Down and Out in LA

When you think of California, what comes to mind? Beaches of blue crashing against a jagged cliffside, long legged, big breasted blondes in bikinis scattered across the white sand? Playing volleyball, surfing killer waves, skating down the boardwalk without a care in the world? Do you think Los Angeles is just like the movies? Valley girls sipping mimosas, gossipping through their noses over brunch, under cat-eyed shades? Driving into a sunset in a convertible, one hand on the wheel, one hand on your hat, hair flowing in the wind?

The movies don’t show you her dark side, they don’t show you the city of fallen angels. Her poverty plagued streets, where junkies toss themselves at the foot of a tall palm and sleep as the sun shines on them. At night a small group of friends set up camp on the sidewalk, the outhouse is the street behind someone’s parked car. They roast up some crack and pass it around, talking and laughing. You see an abandoned shoe, a torn teddy bear, an upside-down baby stroller in the grass, you wonder how they all got there. Everything, everyone down here has a story. Down here in the underground, where people who shoot for the stars and miss land. People who never stood a chance. How are some people that terribly unfortunate?

Photo Courtesy of @homeless_sofas

I arrived in LA with a car full of belongings, without a job or home, but with a heart full of dreams. My plan was to stay in the valley with my friend Fluffy for a few days until I found an apartment. The next few days, or weeks or months, I’m not really sure, all became a blur of driving around in circles, or getting acquainted with my new home. Endless freeways leading in every direction stacked to the sky encircled me, disoriented me. Cars roared past me on every side. I felt like a rat learning my way around a new maze, only a rat might have adapted faster.

I had to learn the city’s strange rules, driving and otherwise. Here, red light means turn left. The term “pull and pray” has a whole new meaning here. I pull out into traffic and pray I don’t get hit. I have no idea how I didn’t crash. I must have had an angel looking over me. When people would honk at me or flip me off, I’d say through a fake smile, “I’m sorry! I don’t know what I’m doing!” Once I was driving the wrong way in a parking lot, and this older Mexican woman yelled, “Fucking gringo! Learn how to drive!”

The roads in the valley sometimes work in a grid, sometimes the road just ends abruptly, and other times it leads you to a juvenile detention center. Never assume you know where you’re going, how you’ll get there, or when.

No matter how close you think you are to your destination, you can still hit a dead end.

Traffic, time, and people here all moved so much slower than I was used to. People took forever to call you back. During my job and apartment search, some people took a few days to respond, others never did. One woman called me back about a job two months later, then called me back to hire me another month after my interview. I became impatient and agitated with the amount of unprofessionalism. I’d arrive on time to my interviews and still had to wait. I felt overdressed with my blazers, dress pants, and heels, while everyone else was wearing shorts and sandals.

Of the people I met with rooms for rent, some chose other roommates, some I couldn’t live with, and others were just downright crazy. One guy, who I never met, begged me to move in and told me the world was ending. Another guy seemed to be looking for a live-in sex-maid kind of deal. I couldn’t really afford to be picky, but part of the reason I moved here was to escape unsafe living situations. I needed a good home base if I was going to have a chance out here.

After four or five days, which was much longer than I’d planned on staying, Fluffy couldn’t have me anymore because of a gig which would require all of his time over the next few weeks. I called my friend who lived in San Diego but she was out of town.

Longing for home, any home, I went to a pizza place called Brooklyn Pizza. The waitress brought me the most depressing piece of pizza I’ve ever encountered. “This is not Brooklyn pizza! This isn’t even real pizza! This is a burnt-to-a-crisp crust, some tasteless sauce, with a dash of dried cheese for decoration!” I thought while making angry hand gestures in my head.

Fighting back tears, I took out my journal and poured desperation onto a page. I begged God to grant me strength, to aid and protect me on this challenging journey. That night, as I was falling asleep, I imagined myself lying limp and hopeless on the ground. He lifted me up in his arms and carried me to safety.

I knew one other person in the entire state, I called her my Peruvian princess, like Yma Sumac. She had moved from Harlem a few months earlier and was living with her family in Santa Clarita, a small desert community just outside of LA. Her family agreed to take me for the time being. They were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They were so warm and welcoming and cooked the most delicious dinners. How did I get so lucky? As the richest man in the world in Kurt Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan would say,

“I guess somebody up there likes me.”

My second week in LA, there was a record-breaking heat wave that lasted a week, with temperatures as high as 114 degrees Fahrenheit in Santa Clarita. I have never experienced such a heat in my life. I literally felt like I was burning in an oven. I could feel my skin drying up and breaking off like petals on a dead flower. I drank and drank and never quenched my thirst. Probably because I instantly sweat it out. I sweat from places I didn’t even know you could sweat, like behind your knees. And it didn’t get cold at night, it just got slightly less smoldering. Yma’s family didn’t have air conditioning, so we slept with one fan blowing on us both. I would lay awake at night sweating buckets of anxiety and self-doubt.

Uprooting my entire life thousands of miles across the country was proving slightly more difficult than I had anticipated. How on earth do people move here? Unless you have 10,000 in savings, or have a co-signer that makes 100,000 a year. I don’t even know anyone who makes 100,000 a year. You need a job to qualify for an apartment, you need an apartment for a job. Endless barriers and constant dead ends,

I guess that’s why most people just stay put.

North Hollywood, CA

I was offered a job as a behavioral therapist, and a few landlords accepted that as proof of income. I applied to those apartments and waited to hear back from them. I kept calling and getting a voicemail. I felt like stalking these landlords, following them around with a wad of cash saying, “Please take my money. Please!” I withdrew cash to give to one landlord, but the process took so long I ended up driving around with $1,200 in my glove box for two weeks. In New York, I’ve broken up with a boyfriend and moved into a new apartment in two days. Everything moved so slowly out here. People are so laid back, a little too laid back. I hoped that I too could be so carefree one day, but for now…

I’m fucking homeless. Take my money.

I needed a haircut and found a place on Yelp in Panorama City, a predominantly Latino neighborhood in the valley. I drove around trying to find it and eventually came upon a little outdoor mall called Plaza Del Valle. When you enter from the parking lot there’s a painted roundabout with a statue in the middle. There are little buildings on either side, one has a mural painted on it. You can walk down a path of stores whose names are all in Spanish on both sides, under hanging lights.

I found a hair salon. When I walked in the woman said something to me in Spanish. I tried to read prices, but all of the signs were in Spanish. All of the women were talking in Spanish. I felt rude for not knowing Spanish and just felt incredibly out of place. Feeling embarrassed, I awkwardly walked out.

