From The Ashes I'm Burning Like A Fire

The Story Behind The Business Collection by Founder Tia-Alana

For those of you that I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, My name is Tia-Alana and I’m the founder of The Business Collection.

I’ve been asked more times than I could remember “So what’s your story?” “How did you decide to start a women empowerment magazine?” and “Why do you care so much about women empowering women?”

When I get asked these questions I give the usual answer, the elevator pitch that I have practised and perfected “women need to realise they don’t have to fight for their seat at the table and tear other women down etc etc..” Although that is our very real brand message it’s not my story.

My story is a story that I have never told, I’ve always given myself excuses on why it’s not the right time, telling myself no-one will care and it will make people feel uncomfortable, or the typical, I’ll start tomorrow and tomorrow never comes.

But it’s only now as a 22 year old woman who has spent years working on my personal self development and mental health that I realise, I own my story, I own my truth and it’s my right to tell my story because it is what defines me, it’s what makes me who I am and what drives my passions. It is the reason The Business Collection was created.

So how do you start writing your own story? How do I put into words all the things I have hidden to the back of my mind for years because I don’t want them to hurt me?

How do I make you, the reader of my story understand what my life has been until now without making you feel uncomfortable or offending anyone?

In my years of self development if I have learnt anything it’s that everything that happened to me wasn’t my fault, I no longer blame myself and strangely I no longer blame the people who hurt me. I know that life isn’t easy for anyone, everyone struggles with their own demons and has their own pain that they deal with in different ways.

In 2018 I had the pleasure of traveling to Cambodia and worked with the feeding dreams school teaching english, womens hygeine and health.

It’s taken me such a long time to feel the way I do towards my pain and my past and it wouldn’t at all been possible without the love and support from those around me. I strongly recommend if anything you read in this story makes you feel uncomfortable or resonates with you or experiences you have had in the past, please contact the appropriate help lines or reach out to your family and friends for support.

Where does my story begin... Like I mentioned before, everyone has their own demons and their own pain and my parents were unfortunately two people that were very familiar with pain and certainly had their own demons, their stories are not mine to tell.

My mother was someone who craved love and care her whole life, as a baby her mother abandoned her on the side of the road and she spent her childhood and teenage years in and out of foster homes with her siblings. My father through his childhood was severely bullied in school for not only having red hair but for being pigeon toed', this is a condition that causes your toes to be severely pointed inwards whilst walking or running (lucky for me, two genetics that were passed on, thanks dad) this caused a series of chain effects that ended up in him making poor life decisions that I know he now regrets, but like I said their stories are not mine to tell, I wanted to simply give you a partial background story that will further assist you to understand my story.

When I was born my family and I were homeless, we lived out of a tent and then later upgraded to a caravan in Beenleigh, a suburb based between Brisbane and Gold Coast. My mother when I was born struggled with pre-natal depression, of course being back in 1997 they didn’t have the same knowledge or access to medical assistance. My mother spent weeks on end locking herself and I in the caravan bedroom, keeping my dad and older sister away from us because she was struggling and she didn’t want anyone to see her pain.

It was a few months later that my parents starting renting a apartment in Zillmere, a suburb closer to Brisbane’s northside and this is when my mum left, I know there was reasons bigger than me, but for so many years I felt to blame, I felt like she left because of me, like I made her sick and upset and she couldn’t stand to be around me. I now obviously know there were reasons beyond me and I don’t blame her for walking away, at the time it was what she needed.

When mum left, Dad took on the role of both Mum and Dad, he did the best he could he always ensured there was food on the table, clothes on our back and a roof over our head.

He tried to straighten his life out as much as he could to try to give us a better life and for a while things were really good, I have memories of feeling happy, feeling loved and feeling like our family was just like any other family.

My Dad had met a lady that later on became my step mother, in the beginning she had so much love for us and we had love for her. When I was five years old my step mother gave birth to my little sister, my older sister and I were so excited to have a baby sister, she was beautiful and well, perfect.

I made her and myself a promise that I would do anything to protect her. But what we didn’t know was that by our step mother giving birth to her own child she experienced a connection and love that my sister and I could never provide. We weren’t her real daughters, we simply became outsiders in HER family that consisted of our herself, dad and my little sister. This became a very toxic situation that lasted for many years which eventually led to my older sister moving out of home at 14 and by the age of 13 I was actively self-harming myself and had tried to commit sucide twice.

