Written by Stephanie Jackson
What did she do?
As my imagination started taking me down all sorts of paths, this was my first reaction and question leading up to my interview with Trudi Batiste. It’s exactly this perception that Trudi deals with every single day of life, the shame, the judgment, the assumptions, because as soon as we say that we’ve been in jail, we get the looks, and the immediate wonders of what happened? What did she do to end up there? She must be a product of her environment, the vicious cycle, right?
Absolutely the contrary! Trudi grew up in a good family, had a well-rounded childhood, a solid education, a good career, nothing at all where you would say, oh Trudi, yeah! She’s a product of the system.
So how did she end up there?
Well, it formally started in 2014; Trudi was sentenced to serve time in federal prison for a white collar crime that tarnished her credibility, reputation, and self-worth.
The days and nights felt like a chronic state of confusion, doubt, emptiness, solitude, lack of support, and no motivation. The feeling of worthlessness was reinforced daily by her surroundings and captivity. Literally being treated like an animal in confinement. But there was something that kept pushing her to ask and question her reality: Why am I here? What does this all mean?
It was faith. This is what gave her that spark of light in the complete darkness, chaos, and confusion. In the sleepless nights and endless days of prayers, tears, and utmost anguish, she continued to ask.
Who am I? This was the question that persisted in her thoughts and in her prayers. In a way, she was beginning to feel that the solitude was not a punishment, but a push to think and question her life. It was this physical and mental space that she had never taken for herself that was finally making her realize how lost she had been her entire life. Then at 43 years old, she was beginning to discover and reveal her true self. It was like a feeling of taking off a mask, uncovering her true worth, gifts, and talents to the world to see. Unfortunately, but fortunately, as she always says, the time in prison and being so alone was that hard wake-up call that turned drastically the course of her life path.
She refers to a mask that she wore for many years of her life:
“I was wearing a mask for many years, in my whole life in fact, even before I was in my last relationship that led me to prison. I was Trudi Batiste, always good, smile on my face regardless. But I literally became stuck in relationships, in friendships, in life, with a pattern of feeling taken advantage of, not appreciated, used, and abused. And if you feel this way at all, than all of those things are in fact happening to you. I’d surround myself with people and get involved in friendships that pulled me down and drained me. In my personal relationship, things started off really good, so good, that I decided to support my then fiancé in forming his own ministry organization. After abuse entered the relationship, I severed ties and relocated out of state to escape my fear and the threats of physical abuse that continued to linger. Months later, as a result of his anger and revenge towards me, I found myself on the hook for a crime I couldn’t deny. Yes, I had indeed signed my name on his business documents, was accused and charged with conspiracy (guilty by association) and sentenced to serve two and a half years in federal prison.”
So that’s how you ended up there? That question again, the one that tormented Trudi for so long, endless hours in solitude, in physical imprisonment. But Trudi refers to her imprisonment in her book, Flagged by the FEDS: A Spiritual Guide to Surviving Federal Prison as being more than physical, it was also an emotional and spiritual imprisonment.
She had to dig really deep, get past the shame, and find the strength to tell her story. For the first time in her life, prison was her alone time. She had to search deep into her soul to really uncover who she was. She had lost her identity in the man that she was going to marry. She didn’t have any self-value and made those choices consciously, but ignorantly. Trudi, writes and speaks about this concept of camouflage and wearing a mask at her community forums for youth entitled Girl Talk 2.0 and also in Chronicles of a Pastor’s Girlfriend in the anthology series Camouflage: because I wear a smile Vol. 2.
Do we all have to go through such a drastic rock-bottom situation to find our true-life passion and calling? I often wonder. On some level I believe, yes and no, but it seems to show up differently for everyone, on different levels, and different scales. Some of us need that really hard wake-up call. But, it’s not so much about the comparison of how hard one person has to hit the wall to another. The first step is having the awareness that we need to change something, and perhaps when we don’t, that’s when life steps in.
Trudi is now a renown self-published author that guides, coaches, and mentors others in their journey of life. Her success is in her transparency and authenticity of her own story, which is what really helps people feel comfortable about sharing their own pain, vulnerabilities, and struggles. It also has to do with the desire for change and to ask for help, to ask for guidance outside of yourself. Whether it’s asking our higher spiritual source, in prayer, or asking a mentor, guide, coach, friend, loved-one; basically it all starts with two words: help me.
In the darkest of times, when her own friends and family turned their backs, she always had the light of faith guiding her and leading her. To this day, Trudi relies so much on her faith and the practice of gratitude. It’s what led her to her calling and the present moment, Trudi Batiste. Today she is an impactful prison consultant and transformation coach, a successful heart-centred, inspiring, and motivating educator, writer, speaker, entrepreneur, spiritual leader in her community, a daughter to loving parents, and a mother to three beautiful children, that’s where her heart is.
“I love me now. I don’t regret anything at all. Since prison I’ve remained single and my priority is me, my community engagement, mentoring, guiding, my parents, my children. When the right person comes into my life, I will know, because if you don’t know who you are, your own value, you will be susceptible of being take advantage of. In my case, that is what happened. Those who are controlling, manipulative, and abusive will target those who are weak. If you feel like you are being controlled, then you most likely are being controlled. If any form of abuse is present, I just say, get out, get away, do what it takes because the verbal so often turns to physical, emotional and mental abuse.”
How do you find yourself when you’re so lost, it can seem so abstract? What strategies or tips do you have for people in this situation?
“Personally, I continuously do a self-evaluation. I set up a list of personal goals. At the end of the year, I look back and evaluate all my relationships: who is keeping me stuck and pulling me down? What do I want to achieve? I continuously look at what I want to achieve, how I’ve reached my goals, what I’ve added to my life. Every new year, I need to have positive growth. So when I guide others, I ask a lot of personal questions. What are your gifts and talents? I wrote and learned how to do this in prison, in solitude. “
If you only had a very short window of time to get your key message out to people, what is that message?
“My main message is to make people realize that they have value, worth, especially as women, so often we take on the role as pleaser, care-giver, multi-tasker, and cater to everyone else’s needs before our own. Recognizing your value is at the core and not hiding behind that mask. Find that true person within so that you can live your authentic best life. And finally seek help, it doesn’t have to be from me. So many live in darkness and don’t know who to ask or where to go for help. You can’t get help if you don’t ask.”
On Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 12:00 PM EST, I am honoured to feature Trudi Batiste on a LIVE interview, we will discuss more her story:
You talk about the toxic relationship in your book that led you to doing time in prison and the mask that you were wearing. What patterns did you have to break? What mask were you wearing?
How do you guide people and bring into their awareness the different masks that we wear?
You experienced the physical imprisonment of serving time in federal prison, but you also refer to this concept of emotional and spiritual imprisonment. What does that mean?
What are some of the other programs that you are involved in with your community and what are some of those next future goals and achievements that you are working on?
Learn more about Trudi Batiste and contact her for a free consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org