I grew up believing I didn’t have much opportunity in life. I was always well taken care of, but as a child I always felt my dreams and goals were out of my reach.
I moved around a lot when I was young, at least once a year until I reached college. I attended six elementary schools, one middle school, and two high schools. I lived in poor neighborhoods and I lived in wealthy neighborhoods. I attended such a wide variety of schools and lived in so many different neighborhoods that I had an incredible opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and different cultures.
It took growing up and even some counseling to become accepting of what seemed like an unstable childhood. I grew up in a single parent household where we constantly worried about the necessities. I grew up hating the holidays, because despite how much I loved giving gifts and celebrating with family, I never received much.
Specifically, I remember 9th grade being one of my toughest years. My best friend had moved away, I had to give away my dog, I was living in a trailer park, and my sister was born 3 months premature. I became withdrawn and depressed. Yet despite missing almost a third of the school year, I still managed to get straight A’s. I knew I’d be able to escape it all if I did well in school. I had hope that one day, all of my dreams would come true.
My biggest dream was to go to Tokyo. At that time, Tokyo represented achievement to me. It was like another world, a world I could reach if I tried hard enough. Tokyo represented everything that was missing in my life. I grew up in urban neighborhoods in Atlanta and Miami where our biggest dreams were to graduate high school and not get pregnant at 16. I thought to myself, if I could not only escape this cycle of hardship but also travel all the way to Japan, maybe I could finally break free.
Well in March 2010, I did. And I did it all by myself. I was able to experience the fantasy (and reality) of Tokyo. When I returned to Miami, I knew this was only the beginning. The world was in my hands.