To whom it may concern,
Greetings, my name is Kateri Epperson and I am looking to acquire a small business loan. My financial background is poor, and I would like to try and explain why. The best way I can do this is explaining a small part of my life that led me to where I am at today.
Only when I was vomiting over twenty times a day, walking twenty five miles a day, and starving myself for days, did my mom actually find me beautiful. While most moms would be reassuring and supportive, mine was always quick to tell me to quit or I was not capable.
My little sister was always the smart, skinny, beautiful one. I was always scolded for being jealous of her, but really, I never in the slightest wanted to be her, I just wanted a little validation that I could do more in life than work fast food flipping burgers living off welfare.
While others were taught to dream big, I was taught life is not fair. While I appreciate having this lesson burned deep into my mind, having it mixed in with years of sexual, physical, and mental abuse, created more of a psychological toll than anything.
In order to understand why I am in the financial position I am, I honestly have to explain my past. My major is Psychology and I have deciphered my entire life, so bare with me.
It is quite hard to talk about my history, either people feel sorry for me or they compare their own trauma and become offended. There is no measure to suffering, however, people have a strange habit of trying to play a greater victim. I will absolutely bore myself writing this, but here goes.
I was born on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation and placed into foster care three days after I was born. My birthmother had chosen adoption for me. While one would believe that being given to a new family would cause me to have a “happily ever after” with all the opportunities in the world, it was ironically, quite the opposite. I spent three to six months in a foster care home that neglected me. My new parents were occasionally able to take me home while their adoption paperwork was pending approval. The original family my birth mother chose ended up having new life opportunities arise so they withdrew their application. There is a story there that I will not dive into, but imagine my life being a series of two paths, the easy path has never been chosen for me. At around six months I was officially adopted. However, the psychological damage had already started as the first three months of a baby’s emotional development relies heavily on “mommy bonding,” mix in major neglect, I was already bound to have some issues once I reached puberty.
The first couple years of my life were as any new baby honeymoon ought to be. My parents received their teaching degrees at this time and ended up taking teaching positions in rural Alaska.
Many would feel ecstatic about having the opportunity to grow up in such an area, but that is until it’s realized it is practically a third world country. Many at the time had no electricity or running water. A simple Google search can show the staggering statistics of sexual abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, and suicide the rural Alaskan communities hold. Thirty years ago there was no recognition of the agony these villages held, so many teachers went in completely blind.
What is also important to mention is my adoptive father is white, and is a Vietnam vet who, while I was growing up, suffered tremendously with P.T.S.D and Agent Orange. My adoptive mother is a Native American who suffers from Major Depression and a bi-polar personality disorder. She has her own trauma from growing up on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, as well as having her parents, my grandparents, who suffered from the trauma of the Boarding Schools. But again, that is another story in itself, I only mention this because it shows the concoction of a recipe for disaster.
The villages in Alaska, at that time, were extremely racist. There was one village where the Natives stood outside as the planes would land with their guns ready to threaten any white person who came off board. While a majority were not this dramatic, most were borderline intolerant of the white man. I spent fourteen years of my life in these villages, and within that time, I was molested repeatedly for years by a babysitter’s husband, molested by two teen boys a few times, bullied and beaten repeatedly for being a half breed (ironically, my birth family is as Native as can be, but I was adopted to a white dad and that no longer mattered), watched other kids get molested and slapped around by their families, and knew way too many kids by the time I was ten who had killed themselves. Sexual abuse was so common that during recess there would be young boys molesting young girls right on the playground. There was one year my parents couldn’t handle the villages anymore and so we moved to the Fort Yates Reservation in North Dakota, but the kids there decided to play the wonderful ‘suicide game.’ We were back in Alaska within a year. Most of the villages were considered to be “dry” which meant the alcohol was forbidden, however people had their ways of acquiring it, those that didn’t huffed gas. Imagine, if you will, going to class in the third grade and your classmate smells like gas because it was common to carry around plastic bags of gas and huff it. To this day, I still hate the smell of gas. During this time I was put on numerous medications for ADHD because I could never sit still, psychology today would understand this to be the effects of abuse.
Life quieted down a little when we eventually moved from the outer villages to the Aleutian Islands. These were a bit more modern due to the fishing and crab industry. I spent my lower tween years secluded on an island where I was the only kid my age. There were roughly forty to sixty people at a time on this island, and roughly ten young kids total. Occasionally a kid or two my age would temporarily move to our village but I was often the odd one out. Once I hit puberty, the depression and manic episodes from the trauma I endured started coming out. I started lashing out, eating away all my feelings, and started entertaining the idea about how to kill myself. This is where having two parents with their own major mental health issues did not mix well. They did not know how to handle me so shipped me off to live with my brother and his wife in North Dakota when I was fourteen.
