Written by James Doty.
When I speak in my capacity as a professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University or as an entrepreneur with a company worth $1.3bn, there is an assumption that I had a privileged background, one of affluence. In fact I grew up in poverty on public assistance with an alcoholic father and a mother impaired by a stroke who was chronically depressed and attempted suicide many times. My father was jailed repeatedly and we were evicted from our home on quite a few occasions.
But adversity in childhood, now known as Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), is common, affecting two out of three individuals, and one in eight have had many such experiences. This often results in “toxic stress” that can lead to learning difficulties, emotional problems, developmental issues and long-term health problems that can ultimately lead to an early death.
From an early age I was already being affected and was engaging in behaviour that was not going to be helpful in my life. One reason was because, like many who don’t see themselves having a future or opportunity, I was filled with hopelessness, despair and anger. This was only compounded by teachers and others having already decided that I had no future.
One summer’s day, everything changed for me. What precipitated that change was walking into a magic shop when I was 12.
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