I’ve gone through a lot of traumatic experiences since my freshman year of high school. They haven’t just gone away, either. They follow me. My parent’s divorce at the beginning of high school was really the spark to the huge wildfire. They neglected Riley and I, meaning I wasn’t involved in school or doing the things I should have been getting done.
When I should have been taking driving lessons, my mom was moving about two-hundred miles away into an apartment with her then boyfriend. She left us with her parents, but no one was really keeping track of us or helping us do what should have been getting done. I should have been practicing driving, should have been in therapy, and someone should have been reprimanding me. I didn’t have any of that, though. I had free range of doing whatever I wanted to do, and sadly none of it was responsible.
I spent most of my days doing homework, yes. But I also would stay in bed crying all day because I felt like my parents had abandoned me. I never saw my dad and my mom’s contribution was messaging me on facebook. Ultimately, I was alone.
Instead, I was seeking attention elsewhere- so the summer of my senior year, I ended up being raped by a man. I couldn’t tell anyone because I was seventeen and he was twenty-one. I felt like I had in some ways allowed it to happen, and to this day I couldn’t press charges just because I feel responsible. I missed my period for two months and thought I might be pregnant, I spent two months thinking I was going to have to tell my mom what had happened. Luckily it was stress-induced.
That October my mom’s ex-boyfriend got a little too aggressive with my sisters and I, so we laid an ultimatum on the table for my mom; Him or us. It wasn’t the first time he had pushed the line, numerous times he physically pushed us around or used his authority as an adult to control us. He also abused my dog because she would growl at him.
She chose him, we moved out. I had just started my first job, and the only place I knew we could go last minute was with a girl I knew from school. She and her mom lived on a decent size of property and they seemed very wholesome, I figured it would be a great place to heal. We didn’t communicate very well, though. After six months we had a falling out, both parties involved were at fault. But we had to move out.
So we found a place on craigslist with a single dad who needed help with the rent, it ended up being amazing for us.
This whole time, though, I was going to high school and having to walk around 10 miles a day just to go to school, work, and home. I had no room for fault because I needed to graduate and I needed to keep my job. I didn’t have a car or the means of getting one at that point, so I just kind of dealt with it. We were barely scraping by, and some weeks we didn’t have any food at home. I remember one night we had both worked over eight hours, I walked home late, and we had no food or money. But we had a can of black beans. No can-opener. No heating or any kind. So we used a pocket knife to cut open the can and made foil spoons. That moment humbled me.
It doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter who your parents are, or what kind of car you drive. Any of us can find ourselves in a position where a single can of cold black beans with a little salt seems like a gift from God.
I applied to universities all over California and was accepted to San Francisco State. I decided to go there and pursue a technical writing degree, which on paper was a great thing for me to do.
I moved to the city, and I knew no one. My roommate spoke french, and the other four guys were either high, playing video games, or hiding in their makeshift pillow fort. I had a job as a barista in the tenderloin, and that alone was intimidating for me. The homelessness was a serious issue, and they were aggressive. I had to follow my survival instincts while I was there. Completely ignoring the ones who confronted me. However there was one homeless woman who would wait outside the shop before we had opened. We talked, her name was Ella Mae and she had three kids. Two sons and a daughter. I could never make out all of what she said because her voice was dry and her words were slurred, but I saw a glimpse of humanity in that woman. The last two months I was there, Ella Mae didn’t come around- it wasn’t until my last day there that I found out from my favorite regular that she had a heart attack and had been in the hospital. I was happy to have an answer but upset that she was struggling even more than she had to.
My time in the city was amazing for me and helped me grow to a point where I could clearly see what I should be doing. I was suffocated by the overcrowding of people, by the fast-paced life, and by the constant displays of wealth everywhere. It’s not something that San Francisco is known for, but it’s riddled with sports cars and because of the guy I dated, I was surrounded by people who had a lot more than me.
Of course, my apartment was anything but. I love it for what it is, but it always smelled like bad broccoli and weed. It was always way too hot, and really unpleasant. My male roommates would stay up until 4am, when I would be getting up for work, partying and drinking like there wasn’t a care in the world.
I honestly wish that could have been my college experience. I just get so caught up with life that important things like financial aid gets put on the backburner. Because of that, and a breakup, I ended up dropping out of SFSU and going back home.
My mom had broken up with the abusive ex and offered me a place in her apartment, so there I went. When I was still in the city I had half-jokingly applied to a job at a popular donut shop back home as a creative baker. I didn’t even know what the job implied exactly, I didn’t know the experience I would have needed, or how much I would be paid. But I applied for the hell of it.
I ended up getting the job, and here I am. A creative baker who, hopefully, will never have to work in customer service again. I sincerely enjoy my job. I can’t wait to be able to do it without asking a million questions, though.
After everything that I have gone through, I want to have inner peace. I want to enjoy every day that I am alive. Of course, this is a journey, last night I found myself curled up in a ball crying for no reason at all.
But I’ve been doing art again, painting and drawing- it feels good to re-open that part of me. I’ve also been way more open to exploring different fashion styles and being more of myself. It turns out the way I have always wanted to dress actually looks cool to other people too.
I’m sorting through my emotions, trying to understand myself. I never will, and I have accepted that- but there’s something about the act of trying that keeps me balanced.