Moving from the villages where I, at most, had maybe three hundred kids in a school, to a school where my class size alone was over four hundred, was a major culture shock. I learned just how cruel kids could be to a fat, ugly, stupid, hyper, Native. Needless to say, I was not popular for good reasons. I developed major anxiety that was so bad I wouldn’t eat all day. I would only eat when I was at home. This caused me to lose a substantial amount of weight, and the skinnier I became, the more compliments I received. Ironically, this was also probably the most stable years of my upbringing. Right before I turned sixteen my brother and his wife decided to get a divorce. Neither wanted me so this is when I first experienced being homeless. My parents were still teaching in Alaska, and could not make it down right away so I slept on couches for a few months until they were able to move. I had just started making friends at the end of my Junior year but having panic attacks about my situation scared a majority of them off. I started my senior year living in a small crappy trailer with parents who were practically strangers to me at that time, walking back into school a Senior loser. The only memorable thing worth mentioning about this year is that I tried to join the army. I was always right on the border of measurements and weight so my recruiters would measure me every other day, keep me on an all broth and salad diet, had me take diet pills, and would tell me to weigh myself every day. One of them even took a fancy to me. Needless to say this is where my wonderful bulimia took hold and my unhealthy view of the relationship between sex equaling love. I never did end up joining because, ironically, while I eventually got beneath the weight I needed to be at and had great measurements, all the diet pills led to a three day straight panic attack.
So I decided to try and go to college like every other normal young adult. Well, my trail of luck would have me get raped and impregnated there at eighteen. I chose adoption, mainly because I would be kicked out if I had an abortion since my parents were die hard Catholics. In the end I dropped out of college and started experiencing my first manic episodes.
Within a couple years after the childbirth, I moved out. I was around twenty at this time, ready to take on the world with major depression, manic episodes, a borderline personality disorder, full blown bulimia, self destructive tendencies, and an unknowingly addictive personality. This addictive personality first showed its face when I discovered the wonderful world of parties and alcohol. Needless to say, nothing good came of this life.
The next few years of my life would be full of constant drinking, parties, and racking up an impressive amount of debt. Surprisingly, I never used any hard drugs; there was always a part of my mind that knew if I started I would not be able to stop. I entered into an extremely abusive relationship; I still am quite surprised I am alive. There were many times of leaving and going back like any typical abusive relationship. Because my life is full of irony, when I finally had the strength to leave for good I found out I was pregnant. At the time I never wanted kids, nonetheless to be pregnant since the first pregnancy was traumatic for me. I was all alone and scared so I chose to have an abortion. While I am pro-life now, in hindsight, I still cannot fully fault myself for having made such a decision. That also, is a story in itself. The ripples of trauma after this part of my life became like the waves of a storm hitting a jagged rock shore. While I pushed away the guilt of this choice to the back of my mind, I still always knew I killed my child. After this is when I completely spiraled out of control and hit rock bottom.
The next few years of my life were dark. The partying was intense, the drinking was blackout, and the cutting was deep. There was a yearning to be dead and I tried to fulfill the need that put me in a psych ward for awhile. I was homeless: on the streets, in shelters, or couch hopping, eating food out of garbage’s and surrounding myself with substance abusers of every kind. I was willing to do anything I could for a safe and warm place to stay; I cannot say I am proud of how low I was able to sink. My parents believe in “tough love,” unfortunately for me, they are not great at loving. This was my life, this is the reality of unresolved trauma and poverty.
I should be dead. Life is very much like a “choose your own adventure” book. Every decision in life has multiple paths associated with it. What if my birth mother never chose adoption? What if the original well off family she chose never changed their mind and adopted me? What if my parents never moved to the villages? What if my parents listened to the rumors of my babysitter’s husband being a child molester? What if someone in my family actually acknowledged that I was not doing okay and forced me to get therapy while I was still a minor? What if someone actually gave a shit….but…that’s the dangerous world of “what if’s.” It will suck a person down into deep self pity and victimhood. Nothing good comes from “what if’s.”
A rat and insect infested trailer with holes in the walls, random needles found in curtains, meth and weed found on every table, brown smelly water, working at a local pizza joint and dating a meth addict; this is the life I lead when I found out I was pregnant again. I absolutely knew inside I could not choose to have an abortion again, and I knew that a child deserved so much more than the garbage life I lead, so I chose adoption.
