I haven’t written in a long time. I’ve been somewhere between really happy, complacent, and not happy for some time. it is an odd feeling- likely due…Stuck at 30
I haven’t written in a long time. I’ve been somewhere between really happy, complacent, and not happy for some time. it is an odd feeling- likely due to underlying mental health “illnesses” that dictated aspects of my life long before I could have deciphered the impacts mixed with the ebbs and flows of a romantic relationship filled with a love so strong that any turmoil that arises seems to overshadow it and the settling in of a new life and a job without an end date … or so I hope.
So, I turned 30 last week. An age I’ve wanted to be since I was 23. The age where I could rightfully, so I thought, get upset when underestimated on the excuse of my young age. A milestone birthday.
I know you can never predict your future. I know you should never predict the happiness you will ascribe to a certain event or a certain accomplishment. I know better. I know myself. I also know I’m good at fooling myself when I want to.
30 is an accomplishment. 30 is something I earned. 30 is the moment I move on from 20-29 and toward the future. Its the third round, the third act, third take.
When we learn something or try something new for the first time, we almost always need hands-on, constant assistance. We fumble and fall, and it is expected and forgiven because of its newness. We are expected to be unable to succeed at the new endeavor on our own. We are learning, observing, listening, getting frustrated, building the foundation for something bigger later on – even if we don’t realize it at the time. The act of learning and growing is seemingly solely based on self, centralized on the task at hand, and we often forget the coaches and teachers who are equally important in forming that foundation.
When we try something the second time, the training wheels are still on – just in case – but we have more confidence. A false confidence for most. We want to try our craft on our own for the first time, but the instructor is still necessary, just in case we forget the motion , the stroke, the word, the key, the rhythm or the words. We take action knowing that if we take the wrong one, we will be corrected, or perhaps ask for help… that is, if you’re that type.
On the third try our coaches, teachers, instructors, mentors – whoever it may be- tend to take a step back. How will you progress if you are not given the opportunity to make a mistake and self-correct? If you miss the basket, chances are you know why. If you don’t, you either keep missing until the day you don’t or you bury your pride and ask for the answer. The third try is tough as hell, but also fucking fun. That feeling when you make the shot on your own or get an answer right without any assistance. When you bake a cake and this time, this third time, no one helped you and it turned out beautifully… the highs Are such highs. Similarly the lows.. the lows feel so personal. Especially if in this third round you succeeded at first and then suddenly can’t seem to succeed again, no matter how hard you try. Indeed, you may discover on this third try that you don’t know why you are trying at all- that this craft, this skill, this sport – that one you thought would bring you joy, would not. No matter how hard you tried. You may build resentment at your teacher, instructor, coach or mentor for leading you astray. You may continue anyways- after all, you’ve come this far. Or, you may start over with something knew, knowing that skills are transferable. That third try, it’s key. It’s tough as hell. It’s unpredictable. It’s exciting. And towards the end of it, it can also be draining. By the end of it, it can feel like you’ll never stop being a rookie. By the end of it, you might even forget the joy and freedom that comes with the relative newness of experience.
Most of us converge on our paths during our third tries. But, no matter what direction it takes us, completing that third try means something because it is earned. The solo struggle, the perseverance, knowing when to swallow your pride and start anew- whatever it may be – you did it on that third try. You suffered through the highs and lows, and after that third try, you can move forward with pride, knowing that whatever has been accomplished, whatever is next, whatever you learned – you truly learned through experience. When you speak on the matter, you can talk knowing that you are talking with authority, knowing you earned the right to. Even if others don’t see that authority, you know when it’s there. If you choose, you can provide tidbits of advice and guidance to those still in their first, second and beginning of their third tries, because we know the difficulty of making it through and how hard it is to learn through experience. You earned it.
On your fourth try, others notice. Others know. They know, or should know, to resist the urge to jump in to correct you when you struggle and that whatever your base knowledge is, whatever your habits are, are likely here to stay. Though minor movements or approaches may be tweaked, by the fourth try, it’s up to you to be willing to change and it’s also up to you to decide that you don’t want to. Either way, you earned that right. You may have had the skill and experience to do the exact same thing on the third try, but others probably didn’t listen. By your fourth try, you hardly remember your first and second attempts, and with the memories of your third try, you forge ahead with hopes of more consistent, yet enjoyable, attempts in the future. Each effort seems less like a singular event and more like a habit or a routine. You have figured out what works for you and adjust as needed. You have pride in the work you have put in. Unlike the times before, you can assume, for the most part, that you’ll only get better with time. Unlike the times before, when you make it this far, you know your future will be full of successes in your craft because you have learned how to make the craft your own. You’ll have set backs and hiccups, but you realize that along the way, during those other pesky attempts, you didn’t just learn something new… you learned how to adapt and how to accept setbacks and celebrate successes. You don’t have to dwell on the present. You are moving towards the future.