Incredibly stressed out, I found a park nearby, called Lake Balboa, where I could relax. I watched the people, riding their bikes, skateboarding, wearing jeans when it was 100 degrees out. I longed to be one of them. I called my Godmother and she reassured me it would take time to get settled. She reminded me, “The greatest gift of all is to wake up in California.” For a moment, I slowed down and just enjoyed the moment, watching birds dance in the water. As I was getting in my car, someone came up to me and asked if I was living in my car. I laughed nervously, scratching my head, “I actually am looking for a place, I mean I found one, I think, I’m just waiting, but I’m okay” and quickly got into my car.

I spent most of my time in my car and I felt suffocated by all of my things. I like things neat, everything in its place. Everything was a mess. Also, when I took a sip of my water I had left in my car, and I think it actually started to boil, I was reminded about the propane tanks that I’d been driving around with,  in million degree weather. So I went to Walmart to try and return the propane tanks and some other things I bought but didn’t use for my road trip.

The cashier said I couldn’t return the propane tanks. I asked him if he could just dispose of them for me then. He said he had to ask his manager. The manager was wearing a nice suit, he came over to me, crossed his arms, and told me he couldn’t dispose of them for me like he was insulted I would even ask. I felt a rage and panic come over me. I asked him as calmly as possible, “Do you know where I can dispose of them because I really don’t know.” I left out the part about me being afraid my car was going to explode with everything I own inside of it. He ignored me and walked away.

I was so mad, I walked outside boorishly, panting heavily, and one by one, I shoved the tanks into the garbage, about twenty feet from where I just talked to the manager. I got into my car, started crying, and called my best friend for the first time in weeks. “I’m having a mental breakdown. I’ve reached my breaking point, in a fucking Walmart. It was a nice Walmart too.” I told her the story. She told me that’s really not that bad, and reminded me of the much crazier shit she’d have done. But that she wouldn’t have ever gotten that far. She wouldn’t have had the balls to leave. That the hardest part is to get in your car and leave, to believe in yourself that much.

I felt so numb. I told her I couldn’t call her earlier because I didn’t want her to worry. I also couldn’t admit out loud that I was still technically homeless close to a month after I left New York. I couldn’t admit that I was terrified. I felt my fear winning, and faith leaving me.

I feel like God always tests me, sees how much I can take before I break. If this was a test of my faith, I failed that test. I started to doubt that He would always take care of me, as He always has. Just when I stopped believing in myself completely, my new roommates let me move in illegally, the day before I started my job.

It was a tiny room in the corner of a townhouse. It had a private entrance through a sliding glass door, which I never used since I’d have to climb over my bed, which took up most of the room. The townhouse was two stories, had two balconies overlooking the pool, we had central air.

I soon found out that in LA, looks are deceiving. We got a notice on our door the next day that we had a bedbug infestation. The neighborhood, North Hills, was notorious for gang violence, which deemed its nickname, “Little Mexico.” There were several shootings the first few months I was living there. Twice my building was barricaded off, no one could come or go. Once as I left my parking garage, an officer in full swat gear, carrying an automatic rifle asked me to look in my trunk. Now in any other situation I would have been a smart ass and said “I know my rights, you need a warrant,” but when the guy with the big ass gun asks you to do something, you tend to listen.

But that’s my home. That’s my neighborhood chicken crossing the road, holding up traffic. That’s my trash on the graffitied sidewalk, that’s my toilet on the sidewalk filled with newspapers. Those are my people getting dressed outside their RV. That’s my taco truck man, my fruit cart lady, my neighbors pushing their baby in a shopping cart.

Toilet Vase by Kim Kyne

In my tiny room, from an air mattress on the ground, I listen to the music my new city makes, the mariachi bands, the guy preaching into a megaphone in Spanish, cars crashing on the freeway not far from my doo. I live in Los Angeles, I came here alone with nothing, and I made it. I think about my journey and all the challenges I’ve overcome. A wide smile rests on my face, as the helicopters gently hum me to sleep.

“It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs – and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.”-George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London

Going Out West: World Class White Trash

“You’re gonna die!” Grandma yells. “It’s too dangerous! Two girls, alone on the road?!” She gets upset often these days. “Why?! Why do you have to go?!”

“We’re going to see so many incredible things.” I try to reassure her. “A cross-country road trip, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity!”

“Yeah, I took a road trip to California. I came back with five kids! Why can’t you just watch TV like everyone else?…Ariana! Why?! Ariana! Ariana! Please.” She pleads.

I planned this trip for months. I booked every hotel and campsite along the way months in advance, but I waited until the last minute to pack everything I owned into my car. Eventually, the car filled up, and I had to decide what I had to leave behind, which it turns out is quite mental breakdown provoking at two in the morning when you have to leave at five in the morning to keep your itinerary.

We left as dawn broke and drove all day through western New York and Ohio. Our first stop was Chicago, an enchanting city, filled with artists and creatives. We stopped for Chicago style pizza. While we were waiting, this good-looking gentleman said hi to me. I looked around to see who he was talking to, and after I realized it was me, I pretended I didn’t hear him. I didn’t know what else to do, I was not used to strangers small talking with me. We’re not in New York anymore, I thought.

It was late when we left Chicago, the trains were sneakily trying to hum us to sleep. We still had a couple hundred miles before we got to our hotel. I guess I figured we would make better time. I forgot that we both drink a gallon of water a day, and didn’t account for neither of us sleeping the night before. We took caffeine pills, but they didn’t help.

I have serious trust issues and a paranoia of people falling asleep while driving. My ex would literally be snoring while driving my car, perfectly in the lines I might add! I’d yell “Wake up!” He’d open his eyes and say “I wasn’t sleeping!” I was hanging over the edge of my seat, staring at Ari. She goes, “What are you doing? Stop looking at me like that! You’re freaking me out! I’m fine!”

Eventually, we gave up and got a hotel still about two hours from the hotel I had already booked. We did get a nice suite for cheap since it was the only thing available. We awoke to the smell of hay somewhere in Wisconsin. We were behind schedule so we were now in rush mode, which we were already in being New Yorkers.

Somewhere in Minnesota, 2015

We drove what felt like a week itself through nothing but corn, cows, windmills, and more corn. The panic kicked in somehwere around Minesota. My mind raced around in circles, like a tornado it picked up every negative thought and bounced it around my head. What the fuck did I just do? I quit my jobs. I left my home, my family, my friends. I’m homeless. I’m unemployed. I’m fucked. Miles and miles of nothing. All that unused space made me nervous. The road kept going on forever and nothing ever changed! The road never turned, it just kept on going, straight into forever. I could see a storm forming hundreds of miles ahead, it gave us hours to anticipate it. What would it be like when we got there? Would we make it out the other end of that storm? …Or get lost in the tornado of our minds?

