So my experience as a gymnast was quite different, but I never shared those things with my teammates.  I didn't want there to be just another thing that separated us. 

I was also in an environment surrounded by drugs.  There was a lot going on.

Did gymnastics help to keep you away from the drugs?

No, it didn't.  Drugs were in my home.  It was so common that I didn't even realize the legal issues surrounding it until I was in college.  That's how common it was, not only for my household but my surroundings. 

I imagine that the drugs created even more of a tension between your setting in the gym and your setting at home. 

Here's a story I didn't share in the book.  I remember one of my teammates coming over to play on a Saturday after practice.  We just did what girls do.  We played around and had fun for a couple hours.  Then my father came home with his friends, and they were about to do what they usually did.  I remember being so embarrassed because I thought that they would do their drugs while she was in the house.  I didn't want that to happen, so I begged my mother to ask daddy to wait until after this girl leaves before they start doing that, because I would be so embarrassed.  That was one of the struggles that I had. 

We grew marijuana in the house as though it was a houseplant.  So when a gymnast came over, I would pray that they wouldn't recognize what kind of plants those were.  They never did. 

It was rough for me.  On the one hand, I was trying to hide this other life from my teammates.  On the other hand, if I used proper English around my cousins or other family members, they would make fun of me and say that I was trying to be white.  Here I am, this little black girl, and I didn't fit in socially at the gym.  Yet I didn't fit into the environment I was growing up around, either, because I was a gymnast and I had been exposed to things others hadn't been exposed to.  It was a difficult time for me. 

Do you feel that gymnastics broadened your horizons?  Did it give you a larger sense of life's possibilities?  In that sense, do you think gymnastics helped you out of a setting of drugs and violence? 

Yes, absolutely.  I know that God used gymnastics to save me.  Gymnastics saved me from a lot of madness and mess.  I have people I went to school with who are dead now, or who are strung out on drugs, or who are on welfare having multiple children to collect more welfare.  Had I not had gymnastics practice to go to, to keep me out of that environment, that would have been me.  I am sure of it.  Had I not had gymnastics at UCLA and mandatory drug testing, that would have been me.  I was not a strong person.  I grew up in a household where there was some verbal abuse and things going on that caused me to withdraw and not share with people.  I was very quiet and had all these stresses on my mind. 

I think gymnastics just did wonders, especially in terms of exposing me to the lifestyles of other people.  I look back and I am thankful that God had me traveling the world while I was young, had me staying in the homes of people who had different types of careers.  I saw that there was more to life than my city block.