I turned 30 last week. I started my fourth decade. I have my attempts – successful and not as successful- under my belt. I have the pride of knowing I earned what I have accomplished. I have the joy of past memories and the hopes of new ones. I have experience to point to when I am doubted or have self doubt. I am prepared for the future.
I knew that by my fourth try at this thing, I’d be excited to show off, a little sad about what I hadn’t accomplished in rounds 1-3, but mostly excited to move forward with the invaluable experience i had acquired. I had made it here, with the help of others at first, then on my own, and now, with the comfort of knowing that if advice is needed, it would be asked for instead of forced.
What I didn’t know, what I couldn’t have predicted, was once I made it here, I would be stuck. Stuck in a reality where I was ready to move forward, armed with the joy of experience, but with a world on pause.
So, I guess I’ll sit it out a while. Stuck at 30. Hoping that by the time I get to try this thing again, I will not have digressed. I will not forget the lessons I fought tirelessly to learn. I will not lose the joy of knowing I earned my right to be here. I’m stuck at 30 when I thought I would be celebrating advancing to the next round.
I always thought that the celebration meant showing off what I had learned to those who got me through rounds 1-3. I couldn’t wait for the newfound feeling of respect round 4 would bring me and the pride I would bring those who taught me.
I’m stuck at 30 and I would give anything in the world to go back to the day before everything stopped. Go back to that moment and instead of anxiously awaiting my upcoming days filled with others’ admiration of my accomplishments, reveling in the moments spent with those helping and teaching me. Because we’re stuck, apart, and what does it even matter if I made it to round 4 if they’re not there when the world hits the unpause button?
During the Kavanaugh hearings, I emailed the Dean of Penn Law after some truly awful remarks from a professor were said about Dr. Ford. Because the professor was tenured, she continued to be employed (and I think still is) by the school, but as an explanation, it was said that her classes were not mandatory but elective.
To put a face to what this means, in the email I explained that my Peer at Penn could have elected to take the class, but I couldn’t choose whether or not he raped me. Long story short, we had a very long and wonderful phone call discussing how this is such a bigger issue than one single incident. That mental health as a whole is being ignored in the school and that is going to carry over to life after Penn Law. That you can do everything you can to prevent rape, but if and when it happens, it’s the environment you’re already in that will help determine whether a woman or man seeks help.
Credit where credit is due. Dean Ruger, thank you for listening. Not just to me, but to the countless others who I’m sure spoke with you.
I woke up to find this this morning:
Don’t ever give up. Keep fighting.
It’s funny. My first post ever was about leaving my lawyer job for a “break.” I had no idea how long that break would last, but I knew without taking it, without that leap of faith, my already broken self would crumble into smaller pieces until I would just disappear. Take that as you will. That was on June 1, 2017.
The year and some change that followed was difficult, as many of you know, but full of many moments of.. just living. Of experiencing. Of being capable of feeling again- the good, the bad, the extremely ugly. All of the things that I had suppressed through my immersion into work and avoided through conscious avoidance. All of the things that are worthy of human experience and deserving of attention.
At the end of August of this year, 2018, I not only broke again, I crumbled. In an undated journal entry, I wrote:
“I don’t know why I’m on this earth any more. I don’t know why I exist. There is not much difference between my physical existence and the pen that is slowly moving in my hand. I am here to help others, but by failing to help myself, I have failed to help others and in turn, no one needs me or wants me. I am used to me not wanting me. But to not even feel like my perishing would be a disappointment to one person, this is new. I don’t need to be needed or need to be wanted, but I need to have meaning. Otherwise, why am I still fighting for myself? What is there to fight for? I am certainly not the light of anyone’s life at this point, and if for some reason I should become that, this overwhelming sense of darkness that inevitably overcomes me will make them walk away. It always does.”
I went on. I called a friend to come over that night and she did. I brushed it under the rug.