Ari loved it, said it was her favorite state. Ari and I have always been opposites in a lot of ways, but we also have a lot in common. A mutual friend, Nikki, introduced us when she was 10 and I was 12. All three of us had tragic childhoods in different ways. Ari and I never met our dads, and Nikki’s dad sexually abused her. We all shared stories of CPS and police at our houses every other week.

All three of us lacked supervision. We would always sneak out, and get high and drunk. Ari never drank or got high, but never judged us. She promised her mother, who passed away when Ari was only 13, that she would never do drugs, and she kept her promise. I’m sure it was especially hard since so it seemed everyone she looked up to was an addict. Even as a teenager she upheld a strong moral code, and displayed extreme discipline. I always admired her for that.

After her mother passed away, she lived with her stepdad, who didn’t know how to be an authority figure, her older brother, who never left his room, her older sister, who was never home, and her two younger sisters, who argued constantly. A few years later, when Ari and her two younger sisters moved in with their grandmother, Ari was left to move a five-bedroom house alone. In her brother’s room, she found mounds of clothes, dishes, and when she opened a perfume box, she found over a dozen used heroin needles.

Living with Grandma had its own set of challenges, but Ari appreciated the little comforts Grandma did provide, like food on the table every night. Her stepfather spent his money supporting Ari’s Godmother’s heroin addiction.

Ari and I had weird things in common like our mothers had the same first and middle name, Sarah Elizabeth, and they were both nurses. Whenever I called Ari, Grandma became upset.

“Who is this?”

“Grandma, it’s Vera, is Ari home?”

“Who is this?! This is not funny! Why does it say Sarah Elizabeth? You’re not my daughter! My daughter’s dead! This is a nasty trick! Who is this!?”

Sometimes she wouldn’t answer and when Grandma called back, my mom would answer. The first time, my mom had no idea who it was and was very confused why a strange woman had called her just to yell at her. My mom was so sad when I told her it was Grandma, because the two of them had worked together for many years.

Once I came to pick Ari up, to get out of the house for a bit. Ari came outside and ran into my car, like she had just finished a heist and I was the getaway driver. I thought maybe she was running to escape the cold weather, but then Grandma came out after her, naked, screaming, “Ariana! Ariana! Get back here! You can’t leave me!” Her little sister came outside and tried to cover their grandma up with a towel.

By the age of 15, Ari was not only raising her two younger sisters but taking care of her grandmother as well. She cooked, cleaned, and tried to keep the girls in line and Grandma happy. She took care of everyone who was supposed to care for her, and she never complained.

Grandma had a decent amount of money, but they still struggled financially because her alcoholic son was stealing her checks. He was would pop in every now and then for food and beer, after hiding from the cops in the woods for days, and then disappear again. Ari’s uncle, aunt, and cousin lived with them for a while. One night, her uncle got so drunk he fell down. Ari and her aunt tried to sit him up, but he kept falling limp, so they left him there snoring away and went to bed. Ari woke up to her little sister and aunt panicking and crying, “He’s not breathing!” They tried to keep Grandma in her room and not tell her what was going on, but she barged past them and found her youngest son lying dead on the kitchen floor.

I watched as that little girl, selflessly surrendered her youth. We both grew up too fast. Even though she was younger than me, she became a woman before me. That girl was tough as nails, let me tell you. She put on a cold front, she didn’t let a lot of people in, but should she find you worthy, she shall be constant and faithful until you both fucking die. When no one, not even my own family, was there for me, she was. When I fucked up, she let me know, but she never left my side. That is one loyal bitch. She always seemed more confident than me. She was never afraid to speak her mind or be herself. As you may know, people don’t always like it when you are honest and true to yourself.

My ex never liked her. He’d say she was loud, obnoxious, and liked to gossip. He’d talk shit about all of her friends, how they were all dirtbags who lived in trailers. He’d call her trashy because of her tattoos and the “bitch” bumper sticker that was on her car when she was 17. One time she came over and there were some crumbs left where she was eating, so he started calling her a slob. I’d get so offended when he’d talk about her like that.

“You don’t even know her! She’s one of the best people I know! How can you judge someone based on such superficial, exterior shit?”

He’d say, “Why are you so mad, it’s not like I’m talking about you?”

“One, because she’s my best friend. One of my only friends. Two, you kind of are talking about me! I have tattoos, I’m a messy eater! I lived in a trailer! And I had a similar upbringing to her, when you call her trash, you’re calling me trash too, just like your mother.” His mother screamed at me, “Get out of my house! You’re fucking trash! White trash!” when we told her we were moving in together. She’s a real classy woman.

Everyone was getting under my skin with these labels. White trash. Trailer trash. Was I branded these labels at birth, and must wear them until death?

I stopped talking to Ari for a year because I wanted to dissociate from everyone who reminded me of who I was and where I came from.  I told myself I was ashamed of her when really I was ashamed of myself but too cowardly to face it. I convinced myself it didn’t happen, I was cured, that I wasn’t me, that I cleared the browsing history of my body, that I’d been born again as someone else, someone luckier. I thought if I just show up and play the part, pretend I’m poised and elegant. If I just douse myself with education and culture, they won’t notice the imposter in the room. But they always notice. The damage has been done, it’s hanging off my shoulders, busting through the seams of my dress. My trauma shines like a diamond at a crowded dinner party. You can hear it when I open my mouth, the way my voice trembles with doubt. Like hounds, they smell my fear. I don’t belong here, and everyone knows it.

I’ll never be like them, but I’m not total trash either. I am something entirely different, I am me. Ari is who she is. Take us or leave us, make no difference to us. At least for the time being, we get to decide who we want to be, no matter how much society tries to predetermine our destinies.

I felt bad instantly, my self-loathing had hurt someone else besides myself, someone who’s never done me wrong. It took me several months to swallow my pride and apologize. When I finally did, she acted like she wasn’t even phased and we took up right where we left off, as best friends do.

Ari was still taking care of the girls and Grandma, only now she was in another demanding relationship with a man, working, and studying criminal justice on top of it. Imagine you have a friend over your house, and when she walks in your grandmother is sitting there and suddenly starts screaming at you, or just calls your friend a whore.

