Humans of Calvert County, Sarah Merranko & Anita Santoyo

“My life now…The businesses. My marriage. My children. My friendships. My travel. Oh my gosh, I love to travel. I’ve done things that never in a million years I would’ve thought! I’ve been to amazing places and have had the most amazing experiences. I’ve looked into the eyes of a whale shark in Cancun, and just all of a sudden had the most sense of overwhelming peace. I literally felt like I had died to myself. I had the most peace and confidence all at once. There was this moment……I have never been so connected with God than on that day.

But life earlier wasn’t as it should be. I grew up with a single mom who wasn’t really the mom. She was an alcoholic and bipolar. I was 7 years old taking care of her. And by the age of 12, I was in the system. And I was in the system until I was 17.

Every three months I would have to go to court. And every three months I would have to pack my bag thinking I was going home. And every three months I would get disappointed. Finally, I just said, you know what, I don’t want to go. It was just that disappointment, that yo-yo; you feel defeated a lot of times.

So I just put my energy in sports and I was a band geek. I was good at both, I wasn’t the best, but it was my community, it was my family. It was somewhere safe and it gave me a purpose. And that’s how I got through the system.

And then I got married at a young age and by 19 I was a mom. It was really my way out in a sense. But it was 15 years of just being controlled, and verbally and physically abused. And the reality is I thought if I would have left him, I would have left the only family I ever knew. The fear of being lonely; of being alone. It was just overwhelming. And I just looked away a lot of the times. He was my family and that’s why I stayed so long.

Then a friend asked me, are you okay with your daughters learning to be treated that way by a man, and your son, is it okay for him to treat a woman that way? That was an aha.

I think it’s fear. Fear is the enemy. It takes you out.

And that feeling of abandonment. That feeling of not knowing your own worth. Not feeling good enough. If my mom doesn’t love me, who will love me?

I learned I have to love myself. I have to accept me for who I am and to love me for where I’m at, and sometimes that’s hard. It’s hard to love yourself. Especially when you’re in the middle of stuff. But at the end of the day, it’s like it’s me and you God, me and you, me and you. And it’s always just been Him and I, Him and I.

I had to learn to extract the good in me. I had to sit with myself and just be honest with myself. I had to extract the good in order to put that out into the universe.

And then I just bless and release. Bless and release. For my sake. And that’s why my self worth when I bless and release, I’m good, I know my worth.

Your self worth……you were made in Him, in His image, we are Him, just here. We’re His walking billboards. So because I know that, I know I’m good. Everything else is exterior. Life is temporary. It’s really temporary. And when you think about life like that, and you ask well how’d you get through that, and how’d you get through that, and how’d you get through that…..it’s temporary. Simply. Really. Do you know what I mean?

My mom didn’t teach me about God. I just knew. I just knew that I wasn’t alone. I knew that there was God. As a young child, I knew God. Because I overcame a lot. And if there wasn’t a God, how did I overcome it?

That’s one of the things for me…….my confidence in God. I realized if I don’t have confidence in God, I don’t have confidence. You’ve got to have that confidence in God which will give you confidence. The closer you get to God, the closer you’re going to believe the confidence in you, because you’re supposed to be like Him. And we’re made in His image, so if I believe in Him, I gotta believe in myself. And that’s hard. Especially when you go through life. Life isn’t easy.

I didn’t come out of all of that without battle wounds; without scars. I was affected by everything. But that’s a part of my character, what makes me who I am and I’ve been able to do so much, and impact so many peoples live because of what I went through, what I continue to endure. And even though I continue to endure, I still put out that positive energy, I still speak life, I still show who God is.

And I think one of the things that have helped me through it all is that I talk about it. I give it a voice. I don’t feel shame. Because it’s my story. And why would I be ashamed of my story? My test is my testimony and the struggle is my story.

And something I say could help someone.

You’ve got one life that’s it. It’s always a date they were born, a dash, and a date they died. You gotta live your dash. That dash is your life, that’s all you got. That’s your legacy.

I’m thankful that I’m still here. I’m thankful that I get to see people’s lives change. I’m thankful for just being.”


David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...