I moved with my parents and three siblings to New Orleans from the Midwest three years ago. I grew up in a really affluent town, so school was the most stressful thing going on in most kids' lives. That wasn't the case for me. I lived in 19 different houses growing up. For a while it was like two houses per year, so moving around was pretty commonplace. But one of the hardest parts was that I would come home from school some days and all my stuff would just be packed up. They'd be like, "Oh, we're moving," and there was no forewarning. But at least we had somewhere to go.

When I was 14, my family became homeless. It was the first time we didn't have a place. The first night we slept in our storage unit, then we lived in hotels for like a couple of weeks until we moved in with my grandparents for a summer - the summer between the 8th grade and my freshman year. It was stressful. I became more inward. I didn't talk to very many people and I became a weird child. I was socially awkward and didn't know how to interact with people. I didn't wanna talk about "normal' things people talk about because it wasn't relevant to me and seemed stupid. It impacted my grades, too. I never wanted to pay attention in school. When you're dealing with issues at home, you don't feel like certain things are as important. So I felt that school didn't matter as much as the other things on my mind and I never paid attention.

When you’re dealing with issues at home, you don’t feel like certain things (school) are as important.

There was a lot of tension between my parents and my grandparents. it kind of ruined the vibe of grandma's house. I didn't really talk to counselors because my parents taught us not to talk about it. I felt like it was wrong to say something because in their minds, if we talked about it being a problem it meant they were bad parents - but they weren't. They're great parents. I did have one good teacher that helped me out. I think it's a lot of teachers' job to be friends to the kids who don't have any friends. My older sister helped me, too. At the time I didn't want to listen to her and it felt like she was being controlling. Now I realize she was just stepping in as a parental figure. I even think she's a better adult because of it and she's really on top of things.

But yea, it's hard to make friends when you don't feel like anyone wants to be your friend. I ended up switching schools my freshman year, to a smaller, more alternative school. I met some people who really liked me and helped me build my confidence. After that I was able to make more friends. It helped me figure out how to sort through everything, too. I'm always afraid that I'm going to grow up and end up being as unstable as my parents were. That's something I'm really scared of. So I just tell myself that things are okay and that I'm not my parents. We're completely different people. Even though parts of them are me, that doesn't mean all of me is them. I don't have to make the same choices they did.

I wasn’t comfortable talking about it. I felt like I would be calling out my parents and saying they were bad parents even though they’re not. They’re great parents.

Looking back, I would have wanted more support from my parents and for my teachers to understand that not everyone's home life is super easy. My parents still feel guilty about what happened so I don't bring it up because they'd feel like I'm accusing them of being bad parents. But I'd never do that. I just want to know what exactly was going on when I was a kid. Why didn't we have enough money? What went wrong?

So now, at 18, I have a plan. I'll stay in school forever! My dad didn't get a Bachelor's degree and my mom just completed hers and I see how it affected their lives. I also won't have kids early. That's something my parents did that I don't want to do. So far, so good. My life is a lot more stable in New Orleans and I really like it here. Growing up I mostly interacted with White people, so it was a bit of a culture shock at first. But now I feel well-adjusted and I have a wider worldview than before. I stay busy with two after-school programs that are all about making a positive impact on the world, and I'm taking a class at Delgado Community College as a senior in high school. My parents both have jobs and my mom even went back to school and finished her Bachelor's degree. My stress as a kid came from the uncertainty of having a place to live, so now, everything is a lot better.