My mom moved between my sophomore and junior year of high school and I ended up transferring from a public to a private school at that time. Although I switched from playing soccer to running cross country, it looked like the private school had recruited me. I wasn’t able to run varsity races until my appeal cleared with the state high school league, which ended up happening just before the section meet.
At the section meet, I won my first varsity cross country race. My team made it to state for the first time in the school’s history. I was feeling a high that comes with running well and winning. I saw my mom and excitedly ran into her arms. While I was briefly in her arms, she whispered to me, “Congratulations honey, we’re homeless.”
In that moment, I knew she didn’t want anyone to know what we were struggling with, so I hid it. I pushed it away. I didn’t tell anyone. When people in our family struggled with mental illness or abuse or alcoholism or addiction before, we always hid it, so I learned that was what I was supposed to do.
I went right from that race, with my teammates, to a big volleyball game for our school. I must have recently seen the guy who collected hugs online, because I decided that is what I felt like doing that night. I collected hugs from every stranger who would accept a hug. I sincerely remember feeling so happy as I confidently accepted my friend’s dare to walk up to the “Super Fan” section of the other team and ask them for hugs. My friends laughed so hard when I went up to the other team’s fans and said, “Hey, I am collecting hugs, can I have one from you?” And, “Can I have a hug?” to parents and teachers at the game. The people I approached also couldn’t help but laugh and smile at such a bizarre request from me.
My mom picked me up after I was done hanging out with my friends that night and parked the car where she thought we could sleep. It was in my dad’s (her ex-husband’s) driveway. He was out of town. We had relatives we could stay with, so I couldn’t understand why she was wanting us to stay in the car. After trying to sleep in the car for several hours, I insisted that we drive out to Nana and Papa’s (my mom’s mom and dad). I soon realized why we couldn’t stay with our relatives. From my grandparent’s home, we ended up bouncing from one relative’s home to another and to new friends’ houses and to hotels.