Grandma only got worse over the years. She was able to do less and less for herself as her pain got worse. She relied on Ari for everything but treated her like the devil. If you’ve ever taken care of the elderly or worked with someone who has Alzheimer’s, you know this dynamic is common. It’s also not unusual that she would be screaming in agony for Ari to come help her because she can’t move one minute, and chasing her around the house with a broom the next.

Once she got in one of her moods, nothing could stop her. She would scream at the girls for hours. She would say horrible things to them, especially Ari. She would get in their faces, antagonizing them, “Come on, you piece of shit, hit me! I’ll call the cops on you!” She would tell Ari that no one liked her, and blame her for the death of her uncle.

They would hide from her in their rooms and Grandma would bang and kick the door until it opened. Another thing Ari and I had in common, there were always broken doors in our homes. If you’ve ever lived with an abuser, you can probably remember the custom doors in your homes too. You can imagine having to force them open because of the custom broken hinges. They’re decorated with personalized kicking holes. Sometimes they’re missing entirely because someone decided to rip it off and set it on fire.  

Ari was not allowed to have a life independent of Grandma, Grandma needed her all of the time. The rare times I did see her, I would go over and talk to Grandma too. She’d be super pleasant with me, until I’d say “We’ll be back soon.” Then she’d start screaming how Ari never does anything for her, how she hasn’t eaten for days (right after lunch), and list all of the things she needs right now. Before I knew it, I’d be hiding from a screaming Grandma trying to break the door down too! I’ve seen a lot of scary shit in my life, and I gotta say, Grandma on a bad day is easily in the top 10.

I watched that woman sacrifice her entire youth to take care of Grandma. Grandma gave up the freedom she had just attained after raising six kids for the rest of her life to care of her grandchildren without a second thought. Ari never doubted that she would take care of grandma as long as she possibly could. She never treated her task as a burden, though it certainly was. She just knew it was something she had to do, and she did it. Ari was 25 when it became too dangerous to keep Grandma home.

Everyone told her to do it sooner, to leave, to take care of herself.  I can’t imagine what living like that for all those years does to a person, being told you’re worthless so many times that you start to believe it. I don’t know a lot of people who would do half of what she did for those girls and for Grandma.

If that selfless woman, is what you consider trashy, then I’d be honored for you to call me that. But I can think of a lot of other things to call a woman of her caliber, besides white trash.

We finally caught up with the storm, it was all the way in the hills South Dakota. All that anxiety for nothing, the storm had already passed. The remnants of this particular storm were so unique. The road was just wet enough to reflect the sun’s last rays of the day, to savor the day’s warmth a little longer. We drove up into the hills and into the sunset. This road would take us to our futures, the road to liberation.  

We drove through a small mountain town, similar to the one in New York that we had left the day before. I was pumped full of caffeine and being goofy. I announced in a professional voice, “Welcome to Mount Rushmore, you’re about to have a patriotic experience which will change your life.” A few minutes later we saw a sign that said something to the same extent, and we couldn’t stop laughing.

Mount Rushmore, 2015

I don’t think it was the men’s faces carved onto the mountain. It was the mountain itself and the energy it holds. It was “Grand Old Flag” pulsing through the stereo. It was the people from all over the world, from all walks of life, all together, all equal. At that moment I fell in love with America. Yes her crown has been corrupted, but her foundation stands strong. Her foundation is people like us. Two girls like us, from a small town in New York, who escaped their poor, toxic families and made it all the way to the Mount Rushmore, by ourselves. We have many obstacles ahead of us, as lower class women, but if we have a chance of reaching our potential anywhere, it is here.

“Show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy”-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Born to Fail

I wanted to be a psychologist since I was a junior in high school. One day, the therapist didn’t show up for a group therapy session at the mental hospital I stayed at for a month, so I ran the group. My time at that hospital was the first time I realized that I was not alone, and my optimism was helpful to others who were hurting. I decided then, that I wanted to dedicate my life to helping fucked up kids like myself.

I graduated a year early because I was bullied and bored, and started college at the age of 16. At 18, I started interning at a mental institution, a homeless shelter,  a child abuse prevention center, and even worked alongside the woman who counseled my mother at a domestic violence agency. I was a great counselor and advocate to all of my clients. I gave them unconditional love and I never judged them, because I had been them. I graduated at 19, with my associate’s in human services, and started working on my bachelor’s degree immediately.

I’ve come to accept life as cyclical, segments of peace and chaos. My life had been 16 years of chaos. I had two years of peace during my associate’s degree, followed by four more years of chaos. 

Since childhood, I’ve had an array of physical health problems, in addition to the gallery of mental problems I display. Just like everything else about me, my problems were not typical. Doctor after doctor had no idea what was wrong with me. They would simply attribute any physical problems I had to my mental ones, or purely side effects of the antipsychotics and mood stabilizers. Then, they’d take out their prescription pads, and subscribe a solution.

Turns out, the medications were making me worse, since the problem was in fact physical. At 19, I was diagnosed with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease, also known as the mimic disease, can feel like every mental and physical illness all at once. The Lyme causing bacteria, called spirochetes, seize every park of your body, from your heart to your joints, your brain, and everything in between. I could write an entire book explaining how those damn bugs drilled into my cells and took over my life. In summation, it’s fucking horrible.

To add insult to injury, there was a scandal involving Chronic Lyme Disease. There is an abundance of literature and a film, called Under Our Skin, about how the corrupt health care system caused the Lyme epidemic by withholding information from doctors. Why would they do this? Let’s just say, it’s a lot more profitable to treat someone for Schizophrenia or Multiple Sclerosis for the rest of their lives, than to treat someone for Lyme with three weeks of antibiotics. To this day, doctors disagree about how Lyme manifests itself and if Chronic Lyme even exists, and patients desperately in need of answers and relief from their agony are coming up empty. Doctors do not know how to read the blood tests correctly, so as in my case, the results are false negatives. While the pockets of America’s Most Crooked fill up, brilliant minds and healthy bodies are being hollowed out and chewed up by greed.

Getting the diagnosis was only half the battle. Once these little bastards invade, they’re impossible to evict. The treatment was even worse than the disease itself. I spent my entire junior year of college on antibiotics. I’ve never had chemotherapy, but I imagine the symptoms of long-term antibiotics are similar. My entire immune system was wiped out. I spent most of my time in bed or in the bathroom. So much shit and vomit came out of me that year, I’m pretty sure I was empty inside. I had migraines and couldn’t think straight. My blood pressure was so low that when I sat up everything went black. I had no energy; I felt so heavy I couldn’t move sometimes. I obviously didn’t make it to class as much as I needed to.

