else has taken your place, and he’s done one heck of a job. I don’t think you could ever love me like he does because at least he knows how to be a father. You’ve failed me. In my eyes you are a failure. I’m sorry if this hurts you. But in thinking about you, you have hurt me. I carry a name that I wish I didn’t. I wish I were a Khan. I wish I didn’t have to feel different. And it’s all your fault. You couldn’t be the man that I needed.
About the author,
A seeker of knowledge with dreams higher than the tallest skyscrapers, Yasmin Winston is a student and goal-getter at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. With a passion for writing, her works express themes of creativity, experience, love, family-life, and travel.