I joined the Beto for Senate campaign just a few days later. Everything turned around. I was needed. I was helpful. I was productive. And for a little bit, I was the light of some people’s lives.
For a little bit, the stress of the campaign was the fuel that kept my life going. Not always graceful, I pushed through with pride and joy. Somewhere along the line, however, real life… “real me”.. made my light flicker and other people took notice.
In the end I remember all of the beautiful faces of the campaign. The potential voters, the non-voters, the volunteers, and most of all the gorgeous faces of my teammates. The fellow warriors. The shared faces of confusion, love and determination.
I don’t know how much to write here or to not write here, because I think sometimes writing things down in a public manner seems like a “vindictive” thing to do. All I know is some of the highest highs I had during the campaign.. surrounded by people who I felt understood me. For the first time ever. Part of understanding me is understanding my lows. My failures. But also my deep empathy for others. I fuck up. A lot. I also trust that people are good on the inside. I know I am good deep down. I may not be great to myself, but when I can be, I am great to others.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, one of my biggest struggles is understanding how someone so scarred could be lovable. I don’t mean always in the romantic sense, but in a more familial, friendship sense as well. I am beyond scarred. This is nothing new. When wounds have started to heal, somehow the stitches are ripped open. That being said, I have pushed and pushed to heal myself and move forward. I’ve done a pretty damn good job of it.
In the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to experience the beauty of what was and will always be the Beto for Texas campaign 2018. We made something big. We created something beautiful. And by we, I mean every single person who is a part of the community that did this. It was an honor.
One thing I didn’t expect was the feeling I have right now. Feeling lucky to have made new beautiful friends, especially post-campaign, but also knowing that their gorgeous kindness is likely due to the beauty within them, and not because of a light within me. The light within me right now is flickering, and I’m at a loss of what to do.
During the campaign, when I lost grace, I also lost a friendship I thought I’d have for my entire life. I still can’t wrap my head around it, and I still don’t know why it hurts so badly. I think it’s because I let the friendship in and I knew I shouldn’t have. I know myself and I know better. I know I most likely did something to cause distrust, but I also know it was not intentional. I can’t be angry about it, but I am confused. It’s strange when you aren’t able to even speak to someone to express something. All I know is the worst feeling in the world is feeling silenced and helpless. I have a pit in my stomach every single day. I can’t shake it and I don’t know why. I’m “stronger” than that.
This friendship lost, other factors in my life right now, I am once again not much more than that pen I have now misplaced. Useful when those who need it need to get something done, express their feelings, or simply have a means of distraction. Aside from that, easily misplaced and of no use when the ink runs out.
On the night before Election Day, I told the out-of-state volunteers and the staff my story of how the election saved my life- win or lose. It did. Somehow during the election, with as much as I gained, I lost so much more.
Here’s to hoping.
Growing up, there were two types of kids- the kids who opened their eyes under water and the kids who didn’t. These same kids also somehow seemed to be blessed with the immense and enviable courage it took to flawlessly master the high dive.
I, not surprisingly, was a didn’t. As a kid, despite my brother’s constant nagging to “just do it” I was the kid who did not open my eyes under water. Not even with goggles. I was too scared water would leak in. This led to a lot of near death experiences when my brother would confirm I did not open my eyes and subsequently try to “drown me” by holding me under in the deep end just to scare the bejeezus out of me. Additionally, this meant I was definitely not a swim team contender.
During the past few weeks, dealing with a break up has meant having a lot of time to refocus on me. I was focused before, but I think that’s something people who go through break ups say. “I’m finding me again.” “I’m putting me first”. “I deserve better”. “It’s better to be alone than with xyz.” For the record, I will never say these things about this relationship and never have. But life is life and things “happen for a reason.”
Anyways, with this free time I decided to invest a lot of my energy into working out. Working out has always been a way to cheer myself up when nothing else could, or at least clear the dark thoughts in my head. As part of my new exercise regimen, I decided I would learn to swim laps, and … I did! At first, I attempted to do the breast stroke in a way that could only be described as arms projecting out and about in sort of spastic Macarena and legs … scissoring? Either way, each day I added five more laps to my routine and with the help of some YouTube videos, was able to improve my technique just a bit and get up to 30 laps.
