Mom: "I never asked you why you dropped out of high school, Toya? You really hurt me when you did that. I thought you did it to cut school with Eric (my husband). This is why I couldn't sign you out."
Me: "Being in love didn't make me drop out 'Mah; there was too much going on around me. If I stayed in there one more year, I wouldn't have made it. I would be in jail if I stayed in high school. Dad knew parts of my reasoning and this is why he did it."
My mother and I never had a civilized conversation about the topic until this week about the subject. As a parent to a ten year old, I know that children can hurt you in the worst ways and most times, it's not intentional. Constantly, parents and children are going through this battle of being misunderstood and I remind myself of this aspect every chance I get.
In high school, I was the intelligent class clown when I would show up. I made jokes, wasn't popular nor hidden but this was when I actually showed up to class. Tenth grade year changed many areas of my life and while I secretly loved learning, I hated being looked at oddly for my intelligence. I danced on this thin line of being just smart enough but holding onto the hood Bible testament of "Thou shalt not fucks with Tay or her friends." In turn, lunch time in the cafeteria and the gym became the battlefield. There were days that I grew tired of fighting or defending friends who would do dumb shit, simply because my ego told me to be the protector and cutting school, smoking on Gates Avenue or Monroe Street in the Stuy was my salvation, as long as I was able to connect with others to give me the coursework. I always came home with notes that were lent to by friends or someone that owed me a favor for 'snuffing' someone in the face for being a bully to them. I learned each subject, complete assignments and submit them via people but I couldn't do this tactic with gym class. In turn, I dropped out because of 7 gym credits, despite having the opportunity to graduate with a Regents diploma and practically an offer to go to my dream college at the time: Hampton University. So why did I drop out: Gym Class. Ironic huh considering I love the gym and running, right? Not really though.
I'm a woman with barely any ounce of regrets. At least I like to say that. Realistically, we all regret something but I love the notion of not regretting anything because it was bound to happen if the course took me on that direction. In turn, I regret all and nothing. I question what kind of person would I have been if I made it to gym class. Perhaps I would have learned my joy of fitness over a decade ago. Maybe I wouldn't want to touch the pavement or a kettle bell worth damn. In so many ways, I feel like the course has given me a redemption to credits that I wasn't able to earn in high school.
Cutting school was overrated. I hung out with a second family. Cool. Yes, I'll even admit that I was one of those hopeless teenagers you worry about that cut school to have sex or make out with their boyfriend. Fuck you for judging (and please don't side eye me with that 'not my kid' bullshit). I was a tomboy in love with a man who I married while many thought I was cat piss crazy, started a family young and fortunately, it hasn't bitten me in the arse thus far. I will admit: THIS IS NOT A TYPICAL NARRATIVE. Most times, people don't stay with their high school sweetheart and because marriage is just a thing to do for cool Instagram pictures, free shit and a convenient fuck buddy (at least that's how some people view it), it is normal to see parents separately raising their children who are loaded with questions. In short, I wasn't perfect nor am I presently.
Like a lot of my passions, they started off as a strange thought or I was suckered into it from a dare. Losing weight was my initial goal for fitness to improve my health, not my vanity. In 2013, my self esteem was dancing on the edge of insecure and not giving a fuck about what others think. I didn't flip through catalogs or the glorious 'Internets' as the older folks would say, to find my desired body type. I do have a visual board in my office with different types of athletes, oddly enough, all of them are muscular and this WASN'T my desired body type at the time. I can chuckle at that thought now.
Running didn't come along until I was inspired by my friend Rob's Facebook post, a guy who I haven't met to date but has been my friend since MySpace days in 2003. It has been the best dare that I ever embarked on.
I thought that I would engulf myself into half marathon training once and after it was done, I wouldn't dare pursue anything more than that. I would continue with basic workouts and that would be it. Meeting up with folks from Black Girls Run solidified my foundation. I looked up a Hal Higdon plan through a free running app, never doing a 5K in my life and vicariously took my chances. My first unofficial race was the Bed Stuy Turkey Trot 5k in a neighborhood park but an official race was on January 11, 2014, not knowing that I was burning up with a fever and would be hospitalized and bed rested for a few weeks. I was talked into the Al Kleinerman 10K with New York Road Runners literally days before the race. No medal. Just redemption. 6.2 miles felt like death in Central Park. I wasn't acclimated to hills nor did I understand how too many layers make you feel like a sauna. I cried by mile 3, bawled in tears by mile 4, met up with people who I'm grateful to call friends by 4.5 miles and at 400 meters, running to the finish line with my friend Ngozi who encouraged me to consider a marathon at the finish line. I remember brushing her off, telling her that she lost her damn mind.
It's September 2017: I am an ultra marathoner, training for two marathons and an ultra marathon within a two month time. How the hell did I get here? Where did all of these medals come from? I crave dry bagels, bottled waters, suspicious cups of booze from strangers, random hugs, sore quads and swollen feet. My breath matches military cadences and trap music that I hate. I smile at people that I don't know just because they're running past me while I go grocery shopping.
What ever happened to that high school dropout who left for seven gym credits? She's still here. And while I would never recommend for children (or adults) to drop out of school because of peer pressure, I'm forever grateful that I am receiving my second chance. I am able to fulfill my promise that I secretly made with my dad back in March 2003 that I'd do better.
Dad: "Is this really what you want to do?"
Principal Baskin-Bey: "You're one of the most brilliant minds that came to this school. I know that this is an alternative school and you managed to only show up to my class. You scored a 99 in my course without trying. Can we at least talk you into going into another program?"
Me: "No, I'm sorry. I will not make it here in Street Academy. I know it. I thank you for believing in me but right now, I don't believe in myself to make it out of here. Please give the chance to get my GED and start over elsewhere."
Principal Baskin-Bey: "Latoya, it's just seven gym credits. One to two semesters and you're done. I don't want this to haunt you."
Me: "I feel like I'm going to have my chance to redeem myself. Maybe it'll be in college. Maybe years afterwards. Please trust me, daddy. It's more than just seven gym credits."
Dad: "Your mom is going to be pissed but I'll sign it. Do better. Do something with this. At least graduate from the GED program. Be more than falling short on seven gym credits. I didn't raise no goddamn dummy."
Me: "I promise I'm more than seven gym credits."
Thank you daddy for trusting me. Every day that I wake up is another chance of earning an A for gym class.