Marissa Boone*

Day 126:

If learning your greatest life lesson the hard way were a contest, Marissa Boone*, 23, would have everyone beat. It’s not something that she’s proud of. It’s not even something she tells most people.

“I grew up in a really ugly situation,” Marissa said. “And through that, I learned to not follow the Pied Piper, but rather to be independent. My childhood was very different from what a lot of people experience. I don’t tell a lot of people about it, because they either say, ‘What the hell?’ or they don’t believe me.”

Marissa’s childhood didn’t start out so difficult. She was an only child in a typically normal family. Her dad was an engineer; her mom was a drama teacher. Although Marissa had a good relationship with both of her parents, she was drawn especially to her mom.

“She was a loving, fun mother,” Marissa said. “She was the complete opposite of my dad, who was strict. Her motto was: You don’t need to do anything you don’t want to do. For her, life was all about fun.”

Some of that fun ended when Marissa was 11 years old and her parents got divorced. At first, they shared joint custody of her. But then, 2 years after the divorce, Marissa’s mom decided to move to California. She wanted Marissa to go with her.

“My dad was really upset,” Marissa said. “But when you’re 13, you don’t care about who you hurt. I moved to California with my mom. And at first, it was wonderful. It was the best time of my life. I had more friends than I could keep track of.”

Even though Marissa was initially living the dream, it didn’t take long for that dream to turn into a nightmare. It started when Marissa’s mom began staying out all night, leaving Marissa home alone and unsupervised, and not returning until the following day. Within a year, Melissa’s mom’s disappearances increased to a week at a time. She told Marissa that she was driving to Napa Valley for a job, but Marissa soon found out that her mom using the time to go out with men.

“Things were going downhill,” Marissa said. “I lost touch with my dad and was alone a lot. I had too much freedom. A lot of times, my mom didn’t even leave me with money to go to the store and buy groceries.”

Things only got worse. Marissa was missing a lot of school when her mom was gone, and to avoid any trouble with the authorities, her mom simply withdrew her from high school and paid a local man with a state license to give Marissa a high school diploma.

“At 15, I was technically a high school graduate, even though I really wasn’t,” Marissa said. “When I was 16, I got a job. But by that time, the police were at our house a lot because my mom and I were getting into physical fights. I have scars on my body still because she would hit me with sharp objects. The police didn’t listen to me.”

Not long after that came the final straw.

“My mom told me she was going to adopt another child because I was a devil child,” Marissa said. “She said I could either sleep on the couch to make room for the new kid or I could leave. She brought home adoption pamphlets and everything. Basically, she kicked me out.”

Once Marissa was out of her mom’s house, she knew that she had to stop following her personal Pied Piper. She could never go back. It was at that point that she truly learned her greatest life lesson.

“I finally learned not to follow my mom,” Marissa said. “I knew I had to get away from that woman.”

On her own at only 16, with a worthless high school diploma, Marissa did her best to take charge of her own life.

“I did my best on my own for 2 years,” Marissa said. “In the beginning, I stayed with my boyfriend. He was a meth dealer and would cook meth at home. It was dirty where we lived and there were cockroaches everywhere. It was difficult to get another job but I took whatever jobs I could get.”

When Marissa was 18, she reconnected with her dad and took further charge of her life by moving back to Washington. But that wasn’t all. When Marissa’s mom followed her to Washington and started stalking her, showing up in her community college classes and passing her notes, Marissa took out a restraining order. Eventually, her mom was sent to jail for violating the restraining order multiple times, and Marissa is now totally free of her negative influence.

With her freedom, Marissa is pursuing a career in nursing.

“I love what I do more than anything I’ve done in my life,” she said. “I’m happy I have a career I can stick with forever. I hope some day I can work with people who are in a similar situation to what I went through. You can do anything in nursing.”

Although Marissa has a great career to look forward to, it’s just a wonderful side benefit of being an independent, healthy person.

“I have my own mind now,” Marissa said. “For me, independence is no problem.”

* Name changed to protect the wise

Things you can do:

  • Develop good boundaries to keep unhealthy people out of your life. Read “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend for helpful tips and suggestions.
  • If you see any signs of child abuse or neglect, don’t even hesitate. Report it.
  • Help kids who are in difficult situations by donating clothes, school supplies, etc. to local teen shelters and foster care organizations.


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