My pregnancy is a long story in itself, but in a nutshell, it was absolute hell, but I would not wish any of it away. I gave birth to a daughter and chose a wonderful family for her. My daughter saved my life and lit a spark deep in my heart. Her parents I chose became really close friends of mine at the time and further lit the flame inside. I was very involved in their life, we were like a small family in a sense. They were the first ones to ever see potential in me. I used to find them cruel to expect me to have any amount of worth. After all, I was worthless, stupid, fat ( I was actually borderline anorexic at this point), ugly, and everything bad. They introduced me to a world of stability and love. They gave me hope. I picked myself up higher than I had ever been in my entire life and even received my associates degree and further pursued my education. Life was looking up for a couple years. Unfortunately, when you have never known love or caring in your life, you do not know how to treat it. All I knew how to do was take, because survival is taking. I did not know how to return their generosity, empathy, or love, and as with any relationship that involves a side only taking, it became toxic. I ended up relying on them for my entire well being, my validation, and happiness. Like any logical and self respecting people, they eventually split their ways with me.
I did not fall, for the first time in my life, I was still standing after a let down. The year was 2020, my daughter’s mom had just found out she had two types of cancers and had to have numerous organs removed. The world was ending because of Covid-19, America became extremely politically divided, cities were burning, and I lost my income.
So my life is full of bad luck and irony, obviously. Right before Covid-19 happened I was offered a high paying position elsewhere than where I was working. This company did a lot of sales work around the Midwest and the prospects looked like they were on the high road up. They had just recently gotten bought out by a larger company and the new HR location was located on the east coast. I accepted the offer and put in my resignation. A few days later I received a phone call from the hiring manager saying their HR shut down. North Dakota still hadn’t had its first positive case yet but everyone knew a lockdown was coming at this point, and the hiring manager apologized and said he didn’t know if they would even have a company after all was said and done. The HR for my current position already had the end of employment paperwork finished for me so I was all of a sudden unemployed in a world where literally no one was hiring. Since I had voluntarily resigned thinking I had another job lined up, I did not qualify for unemployment. Debt stacked up and after two months I was finally able to find a temporary online job out of Canada. It was seventeen dollars an hour, but when bills are based on sixteen, that doesn’t do much when someone is over two months behind when the first paycheck arrives. To further add to the irony, after I managed to find a job during lockdown, rental and electric assistance programs started going out for people affected by Covi19, and I made too much to qualify. I literally would have been better off not working. The temp job ended as the state was opening up. I was able to find part time jobs to make ends meet. I lost everything nice I built up for myself and started over in a run down apartment. I was completely on my own and back in the same amount of debt I had spent the last couple years working myself out of.
I cannot explain what happened during 2020, except for the flame inside me became a fire. I became resilient, goal oriented, hard working, and self sufficient. While a majority of people fell victim to the chaos of the world, I faced it head on. I had already been through hell and back too many times to count, but the one thing I promised my daughter before I said goodbye was the next time she saw me I would be different, I would be someone great. And as chaotic as the world became, to me, that’s all it was. When your whole life has been chaotic, chaos eventually just becomes chaos.
I learned to roast coffee beans last summer as a hobby and quickly realized there was a high demand for not only fresh coffee beans, but Native American fresh roasted coffee beans. At the time I was working two jobs trying to make ends meet and roasting was merely a side gig. I had no business plan nor access to a roaster long term so starting up a business at the time was not feasible. After I quit roasting, I continued to have demand for my coffee and I started entertaining the dream of being a business owner. Life eventually brought me to working in a grain elevator, which brings me to the present day.
It is currently harvest season, and I am working over eighty hours a week. We are extremely short handed, every day is stressful. This job is mentally and emotionally draining. There is no time to break down nor cry, the moment one tries to do that, something breaks down and focusing on the job tops any silly emotion. Working in an elevator is easily deadly the moment complete focus is not given to a task. Even in the midst of being completely overwhelmed, I have still managed to create budget plans for my future business. Chaos is chaos. If I can survive the stress this job delivers me thirteen to twenty-seven hours a day (trains are easily over a day long straight), seven days a week, then I know I can survive anything owning a business will bring me.
When asked to explain why I have made the financial mistakes in life that I have and why anyone should have any faith in me, I cannot provide any strong arguments on my behalf. I have screwed up too many times to count. What I can say is: I have been to hell and back, repeatedly. I have experienced the darkest humanity has to offer; I have also experienced the purest forms of love and light it offers. I am so much more than that person I used to be eating out of garbage cans, and not to sound egotistical but I am honestly quite intelligent. That is something my parents are starting to realize as well. All I needed was someone to believe in me, and even though I may never see my daughter or her parents again, I refuse to be a let down if we were to meet.
I cannot provide collateral and have a poor credit history, but I have a dream. I have a strong instinct yelling in my mind that now is the time to jump. I need to go for my dream of being a business owner now or the opportunity will have passed by the time I am done being anxious. I 100% believe I will succeed, now I just need someone else in a bank to believe in me.
Kateri A. Epperson