WELLNESS WEDNESDAY: SAVANNAH MONTGOMERY, MIYAMURA VOLLEYBALL
“No matter your position, circumstances, or opportunities in life, you always have the freedom of mind to choose how you experience, interpret, and ultimately, shape your world.” -Brendon Burchard
No matter your circumstances, you can succeed. High school junior Savannah Montgomery is living proof.
Some people might describe her path as a difficult life. “There were definitely obstacles, but it brought my life great value and gratitude,” Savannah reflects. “But you can say things haven’t always been great.”
Homelessness, the loss of a parent, substance abuse in the family, the death of a brother, incarceration for another sibling, these are some of the obstacles this teen has had to deal with in her lifetime.
“A lot of outsiders might view my life and think ‘that’s hard, that’s not the best upbringing’, but for most of my life I had a pleasant childhood,” Savannah said. “I don’t seek pity or sympathy because I don’t believe my life was any less than anyone else’s.”
From a very young age, Savannah experienced a lot of poverty. “Neither of my parents worked for a long time, there was a lot of substance abuse and alcoholism,” she said. “For a majority of my childhood, we were homeless. I moved to New Mexico in the 6th grade and for a few months we stayed in a trailer, then we were evicted and started moving from hotel to hotel for quite some time. We lived in hotel rooms and lived with other people, friends, grandparents, we moved around so much.”
Those circumstances can have a lasting impression on a child. “There were some moments where I felt really ashamed of my family or my families’ situation. I used to ride the bus home from school. The motel I lived in happened to be the first stop. I remember getting off the bus and the kids would roll down their windows and yell awful things at me and that made me feel alienated.”
Perspective is everything.
“I didn’t dread my life in hotel rooms, it wasn’t something I felt like I had to cope with because it was normal for me. It was just my way of life. As long as I had somewhere to stay, I knew I would be fine.”
When Savannah was 13 years old, her father died from cirrhosis of the liver. “It was a real dark part of my life,” she said. “At the moment, I didn’t realize how much I was going to learn from it and now I understand it a lot more and, it probably sounds funny to say, but I’m grateful for him passing when he did because it allowed me to become the person I am today.”
“I was close with my dad, even though he wasn’t perfect, far from it. He wasn’t always the most understanding man or the most mature, but he had a really big heart and loved me and my family and you knew he was trying his best. He took the time to talk to me and try to understand me. When he passed away, it was tough because I became so close to him.”
The death of her father isn’t the only loss Savannah has dealt with. She has four older siblings, a sister and three brothers. “My oldest brother passed away this year, and my brother Tyler is in prison. My youngest brother has struggled with drug use and violence, he was shot in an accident and was lucky to survive,” Savannah described. “A few months after his recovery, he called me in the middle of the night telling me he hitchhiked to El Paso. That night he took a Greyhound bus to Houston and has been there since. I’m glad he went, I miss him, but he’s doing a lot better out there.”
Savannah says her mother struggles with health issues, but describes her as “a strong woman who taught me so much.” Savannah and her mom currently live with Savannah’s older sister.
“My older sister stepped up and took care of us,” she said. “It’s been two years since we’ve been living with her and it’s been really stable and really healthy.”
Part of that stability is a result of Savannah’s involvement in volleyball. She plays for Miyamura High School. Ever since she started playing, the sport became an outlet for her. “Even when things were financially unstable, my sister would pay the bills to get me what I needed for volleyball. Playing volleyball allowed me to push myself past the limits I had put myself in. You can do more than you think you can. I never thought of myself as someone who is sporty, but the more I played the more skills I developed, and it awakened me to my own potential and gave me a lot of confidence. The feelings I’ve felt on the court are unmatched by any other, I swear by it. It’s like heaven on earth, those euphoric moments are what I live for.”
Savannah looks at her life as an experience that might help others. “I’ve grown to not feel ashamed or regretful of my childhood because it was full of love. A lot of kids don’t get to experience that so I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
In fact, helping others could be her future profession. “I’m really interested in psychology,” she said. “I believe in helping other people, to put it simply, that’s really what I want to do. I want to be a therapist, specifically to help women who have experienced abusive relationships, or rape victims. There’s a huge lack of understanding about those relationships and how they can take a toll on your mental health. I feel like this country has neglected those victims and I want to give them the treatment they deserve.”
With everything Savannah has been through in her life, how has she been able to avoid the same pitfalls? “My dad instilled in me my value,” she answered. “He always told me I was special and I had something to bring to this world and it was my responsibility to share the light I have inside me. I believe in fate and I believe that I was put here for a reason and if not to help people, then what? I have an ability to make a deep connection with people on an emotional level with my peers, to see the bigger picture. I get so much joy out of connecting with people. If I had gone down those darker roads and made bad choices, I wouldn’t have been able to have the friendships that I have. I wouldn’t be able to help anyone because I wouldn’t be able to help myself. My volleyball team and my friends, they see the love I have to share and they reciprocate it to me. You get what you give, and a lot of people support me and I don’t want to let them down.”
Savannah’s message to her teammates and peers is to find your purpose in life. “When I’m struggling, I try to remind myself of my value, my worth and the things I could accomplish. Love yourself above all else. A lot of kids my age have fear about what other people think or what their life will be like or just life in general. When I stopped letting fear make my choices for me, that’s when I let in the opportunity for other things to happen. Life doesn’t always have to be bad. Just because things have been bad in the past, doesn’t mean it has to be like that all the time. It is your choice to break the cycle, it is your choice, it’s your life. Nobody chooses to be here, but while you’re here why not make it a life worth living.”