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Wanna know who I am?

All my life, I was that little girl sitting up – trying my hardest not to fall asleep. Billy made the kids go to bed and was being charming to me, which was scary. He was never nice to me with anyone else around. I kept my perfect posture that my mom told me was important and thought that would help me stay awake. I continued to stay seated upright, on my parents bed, with the window over my left shoulder. I remember seeing the moon and I don’t know when I slipped into slumber.

After that I don’t remember.

But the next day, he told me to go up to the loft. My younger brother, Sonny was there. My dad used to tell my brother, “you are the man of the house” when my dad went anywhere. My dad was telling my brother that he respected him as a boy and what it was to become a man – all in seven simple words strung together.

My cousin Billy let Sonny sit there awake after he made the others take a nap. I remember Billy saying to my brother Sonny, “You are the man of the house”. Sonny and I locked eyes in terror until I couldn’t see him anymore as I ascended the ladder.

Billy mounted me and humped on me. He said, “You don’t have to worry about getting pregnant”. I was a child. He said, “He was mating me”.

I left myself and went out that window that I saw the night before on my parents bed. I was scooped up by the owl that had this big nest in a tree nearby.

I had dreams that I would be flying and I would get so far up that I couldn’t get down. And I would flap what were wings when I was going up, but turned into arms and I couldn’t get back down. I thought to myself, what if I can never get back down? I want my family. I want my mom. I want my dad. I want my sister and brothers.

All through my childhood after that, I was disconnected. In some of the dreams I was getting better skilled at starting to control my direction, descent and ground would still evade me. And I’d be swept up into nothingness yet again.

When I was 12 my parents moved us back out to the trapping cabin again. My mom said that I was getting older and that they knew this and it would be our last school year at the cabin. She was right. She always is.

No matter how I aged in number, I was trapped as that little girl on the trapping cabin.

It doesn’t matter how intelligent I was and am, the power of shame and fear were in the driver’s seat of my life.

That is who I spent most of my life as.

Then I went to work for the Alaska Native Health Board. Things began to change, super slowly. I stood up for myself for the first time without realizing that was what I was doing. I emailed my boss and told her that I was not coming back to work anymore there. I told her that I would make more money on welfare and be home with my kids, then my kids being in shitty childcare and us having $80 every two weeks for food. And my boss responded a few days later.

She asked me to make a list of my monthly bills and meet her in the parking lot outside of our workplace the next day after work hours. I did what she asked.

I went back to work. My hourly wage went from $9 an hour to $19.

I had no idea about my value still. When you live in survival on Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs or stuck in your own head going between fight or flight; it is hard to accept, recognize, and certainly embrace that you have value.

Because my value was assassinated.

I was just trying to survive in my own head; as a single mom, thinking to myself, “who in hell would leave me responsible for this children”? Doesn’t anyone know? Don’t they know? Don’t they know that I didn’t know if I was qualified to take care of them?

I was 29.

I was forced to move beyond being that little girl trapped at the trapping cabin; trying my hardest to stay awake. Feeling my eyes grow heavy and how terrified I was to fall asleep.

Healing is not a glamorous.

I was working in a great environment for healing within the native health community. But I never connected with the native people that looked so elated and joyous as they were the icons of healing. I believed their joy to be a falsehood. I believed they were acting. But I wanted what they had.

That was the first time I felt something besides being trapped and in danger.

That feeling was fleeting.

I got brave and made an appointment with a native woman psychologist. That was a one and done doctor-client relationship. I bared my soul. I went so far as telling her that I snorted cocaine.

She told me this: in order for us to work together you need to be prepared. I will make you relive this over and over and over. And you cannot do cocaine anymore.

I looked at her and said, “Are you fucking crazy?” I told her, “How do you think I have survived this long? I feel more peaceful when I can stay awake”.

That was 20 years ago. Thank God.

After I made up my mind to heal; the opportunities to heal were everywhere. I think it is like the time I bought a Coach purse; then I noticed the Coach brand everywhere.

These are both good things: healing and Coach purses. 🙂

Between 1999 – 2002 my life exalted. I found comfort in being successful in a professional setting. I was helping Alaska Native people through health care policy. It was exhilarating to help people, be good at it, and be recognized for it.

A new version of my own identity was born. I was no longer trapped. But I wasn’t near being untrapped yet either.

By Trudy Sobocienski

My blog, "Beyond Leadership" is a creative place to share my personal feelings and thoughts while working in leadership roles for a variety of Alaska Native organizations, both for and not-for profit entities.

An incredible leader and mentor of mine once asked while we were in Washington, DC, "What happened to you between the ages of 7-10 that motivated you to serve in a native leadership capacity". I was struck by that poignant thought and as such, include actual entries from my mother and my diaries beginning in the early 1970's.

I enjoy sharing these excerpts because it captures the parallels she and I were experiencing throughout life, from two separate worldviews. Hers as a young mother of four and mine as her eldest child.
I have never came across a book on leadership that lays bare a leaders personal feelings, thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams they were experiencing.

So for me, my goal is two-fold:

1. Share the incredible life my parents created for my siblings and I growing up in remote Alaska; and,

2) Sharing my humanity, through my personal diaries and journals, while serving as the youngest-ever President/CEO for the Alaska Native Health Board.

There are passages that will include significant policy issues I was working on throughout my career and travels. There are many more passages that do not.

I cannot speak for my mom's passages, because I am reading them as I share them here, with you; with her permission of course.

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