Despite my embedded sarcastic tone in the phrase’s last use, things did seem to happen for a reason, as I found myself being annoyed about having to fly to Boston for a continuing education course to keep up my law license. Somehow, however, my flight was just a day after said break up. So a day of continuing education turned into 2.5 week’s of Boston fun and escape. And it has been.
Most of my time during these past couple of weeks have been unplanned and spent spontaneously catching up with friends and wandering various neighborhoods and enjoying the beauty of Boston/Cambridge. The one must on my list, however, was a visit to Walden Pond.
Walden Pond, for most of you, is likely the physical written manifestation of Thoreau’s imagination and historic prose. For me, it is a beautiful escape that I never knew existed. Growing up in Houston, we did not have these natural beautiful ponds or springs to swim in. When I came to New England and discovered with awe the beauty of these natural treasures, I was hooked. I have visited Walden Pond several times over the years, and I knew it was a must during this visit.
Yesterday was the day. My beautiful friend who graciously let me crash with her for the past 2 week’s drove the 30 minute drive to Concord, where we finally turned left into the wooded parking lot and then crossed the street, walked down the steps and across the beach to our somewhat shaded (for her) and somewhat sunny (for me) spot we would claim on the beach. I laid down and it was just as beautiful as I imagined.
Now, I’m pausing here to tell you that there is no use of metaphors in the creation of what is to follow. Why, you ask? The experience was simply too beautiful to create a metaphor. It’s beauty was too true to be a metaphor. Too literal for comparison. It was the metaphor.
(Con’t…) I don’t remember the specifics of every time I have visited Walden Pond, but I do know that my time in the water is usually minimal and spent within the confined areas – not in the designated free swim area. The free swim area was where experienced swimmers could swim across the lake and back. Warning signs upon entry stated in no uncertain terms that those who ventured out were on their own. Well, yesterday when I grew restless in my half shade/half sun spot and read those words, only one word came to mind: “perfect.”
I walked into the water and kept walking. I kept walking until my toes no longer touched the rocky bottom and I was floating. And then I was “swimming” and then I wasn’t swimming, I was gliding. Flawlessly. I was being pulled towards what can only be described as the beauty of another world. Eyes closed under water, but open as I reached the surface with my eyes only on the beautiful clouded wooded horizon with the sun somehow coming through the trees in a way only seen in paintings. I now understood the term breathtaking.
Taking no notice of the distance I now was from the beach of the lake, I yearned with each scoop of water to bring myself closer to this masterpiece. It’s a freedom they write about in the classics and proclaim in the movies.
As I came closer and closer to the center of the lake, The most incredible thing was, I think, was the quiet. For the first time in my life, I felt peace. The only noise I could hear was the calming ripple of the tide interspersed with the sole voice of my own thoughts. There were no voices in my head but mine. No currents pulling me in different directions or pressure pushing me down. I was floating and I was soaring. For those minutes, however many, I was where I needed to be and it was majestic. I was floating towards the beauty of another world.
As the tide turned I noticed a woman about 10 yards away. I was no longer alone. There was an intruder. Without glasses I could not make out much of the contours of her bobbing face, but from what I could see, we looked eerily alike. No longer gliding, we both were facing each other with our confused heads bobbing in unison. My peace was gone and the beautiful moment though captured, was finite.
I suddenly became hyper aware of the fact that if I kept gliding, we would collide. She wasn’t moving, so it meant that I either need to change directions or stop moving myself. The tide quite literally turned and I turned with it. My eyes opened to the tiny figured on the beach and, struggling to find the energy, I swam towards shore. With each awkward stroke, more cries of babies could be heard and even worse, complaints from teenage beauties about their “flawed bodies.” My knee scraped a rock and I was forced to stand. My time, my moment was done. And I was incredibly sad. I am incredibly sad. And truth be told, this was this first time i had felt remotely sad since the breakup because I had felt it was the right thing to do.
My mind, just a few minutes before completely at ease was racing a mile a minute. That experience, what was it? How had it suddenly become so easy? Was this what the brain of a “normal” person feels like? Was this the outlook on life the prescribed tablet I take like clockwork every morning was supposed to give me but has failed to do so? Was this calm other people’s equilibrium or would it have been as incredible to them? You see, when you deal with mental illness, I think people forget that you have as many questions about how other people, the normal ones, experience life as they have about someone like me.
I sit here now, reading the notes I took right after the experience, full of hope that I could go back in the water and recreate the experience. I couldn’t. I didn’t.