In between antibiotics treatments, I did alternative treatments. They weren’t as bad as the antibiotics but still gave me wicked migraines. After all, they were ripping toxins out of my brain. Taking time off from work was never an option, but in hindsight, I probably should have taken some time off from school. But I had momentum, a momentum that I feared would abandon me if I stopped for even a moment, and there were deadlines on every dream.

When you’re young, you’re in a hurry to become somebody, but you neglect the fact that it’s the journey that makes you who you need to be.

 

As I learned about my unique conditions, Lyme disease, with a hint of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), served with a side of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), I became interested in neuroscience.  Dr. G., the neuropsychologist who helped me finally get the correct diagnoses, became my biggest inspiration. He had co-invented a treatment and diagnostic tool which can map a brain’s electrical activity more accurately than an EEG. My tests would all come back slightly abnormal, but after running more tests, the doctors would all conclude it was nothing severe. Dr. G. showed me the scars carved into my brain by the physical and emotional assaults I’ve faced in my life and explained how they cause my mental problems as well. He gave me answers, he gave me hope that I will not have to suffer for the rest of my life.

Example of brain mapping

Not only did he help me get my Lyme under control, he taught me that there are other treatments for my mental problems. I got to thinking, there have to be more treatments that haven’t been discovered yet, treatments for people like me, where medication does not work and actually makes things worse. Treatments that were more effective for everyone, treatments with fewer side effects. I wanted to help make those treatments. I wanted to discover the physical cause of mental illnesses and neurodegenerative disorders, and find a cure. We’re allowed to dream…aren’t we?

Two weeks before my 21st birthday, and the start of my senior year, my sister’s long-term boyfriend, who was like a brother to me, commit suicide. With one phone call, my life came unraveled. I spent the next two years battling PTSD, depression, and alcoholism. I also struggled financially and lost two other people very close to me tragically.  Eventually, I got back on my feet, and I graduated. I fought tears my entire ceremony, with every cheesy speech the lump in my throat grew. Words cannot possibly contain my pride. I understood how David must have felt, standing above Goliath’s corpse, as he glanced at the empty sling in his puny, trembling hand, a little confused, and shocked at what he’d accomplished.

I applied to behavioral psychology and investigative psychology graduate school programs in California. When I opened my rejection letter, I wasn’t surprised at all. I almost expected to fail. Taking into consideration all of the things I was dealing with, I obviously didn’t have a 4.0. I didn’t have time or energy to put in the extra effort I always had to make as a lower class, disabled woman, working two jobs and an internship on top of it. Still, my GPA was the bare minimum for most grad schools.

I also didn’t have a great experience at my university, to put it lightly. It was a good school for research, but as a result, I felt a lot of teachers didn’t want to be teaching. I had a professor hide from me in his office, during his office hours. My neuroanatomy professor literally just wrote equations on the whiteboard the entire class, he never even turned around to call on all of the raised hands.

Then there was Dr. Sanchez. Lovely, brilliant, clinically insane Dr. Sanchez. I interned in her behavioral neuro-endocrinological lab, in non-nerd terms, we studied how hormones affect behavior in rats and mice… by chopping their heads off and examining their brain. I’m pretty sure Dr. Sanchez’s interest in hormones came from her own imbalances. She was a narcissist and verbally abused her staff on a regular basis. We were all on edge every day. The air was so thick with tension, you practically had to claw your way through it. I feared one of the other lab assistants was going to commit suicide, Dr. Sanchez was especially cruel to her. I still felt confident I was doing a good job. I worked twice as many hours as required, to show her how serious I was. I loved what I did there, minus the hostile work environment, to put it lightly. In the end, I didn’t get a reference letter, class credits, or a co-publishment for the work I did during those six months, which would’ve made me a more competitive candidate for the programs for which I applied. She was fired a few months later.

All that said, the main reason for my rejection was that according to my GRE scores, I am an idiot. The GRE is like the SAT for graduate school. I studied for two years for that test. I bought a GRE practice book.  I practiced each type of math problem and made flashcards for every ridiculous vocabulary word, such as skulduggery and vituperative. The only time I’ve ever heard half of these words was when I was with my ex-boyfriend’s family and their acquaintances. Both of his parents were lawyers. His family was one of the families in my town who were descendants of affluent English settlers. The wealth disparity between our two families goes back so far, my ancestors were stowaways on his ancestors’ boat.

The day I took the test was a damp, stormy day. Because of my neurological problems, I get horrible migraines when it rains. My head was pounding. It was autumn in New York, and nearly dark when I got to the testing center at 5:00 pm. My stomach was gurgling acid; I couldn’t tell if it was because I hadn’t eaten since noon, and had to rush from my last class to the testing center, or anxiety. On average, women have higher amounts of test anxiety, and I have more anxiety than average. Plus, this wasn’t just any test. This was the test that would decide the rest of my life, determine whether I’d wasted four years getting a useless degree because you can’t make a decent living in psychology without a master’s degree.

I was having flashbacks to taking the SAT. I had just gotten out of the mental hospital. I had diarrhea from the food, a staph infection on my ass so it hurt to sit, and diabetes insipidus from the Lithium which was slowly shutting my kidneys down. Plus, my brain was flooded with performance reducing drugs, and I still scored average. I know that I am intelligent, I always wondered how intelligent I’d be if I hadn’t been drugged my entire adolescence, and bombarded with stress my entire life. But I do know, drugs or not, I’m still smarter than a lot of people I know who did well on the bombastic GRE.

I ended up scoring about average on the verbal section, below average on math, and ironically, I scored in the 8th percentile on the writing section! That means I scored worse than 82% of people who took the test! If you’re reading this post, or if you’ve read anything I’ve written, I think you’ll agree the GRE is an inaccurate indicator of academic abilities. Even if you disagree, science doesn’t. The GRE, like other standardized tests, is biased. A Nature article says that graduate schools relying too heavily on GRE scores prevents women and minorities from entering the sciences. The article also says:

“According to data from Educational Testing Service (ETS), based in Princeton, New Jersey, the company that administers the GRE, women score 80 points lower on average in the physical sciences than do men, and African Americans score 200 points below white people. In simple terms, the GRE is a better indicator of sex and skin colour than of ability and ultimate success.”

It certainly didn’t predict my success in the field of psychology, since by the time I took the damn thing I had already worked in the field for six years, and helped so many people. So why the hell is it still used to determine our futures when it’s been proven, for decades, that it does not correlate with success, but rather with race, sex, and socioeconomic status? 

