For Tyka Booker this is the way the moment was supposed to happen. She knew God had a plan and this was it. Tyka was the one who was supposed to be there, holding her hand, as her mother took her last breath. Cancer was the culprit, but for Tyka she had reconciled long ago, with great clarity, that it was time for her mom to move on.
This wasn’t easy. Tyka and her sisters kept it a secret for much of their lives – their mom had two loves, and they always came in second. Her first love was her addiction, her next “hit”, the thing she felt she couldn’t live without.
“My mom was addicted to heroin,” says Tyka. “But she and I always had a good relationship. Her addiction was one thing, but our relationship was another. I was able to separate her addiction from the respect I had for her. I never spoke to her in a bad way. If I was angry I would tell her, but I never disrespected her at all. When I lost her, I felt OK losing her. It was time.”
Tyka’s older and younger sisters had more of a struggle coming to terms with the addiction that robbed them of much of their childhood. Tyka says her younger sister was disrespectful and angry and she showed it every day. Her older sister had to step up to be the mother the girls never really had. Because while their mother was present, she was rarely “there”. The drugs kept her locked deep inside.
The experience has made Tyka appreciate not only life, but what she identifies as her greatest accomplishment in life – being a mom. “It’s a privilege, one that is not automatically granted,” says Tyka. “I do the best I can for my children. The greatest challenge in life is being able to trust that how I show up in their life every day is enough. Losing my mom, (ten years ago), made me realize the importance of being a mother. The impact of the lessons I learned. Despite it all I still have conversations with my mom. As I continue to have things happen in my life, I still talk to my mom and ask for advice.”
Tyka is the mother of two children, 7-year-old Elijah and 17-year-old Nisaa. She says it’s her focus that they want for nothing. Never to experience the childhood that she did. Never live lacking life’s basic needs or desires: to be seen, heard and valued.
Because of the addiction, Tyka says her mom would sometimes sell all they had to get the next hit of heroin. “There were days we would come home and literally have nothing. My mom had sold our clothes and food. I still remember that low point in my life. I was getting ready to turn 13 and I was just so hungry – in the lunch line at school I stole a hot ham and cheese sandwich. I picked it up and put it in my pocket. When I came out the lunch lady was right there, she took me to the office. I was so afraid to tell them why I did what I did. I was a good student. Education was important and it was a distraction. The assistant principal kept asking me, ‘why are you stealing, are you a thief?’ “What I wanted to tell her was I’m SO hungry, I have no money. That was the reality. I had no food at home and no money and I was afraid to tell the truth for fear someone would call my mom, or come to my house and then everyone would know the truth. My sisters and I had agreed to keep our mom’s addiction a secret. No one knew. Instead I kept my mouth shut and the assistant principal punished me. She told me, ‘I hope you don’t grow up to be a thief and I’m suspending you for two days.’ “I just said OK.”
Never again. Sometimes it’s the darkest moments in life from which a new light emanates. Tyka knew she would have to make changes, to fend for herself. “I had my first job at 13-years-old,” says Tyka. “I worked at an after-school program at my middle school and I took my little paycheck to buy things like toiletries and food. My sisters went to work as well. Because of our situation we matured faster than most.”
Tyka says she couldn’t rely much on her father either. As she grew up, she came to learn her dad had another family and was barely around. So with maturity on a fast-track Tyka moved out of her home at age 17 and headed off to college at California State University – Long Beach. Tyka says she always knew a good education was her way out of her home and into a better financial situation. Her love of learning, great grades in school and life experience, led Tyka to focus on helping others. She started a career in education, working as a recruiter for American Continental University. It wasn’t too long before that job began that Tyka also gave birth to her first child, a moment that changed her life forever, because Tyka decided to make a change. Becoming a mom gave her the courage to share her story.
“Once I had my daughter, I decided to tell others about my childhood,” Tyka says. “It felt really good once I released it. Once I opened up and shared it, all my friends were so surprised. They told me they never knew. I always seemed so happy and did so well in school. I told them as long as I was going to school and making people laugh it helped, though it was a facade, I was simply afraid people would judge me and my family. I was hiding what was really going on in my own home. But once I opened up, I didn’t matter to me what people said or how they felt, because it was my situation. I didn’t know what would come of it. But I’ve grown in a variety of ways since I opened up and became a woman.”
Her career in education ran its course, but her desire to help others never waned, and in 2014 Tyka found herself in an interview to join USHEALTH Advisors. She’s never looked back.
“This is my third year here,” says Tyka. “This opportunity just felt right from the start. The ability to be flexible and be compensated for the time I put in, so I jumped on board the mission of HOPE, (Helping Other People Everyday). It is one of the best opportunities that exists for someone. I don’t know anywhere you can go, pay $300 and start your own business with virtually no overhead. I was never able to provide for my family like this anywhere before. Plus, we have these phenomenal people at the home office who do everything in their power to make sure we are supported and successful. Troy McQuagge is one of the best CEO’s and best men I have ever met. You see him and talk to him and hear him speak and you just want to follow him. I’ve met a ton of CEO’s through the years and Troy is absolutely the best.”
For Tyka, as it is for anyone who wants to make an impact, it’s all about getting better every day, for her husband Michael, her children and for others.
“I know I can always be better,” says Tyka. “I can always strive to make better decisions and treat people better. I work on being that person as much as possible. I am blessed in ways I don’t always deserve, but at the same time I am grateful for all I have and the financial situation relieves so much stress. If not for USHEALTH I never would have left the education field, but God had bigger plans for me than I could have ever created for myself. I’m just grateful.”
Tyka has advice for anyone traveling this journey of life, which is all of us. She grew up in the shadow of her mom needing two loves in life to get by, but Tyka knew there was really only one – and one thing you have to do to make it through. “Perseverance is key,” she says. “Regardless of any situation that you go through, or things that you encounter that you think might break you, they are actually things building your character and through perseverance you can see how great and strong you really are. You can be bigger and better than you even know.”
Until next time thanks for taking the time.