Octavia P. — A Country Girl Bought a Ticket to Start Over


by KAREN CHRONISTER  |  editorial@thecontributor.org

Where are you from?
I’m a Mississippian. I was raised chopping cotton and picking cotton. My dad owned his own land and I worked for him. We raised cotton and beans, rice, and wheat. I have three sisters and two brothers. I’m the last born. My dad is the baby. He’s 92.

He’s the baby?
He was my mother’s baby before I came along. I was the last born and not a boy child, so I had it rough.

How so?
Males look at females different; they can never know what they’re talking about [and can] never do anything right—that’s their opinion, I guess. Even my siblings say I can’t make salad. But, I can make homemade rolls.

Yum. Do you have children?
My children are grown. I didn’t have the opportunity to raise them. But, I raised them until they were 8 and 10: Corey and Kenon. My oldest was raised by my oldest sister and the youngest by his father. I had postpartum real bad, so I left Chicago and went home to Mississippi. I’m a country girl. “Fried, dyed and laid to the side and didn’t know where from.”

I’m a Yankee girl. Is that a Mississippi saying?
It’s for people who are going through things and don’t understand what’s happening. Before they know it, they’re in some deep crap.

What brought you to Nashville?
I went back home from Chicago. My dad and I had a little spat. So, I ended up for 10 years in Memphis. Then, I decided with the last difficulties that I’d buy a bus ticket to Nashville—to start over. I came here to find no one. No one knew I left Memphis. No one knew I was coming to Nashville. When I got here, a gentleman walked me to the terminal and put me on the bus to the side of town where the crisis center was. They lodged me three days. I met a lady from Operation Stand Down, and she pulled me out. Then, I went to Family Life Center for a week. During that week, my sister was driving down the street and that’s how I found out my niece was around the corner. I got a tangible job because my record wasn’t messed up then. But, I let the wrong people into my life. I’m going to stop doing that—I need to stick with my family.

Where are you living now?
I’m looking for an apartment. I had to move out July 31. I’m a veteran and have a Section 8. I’m in the moment living out of my car, but I take a shower and eat at my niece’s place. I keep my things in my car so not to impede on her family. She has two young children…and I try. The younger generation doesn’t see things like we do. I just had an operation on Friday. I’m kind of slow right now, trying not to move too fast. Things in my background are holding me up from employment. My church is having a community day. My hope is to expunge my record so that won’t hinder me.

What is the career you want to pursue?
I’m a certified nursing assistant, and I completed my certificate in medical billing and coding in 2013. I’m a college grad in psychology and history. That was back in ’75. Came to find that my background wouldn’t allow me to be employed in the health field, and that hurts.

Do you want to talk about the last difficulties?
No. The older I get, the more I’ve learned not to talk about it—it takes away from the project at hand.

Your laughter drew me in. Are you an optimist?
I’m a determinist. Patience. Faith. In spite of all, I can’t let it get me down, I can’t give up. I’ve been going through this for years. I’ve managed to maintain, but I haven’t been able to progress in a career. I’m focused on becoming a productive citizen.

Aren’t we all. What was your happiest time? 
Happiest? At home in the country when I was growing up. I was raised in the middle of the country—no one but Mom and Dad, as my sisters had left. There were crickets and frogs. Throw a fishing line in the pond. The closest house was way down the road.

Me too. What’s the most important thing when you wake up in the morning?
Thank the Lord. Be happy. Be content. I don’t like misery. I don’t like pain. And get back on the battlefield. Maybe I’ll be a productive citizen with a career at 60. Faith, baby. And hope.


Originally published in The Contributor, print and online. The Contributor©2015.

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