My first abusive encounter came when I had just turned 7, I was in grade 3 and I had a crush on a guy named Brent. My best friends were Taryn, Kristen and Amelia and I had just celebrated my birthday at the local bowling alley. My step mother had her niece staying with us who was a year younger than my oldest sister which made her 11. We would occasionally have sleepovers in one of our rooms, this particular night my cousin had told me it was my turn to play “her boyfriend” this consisted of me being made to perform several sexual activities on my cousin and her perform activities on me, despite feeling uncomfortable and in pain she made the whole situation seem like I was rewarded for all my good behaviour. These encounters lasted for roughly about a year which progressively worsened. I never reported anything because I was never taught that what was happening to me was wrong. This was my first encounter of sexual abuse.

My next encounter came when I only 9. This one wasn’t physical but it was the one time I felt scared and unsafe.It made my skin crawl and was the first time I actually asked for help. My step mother had asked her brother to pick me up from my mother's house which was on the north side and drop me back home to the south side, this was over an hour’s drive. I remember I was wearing a yellow summer dress that sat just above my knees, I had my hair in pigtails and I had just bought my first flip phone for Christmas.

I remember getting in the car and sitting in the back, he insisted that I sit in the front seat of the car and at the time I thought nothing of it. We had in and out conversations but nothing too consistent, it was when we drove onto the highway that he turned. After merging, he suddenly angled the mirror down directly to my dress and he started talking about vagina’s. He mentioned that he preffered them in his words “tight”. Being as young as I was, I deferred the conversation and tried to make light out of it, it wasn’t until I noticed where he was touching himself and that he would not let up on the conversation that I knew I was in trouble. I pretended my dad had called the phone, I said where we were, that there was no traffic at all and what time he could expect us. I held myself together for the remainer of the drive trying to play dumb like I didn’t know what was happening, when I got home I cried my eyes out to my step mother in my room explaining the whole story. It was in that moment that she called me a liar and told me no one would ever believe me. I was then made to stay in my room for the night for saying such horrible things about her family. Her brother then continued to live with us for another year. I made constant excuses as to why I couldn’t sit in the living room, I stacked books against my door and even told my friends they couldn’t sleep over because my house had termites.

During this time I developed a strong sense of resentment towards my step mother, I knew she hated me and I knew she didn’t want to see me happy. Her actions proved this time and time again and no matter how many chances I would give her, she would always do anything in her power to tear me down. I would show up to school with bruises and scratches from arguments we would have and I was forced to make elebrate stories to my teachers about a cat scratching my face or me learning gymnastics and that’s why I was bruised. Put this in the mix of being bullied for having red hair, being pale, having freckles and walking with my toes facing in, I really didn’t have a whole lot of self love for myself.

My next encounter and last encounter came when I was in year 6, so I was 10 years old. This is the encounter that I think truly defines who I am and why I push so hard for women to empower each other. My step mother was having her cousin’s daughter live with us, she was 16 at the time, she didn’t go to school and she didn’t work. Most days she would stay home, clean the house and try look for work because at the time my step mother was working, her niece was responsible for taking us to and from school.

This whole encounter was so strange, it didn’t feel like abuse and it didn’t feel wrong. In fact I had completely blocked this encounter out of my memory until I was 16 and it wasn’t until I spoke about it with my now husband that I realised it wasn’t normal, it was both physical and sexual abuse.That was the thing, through my whole life any encounter I had faced was made to feel normal and it took me such a long time for me to come to terms. I found it extremely difficult to even tell myself, let alone other people that it was “sexual abuse” because that’s what it was and there is no sugar coating it.

The encounter started slow and progressed over time like my first encounter although this one went much further. Again like the first one it felt like I was being rewarded for my good behaviour, and in her words “our little secret”.

She would beg me to pretend to be sick so I could stay home from school and spend the day with her, the day would always start out the same. It would start with her cooking me some big elaborate breakfast whether it was pancakes or bacon and eggs. Then it would progress to us watching a completely non-age appropriate movie which then would progress into sexual acts whether it was perfomed by her or by inatimate objects. It always ended in the same way, pain, bleeding or tears plus she made me feel like it was normal to feel these things at such a young age.

