I grew up in Bethesda Maryland with an older brother who is sixteen months older than me so we’re only one year apart in school and a sister who’s four years younger than me. I was born in North Carolina, but we lived all over actually when I was young because of my dad’s job. When I was about five or six, my family and I lived in Washington D.C. for a while, since he worked for the federal government as a biochemist for the National Institute of Health in the National Cancer Institute. Prior to that, my dad was a fellow at the Pasture Institute in Paris, France, so we lived in Paris for a few years too.
Moving around became sort of a trend in my life. My parents were in a very toxic relationship and worked on getting a divorce for about ten years, so we had a very difficult childhood, the three of us. I left home at sixteen years old and quit swimming because I started working full time. I was going to a real high school, but I was in a special program called a work oriented curriculum, that was for kids who were trying to finish high school. Mostly it was for high school drop outs. I started this program in ninth grade and by tenth grade, I was working full time, while going to school in the morning. Then, I literally started to drop out, but thankfully, one of my teachers, Nancy Kent, helped me finish high school that year. To do so, I had to go to the school in the morning, work all day and then go to school at night so I could finish in one year. But I did finish high school, in 1981. After that, I was out of school for two years in a bad situation.
When you live on your own at sixteen it’s really not very pretty
I made many bad decisions living on my own and was in a lot of bad situations until I was nineteen when I literally woke up with a knife to my throat. I finally started to realize that things had to change and I couldn’t keep scraping along like this. So I packed pretty much everything I owned in the middle of the night that I could fit in my car and drove away, finally leaving Maryland. I drove all the way to El Paso, Texas because that’s where both my mom and dad are from and I didn’t know where else to go. I just needed to get away. My life at that point was a tour around the country in my car, wandering aimlessly, living with cousins, my aunt and uncle until eventually my grandma got ahold of me.