I lied. But I came by it honestly, I promise. I did not set out to have a metaphor, but I suppose I’ve had a revelation in the midst of typing. Well, not a metaphor, let’s say a comparison. I can’t decide if I’m happy yesterday happened. I am filled with anguish today that I know that sort of experience exists and, though fleeting, I experienced it. Just as fleeting, it’s now gone. With my breakup, I am just as torn. Is it really better to have love and lost than to never have loved at all? I hate cliches, but seriously. Every other break up I’ve had, I’ve had so many major reasons to dislike the person, the relationship, etc. But this one, this person, we knew it wasn’t right in the end. But during it, the experience, it was beautiful. I might not have had perfect form, but I felt like I was gliding. I experienced a beauty and a peace that I did not know existed. And now it is gone and I don’t know if I’ll ever experience that again. With that experience comes new expectations and a different kind of unrest.
It’s easy to accept not having something when you don’t think it’s attainable. When you cannot experience it – never have, never will. Right now, wish I never experienced it. Wish I never glided towards the unknown without fear.
So what do you do. And please don’t tell me Bumble.
I had presented myself with warning labels, and even presented some malfunctioning activity to give signs of what may lay ahead, and for some reason, he still proceeded, albeit with caution.
I had been given reason to believe that I’m not good enough, and and hadn’t been, enough, from the beginning. He had not given me reason, but I knew it. It was preordained – I. Am. Not. Good. Enough.
Of course this is false and, of course, it is unreasonable, but throughout my young..ish life my truth has become clouded by perception. There were reasons to know it would not be, it never was and never could be.
The irony that this is my only truth I choose to believe is not lost on me.
And so, I cashed in on my insurance policy. Burning up the possibility before undoubtably my strike of luck would end and my profits diminish. Fraud, is the technical term.
Every October or so I buy a new moleskin 18-month planner, usually in black – the flexible, bendable kind. It is my world’s equivalent to a new year’s resolution – except combined with the overly quoted “definition of insanity”. You know the one, the thing that guy says when he feels all wise and shit. “You know the definition of insanity- doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Well, my October insane resolution is buying a planner and expecting it to make a difference. If I just write things down, I think, it will be different. I will somehow transform into the person I want to be because I will have my to-do list right in front of me and I will make it happen.
Inevitably, like every new-year-new-me #goal, although I eagerly jot down and cross off item after item for a month – even two if I’m lucky, by the end of the year, my attempts become sporadic at best, and in the end, the planner becomes exactly what it is – an overly priced, leather bound collection of paper and I become exactly what I am – insane, at least by most people’s standards.
I have never liked that definition of insanity – the one about doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results. Because even though I don’t feel like doing a quick google search, I’m pretty sure if you google the definition of “perseverance” or “heart of a champion” or “practice”, you’ll find a description pretty dang close – but I guess hindsight is 20/20, right?
I can tell you right now that I know the definition of insanity, but that’s about it. I know it, because I am feeling it, and the feeling is absolutely indescribable. It goes something like this though – insanity is having done the same things over and over again, realized they didn’t work, and having no clue where to go from there. It is the realization that you literally don’t have one to-do list item, even a dentist appointment, to write in your under-used yet overpriced moleskin notebook, and even if you wanted to make up a list just to have the pleasure of checking off an item, you wouldn’t know where to begin.
Insanity is a feeling of helplessness like no other. Not the kind where my friends and family should be worried about me in a life or death kind of way, but the kind where I am worried for me in a having the life I wanted or living a life wasted kind of a way.
It’s pretty funny, really, I used to bill by the hour. A large number. Now, I seek to fill every hour. How can you work for 26 years towards a goal only to achieve it, take a wrong turn and suddenly you’re out of the game? But more on that later. All I can do right now is write.
A stranger at a bar a few months back (I know, doesn’t sound good) asked me if I could accomplish one thing in life that would really make me proud of myself, what it would be. I immediately said have a successful relationship and beautiful children and be a great mother. He nodded, he had a son, he said, and he understood. But he said that that wasn’t big enough. He asked what I could do or create to make myself proud. Personally. I still think my original answer fit his question, but I acquiesced and admitted that I wanted to write a book. I always have.
He asked me what was stopping me. I said I wouldn’t know where to start. He said that isn’t an excuse. Start writing.
