Well, at the beginning of course. Unless you are eating a sub sandwich – in that case, you would, in fact, begin at the end. But anyway, enough about sandwiches… I want to kick off my first post by sharing a bit about my background. The ‘who’s and the ‘what’s’ that turned into my ‘why’s (or so my broken brain used to think). I was born into a town of around 2,000 people, about an hour north of Pittsburgh, PA. My graduating class was 95 kids, we all knew each other, our parents knew our parents, our grandparents knew our grandparents. The whole town shut down on Friday nights for high school football games, just like in all the movies. But what the movies don’t accurately depict is just how fucking annoying it is to have everyone know your business, and tell everyone else about it. How you can’t even go to softball practice hungover because your coach is a state cop who also works with your uncle and word travels so fast that your dad comes an hour early to pick you up and confiscate your cell phone. (In defense of my parents – and coach Ken- I was only 12). Yes, growing up there was huge problem for me. Because I very simply refused to follow the rules, and I always – ALWAYS – got caught.
My parent’s had pretty average jobs and a pretty amicable divorce. I never remember any fighting between them, just disorganization. I had to pack up all my belongings every Friday night and shuffle them back and forth. Every week. FOR TWELVE YEARS. I was a smart kid and learned pretty quickly what I could and couldn’t get away with with each parent, and let me tell you – two more polar opposite households could not have existed. My dad let me do whatever I wanted, as long as I let him look the other way and not ask him to deal with any problems. And my mom was… strict, to say the least. You know how some parents have “the tone” or “the look”? Well, my mom just had “the vibe”. And I learned how to pick up on it QUICKLY. I could walk into a room and know in .02 seconds if we were going to have a good day or a bad day. I still don’t know if I was born or conditioned to be this way, but my sensitivity to my surroundings is one of my best attributes – so thanks, mom.
I also was a “gifted child” in the ways of writing and reading. Fuck math, y’all can keep that. My entire elementary school was a breeze (academically). I was placed in gifted classes and excelled in everything that came easily to me – which was most things. If anything presented itself as a challenge I started crying and quit immediately. I distinctly remember throwing my division cards across my bedroom in 4th grade and refusing to touch them again. I still don’t know how to do fractions.
I also distinctly remember getting SO excited to get my hair cut for the first day of 4th grade. My mom let me choose it myself, and I remember seeing the girl in the magazine with hair short like a boys’ (think Wynona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted). I thought she was beautiful. So I went for it! I got ready the next day, so excited to debut my new look. I had the zig-zag part going down the middle and I was READY. Until I hopped on the bus the next morning and everyone pointed and laughed. Literally, like a cartoon. I was teased and called various names all day until I came home crying to my mom. I’d always been a sensitive kid, and I had never felt so low. I believe my exact words to her were “I don’t know who I want to be, but I know I don’t want to be this.”
And thus, I was catapulted into the world of self-doubt and self-hatred. I began seeking validation in everyone around me, and I would’ve sold my soul to be liked. I was ten. I started to abandon my identity before I even had a chance to create one. Couple that with ADD, divorced parents, a perfectionism streak that basically left me paralyzed, and essentially growing up in a fish bowl… Recipe. For. Disaster.
Fast forward through high school, I got what I wanted. I was popular – kind of. I was the kind of popular that people invited places, but didn’t want to actually go with. I went to parties and drank too much and slept with boys that were too old for me and didn’t give a shit about my grades and I was grounded – a LOT. All my rebellion really put a strain on my relationship with my mother and we had a falling out. We had a lot of falling outs, but this one in particular lasted over a year. I was 17 and told one lie too many, stole my best friends car and crashed it, missing an important family event. She finally gave me the boot. So naturally, rather than apologizing and trying to make things better, I got my own place. A shitty little $300 a month apartment. “I’ll show you how much I don’t need you guys.” Over the next 12 months my drug use went from occasional to medicinal, and bada-bing bada-boom, for the first time at 17 years old I became physically dependent on opiates. (I’m going to choose to graze over this particular part of my journey, because there are a million different stories to be told. I know that we will spend a lot of time talking about them, and I want this to be the watered down version.)
So here we are, I am 18, already a college dropout, stealing money from my family to support my heroin habit. I had absolutely no idea who I was, or what I wanted. I didn’t know what my morals or values were. I didn’t have a belief system. I didn’t have a favorite color. Who I was, was whoever you wanted me to be. The forever chameleon, sitting on a fence, because I’m too afraid to pick a side because then that means the other side would have reason not to like me. What little sense of self I had, I hated. My self esteem was nonexistent. I was as lost and broken as a soul could be. And I stayed that way. For years.
The next four years are riddled with stories that go from bad to worse. I had a string of boyfriends, one right after the other – each more toxic than the last. I went from state to state and home again, just trying to outrun myself. . Attaching each failed attempt at sobriety to another reason that had NOTHING to do with me. Each move was another fresh start, another chance to get it right, but I could never make it stick. By the end of this time period I started taking ownership of my mistakes, but I still had no idea how to stop sabotaging myself. It was a hopeless, never-ending cycle.
Don’t worry! I turned out pretty good. I still don’t know why all of a sudden things in my life started to change when they did. I could hazard a guess, but that’s a story for another time. For now, the short answer is that I became broken down enough to open myself up to options and possibilities that an average person would not. I became willing to try different things to connect to the universe in a meaningful way. And I changed, in spite of myself. It was a gift that was given to me.
If you are someone who can identify with any part of my journey, I hope you stick around. It is my intention to delve deeper into each meaningful moment and lesson that I’ve learned over the years. And I’m going to give you all a spoiler alert – I am the sole creator of all my problems, and so are you. Now don’t worry, it took me 24 years to figure that out, so I still made a ton of super entertaining stories along the way. But, inevitably, most of us will up here someday- taking responsibility for ourselves like real adults. If we’re lucky.