By Megha Goel
Optimism, effervescence and an eager commitment to self-love make Diamond Bottoson the fearless star we all need. The first thing that strikes you about Diamond is her infectious smile and confidence. She is a member of the EYEJ Youth Council and a senior student at Cleveland Early College, John Jay Campus.
“Being an older sibling trained me for motherhood and my career.”
Born and raised in Cleveland, Diamond grew up as the oldest sibling with three younger brothers and a younger sister. She took care of her infant sister, who was born when she was 8 years old. “My mom works in a factory as a quality technician. Being the eldest, I take care of my siblings when mom is at work. Whether it is helping them with their homework, preparing their breakfast, dropping or picking them from school, I ensure that they are safe,” says Diamond.
“Being an older sibling trained me for motherhood and my career,” says the sixteen-year-old with a doughty spirit. She aspires to work with children, “my heart is set on a career in nursing, child psychotherapy, pediatrics or child obstetrics.” Ask her about the challenges she faced, and she dishes out a gem: “My mom has been my strength, and I want to be the same for my siblings.” Diamond goes on to paint a picture of the unsafe neighborhoods of East Cleveland, “it’s exposed to abuse of alcohol and drugs, young children are bullied.” “Violence and gang rivalry are common sights when we walk down the lane to school. Witnessing this often caused anxiety and mental stress to me as a child.” As the eldest, she took charge and did all she could, “ I didn’t want them to face what I did. I didn’t know how to deal with the surroundings. I want my siblings to have a ‘normal’ life.”
“I might be the sum of my past. But it definitely does not define my future.”
“I might not have recognized myself if I was to look back to my life a few years ago,” says Diamond. It’s only her positive outlook towards life and her mother who empowered her and supported her recovery. Sometimes the prettiest smiles hide the most profound secret. And this was the case with Diamond. She remembers the moment she wanted to change her life., “I was quiet for two long years after being sexually abused by a family member. It took me years to admit that I was assaulted. I was scared of the impact of negative social reactions on my family and my siblings. I was scared and protective at the same time.” The silence made her feel suffocated, and since she was not comfortable at home, the school gradually became the haven in which she blossomed. “I started spending more time in school. It was the first of many self-talks that became the foundation of my recovery. I finally gathered the courage to tell one of my school teachers.”
However, the following year was still challenging for the youth. She continues, “After a year of self-healing, secretly writing notes, I shared the story with my mother.” She shares, “mom was devastated and held herself responsible.” Bottoson found that talking about her own experiences helped her heal, brought her close to her mother, and led the family to have essential and overdue conversations. She was sent to live with her grandmother for some time while her mother dealt with the perpetrator at home. The youth shares, “From dealing with disclosure to coping with the impact it had on my mental and emotional health, mom constantly supported me. Mom always saw the light in me. Whenever a negative emotion bogged me down, she spoke to me and helped me reshape the way I was thinking. She helped me find the positive side of every negative event. She made me realize my self-worth and that I was above all the things that were happening.” She goes on to say, “Even now, when I have a bad experience, mom does not ask me why or what went wrong. The only words she says, ‘are you okay?’ and this makes it all.” On positivity, Diamond shares, “I am the sum of my past. But, it definitely does not define my future. It’s my experiences that make me strong. And the strength and positivity will define my future.”
“I spend some time everyday reading, listening, or writing things that encourage positive thinking.”
Writing helps release negative thoughts, shares Diamond. ‘While I was dealing with the stress, I wrote my first story on Wattpad. I prefer writing my emotions than talking about them,” shares the youth. Writing negative thoughts, questioning them, and finding their positivity helps her keep a positive mindset. She shares, “I read a lot of books and watch motivational speakers on Youtube. Every person has a different story. I infuse their examples and their energy to drive positivity into my life. The Bluford Series was one of my first reads, and I haven’t stopped reading after.” She mentions Eric Thomas and Lisa Nichols being great sources of positivity on Youtube. The youth concludes the conversation best by saying, “It’s hard to be negative when you surround yourself with positive people. Have people around you who encourage you, motivate you, and help you thrive.”