Episode six: Josis Moves Out
While searching for strangers for our sleepover, I called several high schools, asking them to point me in the direction of an extraordinary teenager. That's how I met basketball star Josis Thomas. I can only imagine how odd it was for him, receiving a phone call from me, inviting him to a sleepover with complete strangers in a hotel room. Yet, from the get-go, Josis was up for the adventure.
His curiosity and open nature make him an incredible communicator with a wealth of deep and direct inner wisdom. Josis is a gifted basketball player, whose athletic abilities extend beyond the court. At nineteen, his unshakeable confidence and determination make for slam dunk insights that he's happy to share with others.
Josis was born and raised in Regent Park, one of the first housing projects in Canada. He lives in a tiny two-room apartment with his family. His mom fled the Congo during war and moved to Angola, where she fell in love with her neighbour, Josis's dad. Together they escaped another war and immigrated to Canada.
It can be challenging growing up in an environment affected by poverty and violence, but Josis loves his neighbourhood and the people in the community who inspire and support him. He knows his future and his heart lie in Regent Park.
A few days before our sleepover, Josis's phone got smashed, leaving us to communicate through a scattered trail of emails. I would send a message and Josis would borrow someone's mobile or hit up a pay phone to call me back. I wasn't sure if he'd show, but my worries were for naught.
Josis arrives at the hotel — a striking figure: 6'4", super stylish in a white T-shirt and red track pants, carrying his dear friend, a tiny little lizard named Ogojogo, his pet gecko!
Josis opens up about the problem he is facing. He landed a basketball scholarship at Laurentian University in Sudbury Ontario. It's a dream opportunity but it comes with the hard reality of having to leave home. He's not sure how he will make ends meet financially, he's uncertain of how he'll fit into Sudbury life, and he's worried about abandoning those he loves, like his younger brother, who without Josis's guidance might be led off the right path.
On top of all of that, Josis has set the bar high. His game plan is to go into nursing then dentistry, before returning to Regent Park in five years with a completed degree. This will require an intense regimen of studying and basketball, with little room for anything else. Will he be able to live up to all his expectations?
During this tumultuous rite of passage, Josis feels like a fish-out-of-water — or in this case, like a gecko-in a hotel room. Author Sheila Heti, Dr. Jon Fiddler and I prepare him as best we can by sharing our own early-adult tribulations.
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