Although not surprising, my rejection was still devastating. I fell into a deep depression. With one letter, my future vanished. What was I going to do? Work for minimum wage forever? Maybe I should have never gone to college in the first place since I’d make the same amount, work the same jobs, but at least I wouldn’t be buried in student debt. Even worse than the money I wasted, I wasted my youth! Six years of my life chasing a dream only to be shot down by some numbers on a piece of paper which supposedly reflect my integrity, intelligence, and my ability to impact others.

I could take the GRE again, retake classes to get my GPA up, or volunteer in a lab again, but all of those things cost money or take up time that I didn’t have because I was working three jobs just to pay my car payments, rent, and default on my student loans.

I always knew, because of my handicaps and disadvantages, I had to work twice as hard to get half as far as more “prosperous” people, and I always said I would, but I just didn’t have it in me anymore. I had reached my mental limit. I was beaten down, my energy to fight had fleeted. I had been defeated.  I had given up on dreams, given up all hope that I would ever amount to anything that I could look back at the end of my life with pride on.

I beat myself up over what I could have done differently. Maybe if I applied to more schools or different programs that weren’t as research stressed, I would have been accepted. What if I picked an easier minor than neuroscience because those difficult science classes brought my GPA down? What if I had taken a GRE prep course, instead of just doing the books? I wanted to, but I couldn’t afford a $500 prep course on top of the $200  I already paid for the test.

Maybe if I retook the GRE now I’d do better, after spending the last two years preparing impoverished, first generation, English learning Latinos for standardized tests that are biased against them. Perhaps if I had mentioned the reason why I took two years off or explained that I was a victim of child abuse, have brain damage, and deal with chronic physical and mental illnesses, they would have judged me as an average student with average grades. But they would have seen me as the remarkable student that I am, who should have never even made it to college in the first place, who persevered through hardship after hardship and graduated, despite all odds stacked against her…But I didn’t tell them…because I didn’t want to seem like I was looking for pity or making excuses…because this very blog post is the first time I’ve ever been able to call myself disabled, and not feel ashamed.

I imagine we’re all running a race, and we’re all forced to carry different loads. My load is particularly heavy, but there are many who carry far more weight than I. The people with the lightest loads are obviously ahead of the rest of us. I might be last to the cross the finish line, but I will finish, and by the time I get there, I will be much stronger than the ones who finished first. Who is the true winner? What is more important, the meaningless competition, the shiny trophy, or becoming your best self?

What I’ve learned from this is to have a backup plan. Have back up plans for those backup plans, and always trust your intuition. Perhaps the universe has other plans for me since it’s kept me from psychology twice now. But I can take a hint, so I moved to California anyway, but to focus on my true passions: music and writing.

The irony is I’ve wanted to be a singer since I was a child, and as passionate as I was about psychology, music has always been my true passion. When it came time to choose a major, I chose the safe route because I figured it was less competitive and more likely I’d have a job as a psychologist than a singer. But I found out the hard way, nowadays, there’s not just starving artists, but starving scientists too. Everyone wants to study psychology. No one wants to study opera, and as great as I am at psychology, I’m exceptional at opera. And luckily, they care about how you sing, rather than how well you regurgitate information and color in the correct bubble.

I berate myself, “You should’ve just studied opera to begin with! If you had only believed in yourself, you could have been successful by now!” Now I’m older, and I’ve grown weary, with a mind that’s not as fertile for sprouting knowledge as it once was. But I have learned so much working in psychology for 10 years now. I’ve worked with people from all walks of life, I’ve held their hands, I’ve wiped their tears, and I’ve felt their gratitude. I’ve looked every facet of the human condition dead in the eyes, and what I’ve seen will certainly aid my success in opera. These experiences gave me something to write about. I haven’t found my purpose yet, but these are the experiences make me into the person I need to be to reach my potential. When I become that person, my destiny will find me. Until then, I suffer with dignity, with certainty that all of this pain will amount to greatness. Because of my torment, others will flourish.

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried”-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance

 

Ophelia’s Revenge

There once was a precious, courageous, little girl. Her big blue eyes never missed a bat. She could see farther and deeper than most adults. When she would outsmart them, from deep in her belly would roar an innocent, high-pitched laughter.

Unfortunately, her laughter and her wisdom were so often muted. Her tiny toes tiptoed around the dark, treacherous place she called home, cringing with every creak, anticipating his next attack. The man who dwelled in her mother’s bed, not entirely a man, but part monster.

This little girl was a soldier. She had a sworn duty to protect herself and her younger siblings from the monster. Her mother worked long hours and a lot of overtime just to pay the bills, so she was in charge of taking care of them. She wasn’t the “typical” nurturing little girl who liked to play house. She was an awful cook, and she’d rather read a book than play with dolls, but they all survived, thanks to the little girl.

This was no easy task, mind you. The little sister seemed to rattle the monster no matter what she did, and then a whirlwind of anger would wreck the home, breaking everything and everyone in sight. Once, the beast had the sister by the throat, snickering “I will kill you!” The little girl called the police and the beast never tried that again. Something about the little girl frightened the beast, perhaps he could sense her strength…or maybe it was her crazy father.

When the little girl went to her father’s house it was like an escape, from one hell to another. Her grandmother didn’t relish children, she was cold toward the girl and her father. As an authoritarian German woman, she pushed her to do well in school. It was so much responsibility and pressure for one child to bear.

The girl was smart though. She had a way out. She dreamed of becoming a lawyer since she was five years old and her parents were divorced. The path to a better life began with school. School was predictable. The rules made sense, they were fair. There were kind, loving adults who praised her good work.  

She lived in a small town on the Hudson River, about two hours north of New York City. Beautiful Victorian houses and large farmhouses decorated the valley, and hidden in its grooves, under large pine trees, were tiny houses and trailers, like the one her family lived in.

She went to a decent school. Many of her peers came from normal homes, with two parents, without scream fests and mind games. Their parents were doctors, professors, and lawyers. Some of her peers were even ancestors of the wealthy settlers that came to the town long ago.

She was never first-chair in the band because her peers got private lessons, but often second because she spent so much time practicing. Her peers had access to better technology and materials for their projects.  Some of her peers had parents who taught at a renowned private school nearby, and they got to sit in on their lectures. They didn’t have to go home and live in terror every day, and she still competed well with them.

Of course, there were bullies too. Mean girls would make fun of her non-brand clothes. Teachers asked her how she would be a lawyer and a mother. There were scheduling conflicts and counselors urging her to take easier science and math placements or justify why she wanted to take such challenging classes. Questions that boys were not asked.

