• Jerry L. Burrell

Taking Control

Day 15 of my 21 day writing challenge


“What are you doing home?” My mom asked.

I knew what I was going to say because I had been practicing my response for the previous 30 minutes.

“I forgot my math book this morning and when I ran home to get it before the bus came, I slipped on some ice and hurt my head.”


Not only had I practiced what I was going to say, I also spent some time banging my head on the living room wall to create a bump as proof.


“See, right here.” I said as I turned and rubbed my head where the very small bump that I created was there 15 minutes earlier but by then had miraculously healed.


She didn’t fall for it.


This wasn’t the first time she arrived home from work to find me there. Both my parents worked and they left the house each morning before we left to catch our bus. Some days I just could not go through with it and no matter the consequences I would stay home.


The first few times I stayed home from school, I created scenarios to explain why and I usually created some proof to back it up. Like the time I searched the refrigerator for just the right combination of ingredients to create the “throw up” that I poured on the kitchen floor as proof of my stomach ache.

I finally stopped telling the lies and just said “I don’t know” when asked why I stayed home from school.


I remember the frustration this caused my parents. They ran out of options. Short of driving me to school every morning or calling in late to work so they could make sure I got on the bus, how could they insure that I would go? I got my butt whipped a few times and different versions of “I better not find you sitting here when I get home” from my Mom and “You better take your ass to school today” from my Dad.


I didn’t stay home multiple days in a row usually and there was no pattern to it. This went on for a while that 1st semester of 5th grade. It finally reached the point where the school said something needed to be done about it.


If I could have understood how to express what I was going through, my parents would not have had to go through this madness.Instead of creating stories, I wish I could have just laid it out for them.

The truth for me was I had lost control of my life.


They wouldn’t have understood it, I don’t think, because from their perspective, I didn’t really have that much control. I was their son. They were in control.


From kindergarten through 4th grade I walked from 2650 Jasmine street to 2950 Jasmine street every school day. I could make that walk with my eyes closed. I knew that school inside and out. The distinct smell that met me every morning as I walked through the same entrance into the same lobby where the office was off to the left and the auditorium a little further down and then the hallway that led to the gym and the hallway to the classrooms on the right with the stairwell up to the second floor, the bell that rang the same way at the same time every morning, this was the place that I spent the most time outside of home and I loved it, mostly.


That comfort, that familiarity, that sense of belonging equated to control. I knew pretty much what to expect and how to navigate through most any situation there. I knew the people. I knew the students. I knew the teachers. I knew me.


Everything was different in 5th grade. Waking up earlier was different. Waiting on the corner early in the morning to catch a school bus was different. Riding that school bus every morning was different. Different neighborhood, different school, different smell, different gym, different auditorium, different hallways and classrooms and cafeteria and students and teachers and principal and me.


Different me.


I was different.

At Hallett, my old school, I never felt different.

“Somebody better explain to me what the hell is going on here or I’m just gonna stop playing this game.”

I didn’t realize nor understand it at the time but I had to take control. There was no way my 5th grade mind could have explained to my mom and dad that I was taking control other than to just take it.


“Mom and Dad, I stayed home from school because I am now taking control of my life.” I may not have survived that conversation.


We ended up seeing a child counselor which somehow helped me and I ended up going to school consistently and made some new friends and grew to like Ms. Widmer, my new teacher and I learned how to type on an electric typewriter there and how to play soccer and how to sing hanukah songs at the synagogue across the street for the holiday program but most importantly I learned how to take control of my life and didn’t even know it.


Change can be shocking to the system as it was to my 5th grade self. Nothing stays the same so when change comes, which it will, if you cannot figure out a strategy on your own, it’s always a good idea to get counsel to help sort out the best way to navigate through.

As adults we have many more options than I had as a 5th grader and it may be your boss or your partner that you need to seek counsel or even “take control” back from. More often than not on the other side of that discomfort and “lack of control” is understanding and growth.


That’s why I created the United States Freestyle Dunk Federation.


Our niche industry has changed enormously in the last 20 years. Some of the changes I welcome and some of them make me want to just stay home from school.


Why wait for the NBA or ESPN or someone else to validate what we do when we can drive that validation ourselves and gain more from the process.


Where in your life would “taking control” lead to more understanding, more growth and more benefit all around.


I remain grateful.







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