I think I wrote something on here that night, I don’t remember. Or maybe I wrote in a journal. But I know that I want to write. My docket is empty and my brain is full. But how do I do it? Is my story even worthy of telling? Beyond that, is it worthy of listening to?
Right now, I know one thing. My insanity is wanting a different result, but not even trying. I also know, that I’ve done a lot of trying and a lot of succeeding and a lot of failing. There has to be some meaning interwoven in my insanity.
Have any of you had experience with publishing? Advise on the business/how to break into it? If not, any words of wisdom or thoughts would be appreciated in comments.
Funny. I thought I’d write today. It’s been a year to the day since I left my position that I had always dreamed of in Boston and a year since I simultaneously found myself and lost myself.
I won’t make a lame attempt at a caterpillar emerging from a cocoon metaphor, because I’m just, ya know, way too good for that. But also, because it wouldn’t make sense. As I read my first post on here about leaving my corporate position and moving back to Houston, I see an act of bravery, but also of naïveté. I’m one fail swoop, I believed that I could abandon my preordained hopes and dreams and instead become this kindered spirit, whole and complete, who would be able to take my broken pieces (of which there are many) and glue them together. I believed, that with my new found freedom from the corporate handcuffs, with sheer will and determination, I could create, or rather, cultivate my own happiness. I am happy. But I’m also disappointed in myself.
Let me set something straight. I am happy. Or so I think I am. Just as I have had struggles in the past allowing those who I so desperately want to love to love me back, I have a difficult time accepting happiness. Don’t you? Or many of you who seem to identify with the words I say, I would think. Because, the other shoe will always drop. When you’re me, and have this misinformed belief that your actions can actually dictate your destiny, you know that eventually the newfound elevated happiness that you have found will eventually diminish, and like a recalcitrant child, you try to take ahold of it before it overcomes you.
You try to break the cycle. Yes, ladies and gents, I’m that girl. The one who finds the way to “control” the outcome by self-sabotage. But who am I to dictate my own happiness? I know with hard work and choosing the right people to surround yourself with, you can improve your mental health and many times experience great joy, but who am I to sabotage my own hard work and dictate it’s outcome. Why can’t I ever be the person who just lets things be? A truth I have come to realize in the past few days is that letting myself just be, being me minus the sabotage, is actually pretty damn great. Why would I ruin a great thing?
I recall the one time I tried to snowboard. Now, I happen to be pretty athletic but never one for athletics. Being a nice 5’9, I was pushed towards basketball, but scared of getting hurt or embarrassed, I would always hand the ball to my opponent when they tried to guard me. Much like with basketball, when I tried to snow board for the first time, instead of accepting the risk, I took hold of my presumptive failure and fell every other minute, like clockwork, to the fresh powder, because I felt like making myself fall would soften the blow of an unexpected wipe out.
It doesn’t work that way. I still had bruises all over my body and even worse, I had to experience the mortifying escort home on a ski mobile because the mountain was closing before I could fall my way down it.
Another year has passed and I don’t want to keep falling until the slopes are closed. I can’t keep believing that making myself fail is staying in control. I have to allow the chance for failure to take hold. I have to let those around me make their own decisions about me. I can’t make them for them. I can’t make them believe I’m not worth it for fear that they’ll discover it on their own. After all, if it already causes pain, then what the fuck am I doing?
I guess that’s being an adult right? Knowing that failure IS an option and being okay with exploring the path to it truthfully and patiently. Not rushing to create your own conclusions. Working hard, in every aspect of life, to build yourself up and to build up your relationships. Knowing that even if you failed, you did try. I used to think that was corny. I don’t anymore. I’ve let myself fall into the fresh powder too many times just to say that I couldn’t do it. I’ll commit it to writing: not anymore. Cue “if I could turn back time”…
I never thought I’d have a birthday during which I could reflect and be certain that the year that preceded was better than the year before. A few weeks ago I was able to. I was moved to tears and filled with disbelief.
What goes up must come down is an adage I know to be true. Well, since the 4th, the marking of my survival, it has come down. It may be temporary, but the hurt is the same.
28, you are a cruel mistress. I said I wanted to know, but perhaps it was better being just a tad younger, none the wiser aNd willfully naive.
Cheers to finding out how much deeper the path will go, or seeing if I can make myself fly. It all works out in the end right? I guess that depends on how you want to market yourself.