Nonetheless, she persevered, she survived childhood and she graduated salutatorian from her high school. She held close to a 4.0 average in college and passed the bar at the age of twenty-four. Her first job post-graduation was in retail, since she didn’t have any family connections, and after her law school was sued for skewing numbers on post-graduation employment rates. She eventually landed a  government job in worker’s compensation with a starting salary of 40,000, not even enough to pay the interest on her student loans.

   Now she works as a hearing officer, making 80,000, still not as much as her male co-workers in litigation. Litigation lawyers have the highest salaries and biggest bonuses at her firm, and they are all men. The females and minorities are at the government jobs with significantly lower salaries. At the litigation dinners, she is the only woman. The air smells of ego and cologne. Loud brass voices and puffy chests tower over her. She sips her drink and listens to them rating the female lawyer’s attractiveness. She feels so out of place, so violated, but she nods and smiles.

This is the status quo in her field, the delicate tickles on her wrist, the unwanted hands on the small of her back, as to escort her into a room. As if she didn’t know the way. As if she didn’t get this far without them helping her. As if she hasn’t fought more battles than they could imagine, and won, on her own! Once after winning a hearing, she hears one of her co-workers loudly professing that she had only won because the judge thought she was cute, not because she had a better argument.

She did everything she was supposed to and more. She conquered beasts in her home, in academia, and she continues to fight them after she accomplished her dream of becoming a lawyer. But she will never back down, she will never tire. She has fought all her life and will continue to fight until the battle is won. She has penetrated the walls of the patriarchy and is dismembering them from within. I am the little sister who angered the beast and Lord, I aim to be again.

This is just one woman’s story, but the more we share, the more we’ll find this is every woman’s story, and the infection runs deep, carved into the veins of society. Until the remedy is found, let our voices continue to echo out, beyond the borders that have silenced us for so long, causing a crack that will eventually tear down that wall.

Helena Bonham Carter as Ophelia, in Hamlet

“Lord, we know what we are, but not what we may be”-Ophelia

 

Dream Big (Not Too Big)

Every week I drive to therapy in West L.A. I drive down Vine, through Hancock Park, near West Hollywood.  I see perfectly paved streets, no gaping potholes, no trash seeping out of the gutters, no rotting couches or mattresses clutter the sidewalks. Every lawn decoration, every palm, every petal, quintessentially placed. You do not hear the clinking and clattering of the cans the homeless push around. Mothers lull their children in strollers, not shopping carts. They do not fear as they walk the streets alone.

Each home has its own design and character, inspired by different historical fashions. The landscapes of each house are eloquently designed and maintained daily. I see the gardeners working in the yard of a house erected from the colonial South, with its tall, thick pillars guarding the entrance. I can see the horses and the slaves now. Only now it’s a Mercedes and a gardener. I guess not much has changed.

The only cars around me are pristine, shiny and new. Mercedes. BMW’s. Porches. I feel like a pitifully disguised spy, in my dirt-painted 2002 Accord. I see two girls my age getting out of a Mercedes. “They have no idea how lucky they are,” I think.

I’m not saying that they are lucky because they own a beautiful home and drive luxury cars. I’m saying they’re lucky because regardless of how smart they are or how hard they work they will, statistically, be rich and successful their whole lives. As for me, no matter how hard I work, statistically, I’ll be poor, or at least severely underpaid for someone of my intelligence and passion, for the rest of my life.

Michael Carr, the co-author of a 2016 study  showing social mobility has decreased in the last thirty years, said, “It is increasingly the case that no matter what your educational background is, where you start has become increasingly important for where you end.”  While yes, I would like to live in a home not infested with cockroaches, and a neighborhood where I don’t have to worry about being robbed, I would also like to live in a society where my potential is in my reach, or at least equally as in reach as anyone else’s.

“The American Dream” paints the illusion that anything is possible, for sons and daughters of all castes and creeds, with blood sweat and tears. It just turns out that some of us end up bleeding, sweating, and right out weeping a hell of a lot more than others.

Think about the intelligent, empathetic, hard-working people, who went to college, but still barely make enough to afford their shitty apartments. Many working two or three jobs, working seventy or more hours a week at jobs they hate, because it’s not fulfilling, and the pay is shit. Imagine the tax on one’s physical and mental health. Not only are you stressed about money, about bills and food, about stretching every penny as far as you can, but your life becomes a meaningless ritual. You become stuck in a time loop, watching less equipped but more fortunate people rise, while you sink like quicksand, taunted by the ghosts of your potential.

Imagine the tax on one’s physical and mental health. Not only are you stressed about money and meeting your basic survival needs, but your life becomes a meaningless ritual. You become stuck in a time loop, watching less equipped, more fortunate people rise, while you sink like quicksand, taunted by the ghosts of your potential.

“The Broken Bridge and The Dream” by Salvador Dali. Photo courtesy of http://art-dali.com

Ten years ago, or even two, I would have said, “One day, I’ll own a car like that, a home like that, a gardener like that.” I have quite the unrealistic, optimistic view of the world, but every now and then reality sinks in, making a sieve of my thick skin. When that happens, and I look at these houses and these people, I get angry. I get jealous and depressed, realizing the chances of me even getting invited onto the premise of one of these gorgeous estates, let alone own one, are very low…unless I’m landscaping.

If you asked me where I saw myself ten years from now, when I was sixteen, or twenty, I would have said I’d be a doctor. I would have said I would earn my Ph.D. and my M.D. and be a neuropsychologist. I would have done it by twenty-five, having earned an Associate’s degree at nineteen, and being on course to earn my Bachelor’s in psychology and neuroscience at twenty-one. If you asked me today where I saw myself in ten years, the answer would be that I have no idea, I just hope it’s more fulfilling than this.

What better proof that “The American Dream” is very much alive would there be than the story of a young, lower class woman facing unspeakable horrors in childhood, only to work her way to the top through hard work and perseverance!? Unfortunately, this is not my story. While this is someone’s story, I believe it’s disproportionate to the amount of determined, intelligent, and talented poor people there are in the America. We should be hearing these stories far more often than we do. Why is that? There are many reasons, and one of the reasons I made this blog to start talking about them. But in short…

The game is rigged, and we are all in.

 

“You got to tell me brave captain,

Why are the wicked so strong,

How do the angels get to sleep, 

When the devil leaves the porchlight on.”

-Tom Waits

Revelations

 

I thought I’d start off by sharing the humbling experience which inspired this blog.

I got these new shoes, burgundy, suede heels with straps that tie around the ankles. I just had my hair and nails done. I had been so lonely and horny lately, that I was swiping on Bumble. It’s like Tinder, but filtering out some of the uber-pervs hoping to play out their fetish fantasies on you (myself included).

