A Girl Named PhatPhat: From Runaway to College Graduate

TJ "PhatPhat" Myricks, 33, transformed her runaway life into the life of a college graduate and business owner.

Like a lot of young women who come into the world, they soon find out the hood is not big enough. And without the proper direction and/or action taken, the devil’s workshop is soon built and poles erected for little girls that don’t know what they want out of life beyond bad boy’s dreams for them. Their fall from grace is soon greeted by greasy hands with faulty nets.  But one girl named PhatPhat chose not to be caught up for long.

TJ “PhatPhat” Myricks had set herself up for a stereotyped existence when she got pregnant and had her first child at 16.  But she didn’t stop there.  She had sex on a dare and a year and a couple weeks later she would give birth to another child.  She gave her second child, a daughter, up for adoption to her father and his girlfriend.  

PhatPhat was growing like a weed in Gary, Indiana, when her parents decided to divorce when she was only five.  Her mother had embraced the teachings of Jehovah’s Witness and her father ran in the other direction.

Soon, her mother’s rules and regulations became much more than PhatPhat could handle and she started to run.  Her father wasn’t happy with the Jehovah’s Witness culture either. It paved both her father’s and her road to the door.  Her and her mother’s relationship buckled under the “constant conflict” and PhatPhat was on her way to a path of destruction.

She wasn’t going to be under any crazy ass rules and regulations.  No, no! Not her!  She knew what was best for her.  And her mother’s ways were not it.  After many homes, shelters, and “compromising situations,” she then ran head first into a jail cell.

Plus or minus a few details, does this sound like your story?  Doesn’t sound like it’s going to end up in a good place does it? I sat down with PhatPhat and found that the jail cell was the only place that gave her time to think.

Why did you run?  Where were you going?

The more I ran away, the longer I would stay.  First one day or so, then a lot.  When I think about it there was no valid reason.

You said that you ended up in a placement facility in Oconomowock, Wisconsin, after juvenile facilities and group homes couldn’t contain you.  Oconomowock?  There was no where for you to run once you got there, I suppose.

Yeah, I went to a placement facility.  After you go to juvi so many times, they go through different steps, then group home and they determined that I needed to go further away.  They sent me to Oconomowock, Wisconsin.  I completed a program there after a year and a half . After the program, I think I was 16, and I went home with my Dad for about four to five months.  He was tired and I had my bags packed and he asked me where he could drop me off.  He said, “Some go off on their own and are a success.  Maybe you’ll be one of them.”

And you have indeed succeeded.  You hold a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies with an emphasis on Child and Family Services from Purdue University Calumet.  You became a case worker with the Department of Social Services right out of school.  You now run your own successful daycare. Many girls (and me) are wondering how you found a way to recreate yourself after the road you had taken?

The sad thing was I was always a very good student.  The last time I went to school was 9th grade.  I never went to prom never experienced high school really outside 9th grade.  In the last three months I was pregnant with my son, I got my GED.  I tried to go back [to school] two different times.  At 21, I got in trouble.  I got a felony charge…it all stemmed from anger.  I was in a job conflict with a co-worker and I tried to explain to my supervisor what was going on between us and she disregarded me, so I gathered her personal information and just started opening up credit cards. It wasn’t about the money. But my girlfriend’s mother took the cards and went crazy and started charging them up.  They gave me three years probation, 150 community service and I had to pay back $7,000.  I did two years.  I got released early.  At that point, I was done.  I was tired of that type of life.  I completed my Associate’s degree at Purdue at that time.

Did any of the facilities you lived in ever address your anger issues?

They tried to address it a little bit, but never really dealt with it. If I had got help with my anger, I really believe things would’ve turned out differently.  I still have those times when I have to calm myself down and stop.  I have calmed down tremendously.

Another hurdle you had to jump as a 17-year old teenager was giving up your child. You said you gave up your daughter for adoption to your father? So, I guess that helped with your decision because you would still be able to have a relationship with your daughter?

I thought I’d be able to come and see her and call her from time to time, but my dad said, “You gave her up for adoption, don’t call here and trying to go back and forth.” I can’t really have a  relationship with her.  But now they want me to step in and try to establish one to fix what they’ve messed up because they’re having problems with her.

Your son started running away and exhibiting behavior similar to your past behavior.  How has that cycle affected you both?

I am determined to break that cycle and I communicate with my son and we have been working things out. Open communication within my family has helped our relationship.  It has helped my relationship with my mother as well.  When she thinks about it she did go a little too far or went overboard.

But now at 33, you are reaching back to other  girls through a blog and new book with the same title, “The PhatPhat Memoirs”, hitting bookstores in late August.  Did you think that your blog would be successful with young women that might think you’re preaching to them?

I started my blog, the PhatPhat Memoirs, July 2011. I felt like I needed to determine who I truly was so I could go back and see my development.  I wanted to share my experiences with others, so they could get help and know that things are not as hard as they might think.  I was also interested in what other people would think about what I had to say and it has actually gotten a good response.  I know there are always those who won’t get it, but there are those who will take the time to read and find something in what I’m saying that will keep them from situations like I lived.  The blog is the overview of everything in my new book.  The things you go through with domestic violence, teen pregnancy, running away.

Do you work with charities, organizations, and/or schools?

I’ll be speaking at Ivy Tech Community College as a part of a teen conference, Teens In Touch, sponsored by the Healthy Start Program.  I counsel or try to give advice to the girls that bring their children to my daycare.  I give one of my mothers one day a week to bring her children, so she has some time for herself.  She has seven children and one on the way at 25.  Her sister has six.  I tell her this is your chance to look for a job and think about you.  I have had internships with women and children’s homes that  have found themselves there because of domestic violence or other situations that caused them to lose housing.

What is the main thing you want young women to know that could help them out of their situations?

Always think before you act.  You make decisions that will take your lifetime trying to fix.  Teen girls can read in my blog not to succumb to peer pressure.  The consequences can be so detrimental.  Always have confidence in yourself and know that there’s help out there if you really want to get help.  Create your own path.  You can’t get anywhere following someone else’s dream or path.  Have a plan.  You have to have a plan to accomplish your goals. I tell my son you can’t just get a goal and do nothing.  You have to make a plan of action to obtain that goal.

This is an excerpt from her blog The PhatPhat Memoirs :

On June 14, she wrote:

“Being rebellious and grown will definitely get you into some things that you can’t handle, make you bite off more than you can chew, and leave you in a world of hurt. Trying to be grown, or as a good friend of mine calls it, “hot in the ass” has its consequences. As always I learned that the hard way. Sometimes in life as children we think that our parents are overbearing or are just flat out determined to ruin our fun. Usually it never occurs to us until later in life that they only have your best interest at heart. Imagine a young girl that feels trapped at home, no outlets, no room to participate in any extracurricular activities, no socializing other than school, what’s left for her to do, but step out and create her own amusement. Why not do it big? You’re going to be in trouble regardless to whether you do something small or little. That was the attitude I had most times when I decided to do my own thing. I never cared what the outcome would be. I was always willing to do what I wanted and deal with the consequences later with my mother. This day was no different. I was going to wear what I wanted to wear, do what I wanted to do and get loose. I was going to come home when I felt like it and have as much of the fun that I had been missing out on as I could in one day. I knew my mother would be furious and I didn’t care. Little did I know I was strutting myself right into trouble, the kind I couldn’t get out of…..”

If you want to become a fan or direct your child to PhatPhat, please check out the blog and look for her book in August.

-J.C. Brooks

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