“Me too…” she said, half chuckling nervously, half confused as to whether she should have just pledged a “sorority” she wasn’t sure she was ready to pay the dues for. In the split second following her admission, she decided it’s always better to be included. After all, it was the sixth grade, she was tall and lanky with awkward braces and big ears, and boobs that had just sprouted on her otherwise stick-thin body, somehow at the exact point of her body that was equal to the height of every boy in her grade. The other girls in this new group were the popular girls, so this had to be a good sign, right?
She checked her baby-G watch to realize that advisory period (or homeroom in a less, achem, “preppy” school) started in four minutes.
“Four til,” she announced. “So what do we do?”
She was always the thinker. The over-analyzer. Twelve-going-on-forty her mother and her friends would always joke.
“Well, I guess we need to tell someone, right?” Another one of this chosen group of six young girls blurted out. Her already size DD chest bounced as she shrugged her shoulders.
The girls huddled and ultimately decided that between advisory and first period, they’d meet with Mrs. B about it. The girls never went to first period.
Years later, she couldn’t remember the details of the meeting, whether it was actually six girls, or five. She couldn’t remember if she was the one who started the conversation with Mrs. B or if it was another girl appointed for the task. But, she could remember this – she figured the meeting with Mrs. B would be the start and end of it. Well, maybe it would require her talking a little bit more about it with the headmaster or worst case scenario, her parents, but certainly, it wouldn’t follow her past the sixth grade.
Years later, her memory recalls that day going something like this. Certainly, parts of her memory are incorrect, but we all remember inconsequential-turned-consequential events differently, right?
After advisory, the girls, minus a couple who “chickened out”, went to Mrs. B to tell their tale. She didn’t think that any of them thought it was that serious, but they did think that what they had all discovered was odd, and at least worth mentioning. At the very least, she’d tell them, in true Mrs. B fashion, that they were being dramatic, and then they’d go on with their day. Instead, what they told them that Mr. S, the computer teacher, turned Mrs. B into a ghostly shade of white as she told them to stay in the room and that’d she’d be right back.
Presumably, Mrs. B returned with the headmaster and the head of the middle school. She asked the girls to repeat what they had told her. Nervously, one of the girls recanted how just that morning, one of the girls mentioned how it was strange that Mr. S had, on multiple occasions, reached his hand under her skirt while checking up on her computer work, and done some sort of rubbing thing on her chest a few times, too. How, when she mentioned it to one girl, that girl grabbed another, who said it had happened to her too, and she grabbed two others. Ultimately, a group had formed that realized that they were all sitting in the back row of the classroom and that it was happening to them. And, it turns out, much more to at least one of them, but she didn’t want to discuss that. They all thought it was weird when it happened, but had brushed it off. Now that they knew that it wasn’t just them, they figured it probably wasn’t an accident and they should tell someone. Upon hearing the story, the two male heads of school turned that same ghostly white. If she had a mental curse word vocabulary at that point in her life, this would probably be her “oh shit” moment.
The two men told them all to stay right there, and they did, as Mrs. B followed them outside. None of the girls spoke. What had they done? Were they in trouble? Would other people find out? What was going on?
Mrs. B returned a few minutes later and told them first off, that they had done the right thing by coming forward. And secondly, that the police had been called.
“WHAT!?” One of the girls blurted out.
“This is an awful thing that Mr. S has been doing to all of you. We had no idea. When the police arrive we will confront him and have the police escort him off of campus and he’ll probably be put in jail. Don’t worry girls, you did the right thing. I’m not sure, but there will probably be an assembly about it. It will all be fine.”
That ghostly shade of white took over six more faces.
The girls were told to stay put as this all went down. They did. She doesn’t really remember what they did in the meantime. She does know that it wasn’t that long, because the assembly Mrs. B had mentioned took place in the morning. Turns out, the assembly felt like more abuse than an unwelcome leathery hand inside of her pre-teen thigh had ever felt like.
At the assembly, the headmaster and head of middle school gave some sort of run-down about what had occurred that morning. They stated that Mr. S would never be allowed back on campus, and if anyone sees him, to notify the faculty immediately. They commended those who came forward and offered counseling for any that would need it. They also asked for anyone else to come forward should they share the same experience.