I found an adorable little rich boy. I typically go for poor, chubby guys, with a little edge, and a lot of baggage, but since I moved to L.A. I’ve had to lower the bar‒a lot.

He was visiting from New York, so it was perfect. Even if the date did go well, which it definitely did not, there wouldn’t be any expectation for a second.

He called me to discuss the plans for the evening.

“Hello,” I answered, making sure to use my smokey phone sex operator voice. “So what should we do tonight?” I asked.

“We can go anywhere you want,” he replied confidently.

“Oh yeah?” I giggled.

“I have a private helicopter.”

“Okay…” I said, not knowing what else to say to that. Even when I did have standards, having money was not one of them. Bragging is actually a major turn-off for me. Especially when you didn’t work for it, you just came out of the right vagina.

He said he was just kidding, but his uncle does have a helicopter.

He wanted to meet up in Santa Monica, but I was like, “That’s too far, the Lyft will be too expensive.”

“I’ll buy you drinks all night, and pay for the Lyft home. It will be worth it,” He promised.

I suggested we go to Hollywood. He said his friend was driving, so he’d meet me there and we could figure it out.

I heard him call “Vera!” and looked up from the artificially lit sidewalk. He was average height and skinny, but toned. He had a narrow pretty-boy face, was well dressed, wearing much nicer shoes than mine. He was only a few years younger than me, but his eyes looked decades.

He opened the door of his friend’s car for me.  I sat shotgun with his friend and he sat in the back with another guy and a girl. He said “I told them we had to get a bottle since there is a New Yorker coming,” and handed me a bottle of Ciroc.

We passed it around the car as he asked me questions about myself. He pretended to be so intrigued by my answers.  Everyone in the car pretended to be interested as well, but you could tell they were the kind of people who weren’t truly interested in anything. I think they assumed just because I was pretty and well-dressed enough, that I was one of them, high class, dignified, and always looking for an excuse to talk about myself.  I felt like an imposter, but also a talented actor.  

He kept mentioning how he was moving here soon (like I haven’t heard that one before).  I could see right through him. He was so transparent, or maybe I’ve just grown wise with experience. He was saying everything necessary to get me in bed. I wonder, if he knew that all it really would have taken is the Ciroq and a cock, that he didn’t have to pretend he wanted to date me because we were both looking for one night stands, would he still have gone through the whole courtship charade.

We finished the bottle and went inside. Needless to say, I was drunk. Impressively, I only tripped in my new heels once on the walk into the club. I paid the thirty dollar cover fee, yes, I paid it. We stayed about fifteen minutes, then he called a Lyft back to my apartment, yes, my apartment.

To give you some background information, when Vera gets too drunk, she becomes “Veeda” (my name but with a rolled “r” and some sort of failed attempt at a German/Russian/Jewish grandmother accent. At this point, Vera blacked out and became Veeda. Veeda is known for puking in Lyfts. Had Vera been there, she would have reminded Veeda of this, and they would have kept dancing a little while before going home, and the night might have ended differently. Unfortunately, Vera had stepped out for the night and would not be in until the next morning.

When I woke up the next morning, naked in my bed and feeling refreshed, I began to piece together the night before. I had several “snapshots” after the club: me feeling sick in the back of the Lyft, the wind belting me in the face with my own hair and vomit, looking back at the Lyft after we stepped out, seeing the epic trail of puke exploding out of the back seat window, and him saying “I’m probably going to have to pay for that,” with this strange, disgusted, clenched-jaw smile.

Then Veeda said, “Oh, it’ll only be like fifty bucks,” stumbling with awful grace.

Art by Kim Kyne

A little more background, I live in a one bedroom in the valley, my roommate lives in my living room, and he had to get up very early the next morning. I know, I’m an asshole…well, Veeda definitely is anyways.

The sex was so unmemorable that I literally don’t remember any of it. All I remember is one moment where I was on my bed, his lean body standing on the edge of it, the condom drooping over his limp dick, his face looking displeased.

Out of nowhere, in the next room, my roommate yells “FUCK!”

Alarmed, he says, “Is that your roommate?”

“Yeah,” I said all nonchalant and started giggling.

I know I was talking dirty to him because Veeda is a freak, but I don’t remember what I said. I was probably saying blatant lies like, “your big cock feels so good.” It was possibly the worst date I can hardly remember. My roommate said he slammed the door as he left, around midnight.

You’re probably wondering, what the hell is the point of this story?!

The point is when I recalled the fool I had made out of myself the previous evening, I really didn’t care. This was not the first time I’d embarrassed myself in front of upper-class men and women, but in the past, I woke up in the morning with a ball of anxiety, regret, and self-loathing in my gut. This time, I just laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. I am a joke that I have been taking too seriously.

I was always trying to become someone else, rather than accepting myself as I am. As Carl Rogers said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change”.

Sure, I can look and sound like I have class. I’ve been doing research for this role all of my life, but an act is all it will ever be. Behind the scenes, I will always be my true self. I hate pretending, I’m brutally honest. I like making vulgar, insensitive jokes. I love sex, and I love talking about sex‒a lot. Come to think of it most of the subjects I like to talk about are inappropriate, controversial, or just plain odd, as you’ll soon find out.

I can’t help it. I was born this way for the most part, and the rest I learned.

I grew up in a trailer. My mom, who is either a genius with High Functioning Autism or severely traumatized‒but most likely both, working her ass off to support her four kids with three different men along with her Antisocial Psychotic boyfriend. We have not a drop of aristocratic blood, going back as far as we know from any of my lineages. Yet, I’m still so fucking awesome.

Despite what society says, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to be. You just get penalized for being the wrong way! 

Society may not be ready to love me, but I am ready to love myself.

Epilogue:

He texted me the next morning, to my complete surprise, since I expected to never hear from him again. He told me, “They charged me $150.00 for the cleanup, so just Venmo me the money when you get a chance.” I told him I didn’t have that kind of money. He asked if I could just pay $50.00. I explained to him how even that was too much for me, as I had rent due in a few days and had to make what little money I had left last.

He said, “Well, I could be an asshole and just send Lyft your information and have you pay the entire thing. I was trying to be nice”.

I said, “You can give it to them, there literally isn’t enough money in my account. I am sorry, but I physically don’t have the money. I am out here completely on my own. I will send it when I can”.

…But I didn’t. 

“ Learning to listen in the bliss of undistracted silence and the comfort of inner humility is required for the gift of revelation.”- Carolyn Myss, Defy Gravity