By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer

 Having graduated from the Women’s Empowerment program, WillieMae Taylor says she’s ready to get back to work – and living her life. Verbal Adam, OBSERVER

WillieMae Taylor recently relocated to Sacramento from Illinois and has been trying to acclimate to her new home base.

Taylor came to town a few months ago while dealing with anxiety she couldn’t control and admits she arrived without much of a game plan. She has been living with siblings in Elk Grove. Now, after some much-needed rest, Taylor has her eye on getting back on track. One of the first steps in the right direction landed her at the Women’s Empowerment program, which helps women through instability.

Taylor graduated from the eight-week program Sept. 16. Her experiences may not be as traumatic as some of the other program participants, but Taylor says they bonded nonetheless and have grown to recognize common threads they do share.

“It was meant for me to be here,” she said. “We are all different and we all have different reasons why we’re here, but we’re the same. I’ve never been a drug user. I’ve never been homeless, but I’m in a spot now where I still fit in.”

Taylor got help with her anxiety and even got something out of the classes that didn’t necessarily relate to her specific issues – classes such as anger management and support for women who’ve been physically abused. “I don’t have a domestic violence (history), but all of the classes that they offer, they actually kind of tie in together,” she shared.

Instructors help participants delve back as far as their childhoods and show them how to let go of things if they’re not serving them.

“There’s techniques that you learn, which you don’t even think about,” Taylor said. “It’s been helping me to stay positive. Because of my anxiety, I’m overthinking and I’m all over the place, so it’s keeping me focused. It’s been a good thing,” Taylor said at the halfway point of the program. “I can already feel it, the calm.”

Taylor was the oldest participant in the 88th cohort and said the younger women appreciated her maturity and came to see her as an older sister. They also helped her in computer class when she needed to get online and apply for jobs. When they saw her struggling with a project, they stepped in to help.

“It’s really cool. They made sure I wasn’t getting left behind,” Taylor shared.

Women’s Empowerment has taught Taylor to look at things from a different perspective, even her use of language. “The word that comes to mind is ‘broken,’ but I don’t want to use broken because it’s more negative. I want to use ‘empowered,’” she said. “That’s what they do. When I would say that I’m computer illiterate, they’d say ‘No, you’re a beginner,’ or you’re this or that and you start to lose those other words. This is my new vocabulary.”

Armed with a new outlook and coping techniques, Taylor is ready for her new world. She’s exploring who she is now and where she goes from here. “I’ve been working since I was 14 years old. Definitely I want a job. We all need some money, right? But I want to go back to school,” she said. 

Some years ago, Taylor operated a home daycare. She sees herself teaching in the future.

She’s also maintaining the positive vibe that Women’s Empowerment evokes.

“I’m a 60-year-old woman starting all over again,” she said. “Not really, I’m continuing.”

Taylor got divorced three years ago and her four children are all well into adulthood, with children of their own. FaceTime allows her to still see them and her grandchildren daily. That keeps her spirits up. While she misses her family in Illinois, Taylor looks forward to planting Sacramento roots.

She’s open to receive whatever opportunities come her way. “It’s all a new experience, but it’s just a continuation,” she said. “Most people get their next chapter when they retire. I get my next chapter sooner.”