She’s not sure how, but somehow during that assembly, or before, everyone knew. Everyone knew that she had said “me too.” Perhaps, the headmaster had mentioned that Mr. S was doing this to those girls sitting in the back row. Maybe, they knew because she had developed early and it was obvious. Or instead, maybe one of the girls “let it slip”. Either way, suddenly, a firing squad of pre-pubescent boys were whispering in her ear as the headmaster explained that they might be seeing police on campus in the coming weeks.
“You like em older, huh?” One said.
“Hahaha, can’t believe you let that old man touch you,” another whispered in her ear.
“You guys are so stupid. Why’d you make such a big deal about this?” said another.
“You guys are liars.” Another hissed.
She buried her head and tried not to cry. When she lifted it again, she had a fake smile plastered across her face. She wanted to be in on the joke, not a part of it.
“I don’t know,” she said, “it was just like, annoying, you know? Plus, he was not cool at all.”
She knew then, that “me too” were the worst two words she could have ever said. Why did she do that!? She’s always doing stupid things. It wasn’t that big of a deal that he did those things to her. Sure, each time his hand got closer and closer to being inside of her, but she could’ve devised a plan to shift her body as she did it. Why did she need to feel included? She was telling the truth, but she should have known better. This was probably the type of thing her mom had warned her about. About not falling into the wrong crowd. Why did she let herself get lumped into this crowd?
She somehow managed to get through the rest of the day. She doesn’t remember now, at 27, what exactly happened, but it was a variation of this. Things at school calmed down, but there were still several jokes made about the “Mr. S thing”. Her parents were notified and her mom was alarmed, but, aside from talking about it right after it happened, it was not discussed. Rumors circulated at school that Mr. S ran a booth at the rodeo and to be on the lookout, because he would come after them. She was terrified at as she went on the carousel that year. But, she luckily didn’t see him there.
A few weeks later, her mother took her to the police station to give her statement. She wasn’t prepped for what they would ask, and nothing was really talked about on the way there or the way back. She gave her statement to the police and despite her looks trying to signal the detective, she had to answer the questions in front of her mom. She was not comfortable and she didn’t tell them everything. Besides, at that point, she had convinced herself that the little bits that she had told the detective were the whole truth, not the partial truth. To this day, she doesn’t know what parts she carved out of her memory. Funny how that happens, isn’t it.
While Mr. S didn’t follow her to 7th grade, the story of him and the girls did. The boys and even some other girls, continued to taunt the girls for claiming the story and telling Mrs. B. Even before their balls had dropped, the boys somehow knew how to victim shame. It was like it was in their DNA. It was bad enough that one girl left the school for the local public school and never looked back.
She tried to forget it had ever happened. For the most part, it worked. When she was sent to therapy in seventh grade for whatever reason a seventh grader without any severe problems is sent to therapy, it wasn’t mentioned. It was never discussed at home. Once, when she was 15 and a freshman in high school, a new detective called her home. He informed her mother that the detective in charge of the case had really messed up and it was never completed. Mr. S was still out there and they wanted her to come in and give testimony. Her mom asked her if she wanted to and she quickly stated that no, she doesn’t even really remember it anyways and it’s just not a big deal anymore. Her mother was quick to accept and relayed the information to the detective. The detective never called about it again. She didn’t think about it anymore. It didn’t happen.
It wasn’t until some sort of drug was slipped into her drink in college and no one believed her that she had vivid flashbacks to the Mr. S thing. Thankfully, with the drugging, nothing had happened besides becoming violently ill and terrified as her body felt paralyzed, she couldn’t talk and she vomited everywhere with her close friends freaking out around her. That, and you know, the losing “friends” thing that followed afterwards because they said she “claimed” drugging when she had just had too much to drink. She began having panic attacks, remembering that she had done this before, been dumb enough to tell people about something that she should have known they wouldn’t believe, and created a label for herself. She was in college, she should know better.
The next two times something happened to her, they weren’t just a hand up the skirt, a slight brush of the breast, or a drugging without the sexual assault kind of incidents. One violent, one not. Both during law school. Both at inconvenient times. Both assaults by people she knew.
Thanks to the first time I said “me too”, just in the sixth grade, I know better than to tell those stories. I’ll just relay those stories through a hashtag. After all, that seems to be the actual popular thing to do.
Oh- we both know she is me right? Figured we had cleared that up.
This story is told to the best of my ability. If there are errors, as I’m sure there are, they are not intentional. On the record, I believe those involved – the school, parents, police (aside from the one detective) did the best that they could, at the time. But clearly, so much more could have been done.