Looking at me, you could never guess the things I have gone through in life. Reading about my accomplishments in the newspaper it would be easy to identify me as someone who has received everything they ever wanted. But looks can be deceiving, and over the course of thirty-five years my life has seemed like a rollercoaster ride going through hardship and disappointment. I have always loved the phrase that “you can not judge a book by its cover”. I feel as though that saying applies perfectly to me, and the story I am going to share. There were many obstacles that I had to face growing up in my childhood that made me who I am today. It is not always glamour shots in the “Seattle Times or Seattle PI” or news-feeds telling the state my story.
Growing up as a young kid in South Seattle was a challenge. Surrounded with people who looked like me, talked like me, and even dressed liked me, I knew nothing outside of those lines except that I was going to grow up and be a product of the south end of Seattle. I never had to worry about school, grades, or a curfew- life pretty much set its own pace. It seemed the drug trade and gang violence played a role in my community growing up. It seemed as if everyone in that whole community was involved in those lifestyles. Gun shots were nothing new for my ears to hear. To be honest it was more of a comfort zone between gun shots and police sirens.
Surviving off a government checks with two older brothers and a single mother, I was by no means promised three meals everyday. I had to work with what I had and what I knew even if that meant I needed to hustle to make money to get food. School was never one of my main priorities, but just a place where I knew I could get two meals a day.
When it came to elementary school I was in no way the brains of anything. I usually just sat there waiting to be sent to the principal’s office or sleeping in the back of the classroom. Due to my attendance and my attitude, on days I would attend class the teachers would allow me to do pretty much whatever I wanted. They would rarely call on me to answer questions in class, I would never raise my hand to get up and go to the bathroom. A part of me knew they cared just as much as I did- which was not at all.
I was in the principal’s office at least twice a week for fights and yelling at my teachers, but I could tell my principal looked at me differently than the other teachers did. He would always walk me home and tell me I could not come back for the day. He would threaten expulsion but to me it was just an empty threat. I told him I hated school and was just waiting for a reason not to come back. I remember one day I came to his office crying because my mom had kicked me out of the house for punching a hole in the wall. He looked me straight in the face and told me that my life was taking a nose dive in the fast lane. He told me that I was going to be either in jail or dead before my eighteenth birthday. For any kid at a young age death is a big issue. It’s a scary thought even to think about now as an adult, but I chose to listen to him instead of getting defensive and angry.
My principal told me he was going to see to it that I was going to graduate from elementary school, even if it took me a hundred years. He made sure I was in school as much as possible and instead of teachers calling my house when I was in trouble they would just send me to the principle’s office. There I would spend the remainder of the school day in detention room or the in-house suspension room. After school would get out I would have to wash all of the teachers chalk boards before I was able to leave the school. There were days where I would be at school until 5pm telling the principal that I was not going to do it but I did and he would walk me home every time. I was told that I had to turn any assignment or project in to him before my teachers, and if I did not understand anything I was required to go to school on Saturday mornings from 10am until noon. My grades went from failing to passing in two months time.
I had never seen a smile that big on my mother’s face before in my life. I loved the way she smiled and squeezed me and I wanted that everyday of my life at that point. It was the first time I could remember when my mom was proud of me for something academic, and it was all worth the time spent.
That day I felt a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders. I knew it was tough for me to sit down and open a book and read it from cover to cover, but just the way it made my mother feel it all became worth it.