The abuse progressed over time and eventually she started adding third party men to the situation. She never physically made me meet the men, but she would film herself performing sexual acts on me or take photo’s of me naked and send the images and videos to older men who were paying her for the content. Being much older I now realise that these were acts of child pornography. These acts continued over a course of 2 years and stopped when I was 12 years old.

Like I did in the first encounter, I spoke to my step mother about the situation hoping that this time she would be able to help but yet again I was shut down and told that I am simply an “attention seeker” who craved drama. Put yourself in those shoes for a second, you have a 12 year old girl come to you for help. She’s scared, she’s confused and she needs you, but all you do is accuse her of being a liar.. Can you imagine that? I certainly can’t as an aunty, an old sister and hopefully a mother one day, I would never.

Like I mentioned earlier, this last encounter was the one that defined me and made me who I am but that didn’t happen until many years later when I dealt with my pain, harnessed it and turned it into something powerful and strong. I no longer feel weak, sad or even angry, my past experiences have made me see first hand the power that “women empowering women” has and that starts as a young girl. It starts with showing our daughters, nieces, cousins, sisters, friends and co-workers that we are there to support them and grow them into empowered women who stand side by side and lift eachother up.

You heard me say before when I was 13 I tried to commit sucide twice, I remember these moments like it was yesterday, from all the experiences in my life these two are most shameful and regretful moments. The first time at the age of 11, I felt like no matter where I went, whether that be school or home, I couldn’t escape my pain no matter how hard I tried. I was bullied at school and didn’t feel safe at home. I waited for everyone in the house to fall asleep, I sat up in the corner of my bedroom floor with a ladies razor that I had crafted into a blade and I spent the next 30 minutes self harming myself. I now have a a 5cm scar on my left wrist that will never leave me, it acts as a constant reminder as to how far I’ve come.

The second attempt happened when I was 12, I had just started high school and I didn’t have many friends. At this point it wouldn’t really surprise you when I tell you I had quite a sheltered and negative relationship with other girls my age and this resulted in people assuming I thought I was “too good” for them, when really I was scared that what I had already experienced, would ultimately happen again.

Once again I didn’t feel a whole lot of love from myself or others around me and I didn’t know how to make it stop, so again I turned to the only thing I thought would make it stop, sucicide. This time I sat down and recorded a video on my ipad, I remember being in such a state of depression, crying to the camera and telling all my family how sorry I was for being the way I was, causing them pain and saying goodbye for what I thought was going to be the final time.

That night I snuck whatever I could find in the medicine cabinet I took phenergan, night time cold and flu and even some codeine. I remember going to bed that night with the fear of dying, thinking I wouldn’t wake up tomorrow, a feeling that I would never wish on anyone. I ended up waking in the night with terrible nausea. This led to 4 weeks off school and in hospital because of the damage I had done to the inside lining of my stomach. I had never told my parents or the doctors what had caused the damage.

I’ve learnt over time to harness that pain, plug into it and use it as my driving force to achieve my version of success. To me these moments were rock-bottom, when I felt there was no other way out than to completely shut everything off. I know what rock bottom feels like and I unfortunately experienced it at such a young age. I can tell you now I never want to feel that way ever again, so when people say to me “wow, you’re so young” My answer is always the same, “My age doesn’t define me” I push so hard for success and so hard to achieve every goal I set because for me, failure isn’t an option.I know not everyone will resonate with that or even agree but to me a series of failures puts me right back where I started.

In the last 5 years, I’ve grown to love myself again. I’ve been taught by the women around me that when we lift each other up, work together and empower each other what we can achieve becomes endless. A quote I love and live by is “I never had to unscrew another woman's lightbulb to shine.” and there is something so profound about these words. If we can teach the new generation of female, if we can break through and teach our future female leaders and CEO’s the power that “women empowering women” can have, if I can prevent just one girl going through what I did, if I can help just one woman feel empowered to speak out or if I can inspire one girl to strive for success and realise she’s worth it and she deserves it than The Business Collection has achieved its mission.

The Business Collection isn’t a feminiest movement, it’s a lifelong dream of mine “women empowering women” there is something to be said about how truly powerful we are, the givers of life and the nurturing mothers of our future generations, but there is something even more to be said about how powerful we are when we stand together.

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