Tag Archives: background

First chance I got….I ran away!

I graduated high school in May 2003. Accomplishing what some said I never would, and I had never been happier to prove them wrong, and most importantly, I had survived high school. Kind of weird to say and a bit dramatic, but it’s true, especially considering that some kids (even today) …..never do.

I felt like I was released from a prison in a way. The day after graduation…. the sun was brighter, the air was lighter, and for the first time in almost 10 years….I felt relief! HALF of my nightmare was finally over. I felt empowered; feeling that whatever life was going to throw at me, it couldn’t possibly be much worse than what I had already been through. I felt I had nothing more to lose and everything to gain…..including a new future.

My mom had hoped that I would go to a local college, but honestly, hell would freeze over first before I’d agree to stay local. I wanted to be in a place where I knew no one and no one knew me. I needed to start over and college was the only solution of making that possible. I began to research colleges that were over 200 miles away…I thought it would be a good distance to start with. This ambition is what lead me to Chicago, but there was a small problem with my decision….. I didn’t know a damn thing about Chicago….NADA! I barely knew where it was in the state of Illinois, let alone, how big of a culture-clash it would be. I had no idea how big it was, how busy it was, the diversity, how to utilize public transportation (most people drive everywhere in St. Louis) or how dangerous the city could be to a 19-year-old social butterfly like myself with limited street smarts. This in turn made my family insanely nervous for my safety, but bless them, they didn’t stand in my way of wanting to go.

NEXT STEP: Get accepted into a college! Easier said than done!

Due to my horrendous transcripts from high school, I had to “wow” the admissions department to get accepted. Initially, I was technically rejected, but I was not about to take “no” for an answer. Therefore, I had submitted an admissions essay on why I wanted to attend ILIA, and needless to say…..they were very “wowed” with my letter; stating it was “incredibly passionate”, and the initial rejection was reversed, and I was officially accepted into the Illinois Institute of Art as a fashion design major. Even though I couldn’t really draw or sew worth a damn….still….I had never been so happy before in my life.

I moved into my new place the night before my first day of classes. It was a large studio on the 17th floor that overlooked parts of downtown and the Sears Tower. That first night was an awkward one. I didn’t sleep…I was excited, but scared knowing that for the first time in my life…… I was completely on my own. After I managed to freak myself out enough, I ended up taking a walk outside to the front entrance of the apartments (in my PJ’s and slippers), and met my first college buddy, Brendan*; a tall, lanky, curly-haired street artist from Madison, WI. He was very laid back and had a open personality that made it easy to start up a conversation with him. We sat and talked on the bench for about an hour or so, going back and forth about where we were from, and how nervous I was about going to my first class considering that I didn’t have a clue on how to get to the campus (2003…no smartphones or GPS apps). So Brendan politely offered to walk with me since we had the same Design 101 class together, and through him, I met a group of friends that were my backbone while I was there. It was amazing! I literally woke up every morning, looked out the window, and said to myself, “OMG, I made it, I’m here”, and I just remember the incredible feeling of happiness, hope, gratitude….emotions I wasn’t used to experiencing on an everyday basis. As time progressed, everything was going so well, classes were solid, friends were awesome, times were good, and of course, reality was about to hit me like a ton of bricks.

……I had ran out of money. I could no longer afford my monthly housing costs, and with no money for school, there was definitely no money anything else, and I began to fall apart rapidly knowing that I was on my way back to the town that I hated beyond recognition, and that I had worked so hard to get away from. It was the first time I ever really felt as though I had failed. Feeling that I missed my one shot to become someone and to do something extraordinary was absolutely devastating to me. A few weeks after finding out of my financial situation, I ended up returning back to my small town, back in with my mom and right back to square one. I was down, but wasn’t giving up yet. I had another plan!

*Dedicating this post to the memory of Brendan Scanlon aka “SOLVE”

Brendan was murdered in Chicago, June 14, 2008. He was 24 years old.

