My father, John Dukes, has been in the system since I was five years old. I am now 23 years old. As a child of an incarcerated parent I know some of the daily struggles one may face in dealing with such an unfortunate event. I grew up feeling like I could not tell people about where my Dad was or who my Dad really is, in fear of people judging me or judging him. I was so afraid of being looked at differently that I would make up stories about my father's whereabouts. However, one of the biggest challenges for me was having to deal with the loss of my father not physically being here, despite the fact that in his heart he wanted nothing more than to be there with me, helping to raise me, to show me what unconditional love between a father and daughter feels like.
I used to look at my close friends and how they could call their Dad to talk when they were going through something or could call their Dad just to meet up and spend time with each other and I always would think in the back of my head, "why us?" Why have my father and I been chosen to be separated and our bond be put through such a strain? Often I felt alone. I felt like something was missing. Even though my father tried the best he could to be present from where he was at, it still did not feel like it was enough.
As I got older, I learned how to channel that negativity into positivity. I learned to embrace my shortcomings in life and look ahead to better days. Instead of dwelling in my sorrow or choosing to live an unhealthy lifestyle I chose to keep myself busy and work on my future because I cannot change the past. I have decided to dedicate my life to helping other people. I am currently enrolled in nursing school and God willing will finish before the end of the year. My father told me something one day that continues to resonate in my ear and that is " I am a survivor, not a victim." Anyone who is currently dealing with a loved one being incarcerated should understand that we are survivors and we will get through this. I hope that our story can uplift someone going through a similar situation.