— Thanks for looking out for me and creating the best prank on my mom ever!

Image

I sent my mom this picture, and told her this was a real “tattoo”

……she fell for it.

Circa 2003

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BULLIED KID

1997 – This was a very pivotal moment for me. My family ended up moving to a small town just outside St. Louis, MO from Troy, MO. I had spent numerous of the past years reading, watching, following… anything fashion oriented. Working on forgetting my trauma-filled past. I was transferring to a new middle school, which is awkward to begin with, but being fat, poor and going in to a new middle school……the door flew wide open for bullies. I felt like I was against an army, with no shortage on the amount of kid’s that regularly kicked my ass for one or more reasons. One of the main reasons being the clothes I wore, and my inability to pay for what was “acceptable” to my classmates.

The bullying started out minor and then grew in severity over a short period of time. Name calling quickly turned in to: being spit on, kicked, punched, pushed down stairs, and having razor blades tossed in my locker. Nearly all of the kids went unpunished or left with a slap on the wrist. Thoughts of hopelessness began to run rapid when I saw no one cared to listen to what was going on, and I began to give up on my life all together.

Home life was a second serving of the abusive ring I was stuck in. My brother was very close in age to me. He saw what I would go through while we were at school. He used that as an open invitation to give me the same treatment as my classmates….I literally had nowhere to go to get away from VIOLENCE. My environment was literally KILLING me from the inside, and no one could see it, or see how dangerously close I was standing to the edge where there is no return. I began to better understand my father’s suicide, I began to reason with his choice.

I began continuously contemplating ending my life…..the pain was already overwhelming for me. It was the one way I could get the abuse to stop. Thinking they can’t hurt me if I am not there.

My journal entries became more and more obvious of the road I was heading towards. If I had continued that path, I would NOT be here sharing this with you today. I was fortunate to be given a light at the end of my tunnel….the media!

I missed a LOT of school because I absolutely couldn’t take anymore physical, mental, and emotional abuse from anyone. I stayed home the entire week, and on that Tuesday, I was laying in bed and watching daytime TV. I saw an ad looking for stories of bullied kids that happened to have extraordinary talents. LIGHTBLUB! I popped up and frantically wrote down the phone number. I ran in to the living room and started telling my mom my idea. She was very hesitant and didn’t believe a word I was telling her, and she asked me, “What’s your extraordinary talent?”. I told her I could do martial arts. I was a black belt (R) in ATA Taekwondo, and had dozens of trophies and awards from competitions. My mom agreed.

My story was chosen out of over 48,000 callers. The sad part was that there were over 48,000 kids out there whom were just like me, bully victims. To me, this was my last chance to plea for the abuse to stop, and to bring awareness to a silent war I was apart of. My school responded by holding a meeting once they got wind that I was going public on the national level. They were beyond scared of what I would say in front of the cameras; so they kept their liabilities low by threatening me with a lawsuit. Bad press equaled to less money for the school district so they felt the need to silence anyone that wanted to speak out about what they were doing. They saw me as a big, FAT, threat, and they were right. I had been documenting everything that was happening to me in my journals. I had very VIVID accounts of the more severe attacks where my school officials had just pushed it in to the background, or ignored the situation all together. Incidents where my principal stood in the middle of the hallway…SCREAMING AT ME from the top of his lungs, while classes were in session, saying how despicable I am, and how he was sick of me all together. I just stood there with the best poker face knowing he was the one that was despicable. I had snapped inside at that moment.

This was when I officially obtained my M.B.A…. Motivation By Anger.

Nothing, not even their legal threats, kept me from telling as many people as I could about what was happening, to not only me, but to THOUSANDS of kids like me.

When I came back, I was my school’s #1 enemy. The feeling was very mutual, and the experience of speaking out left me empowered! It was the first time ever I stood up for myself, and thought that maybe my life was worth saving. I was no longer the victim, they were.

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