Now to Then
17-year-old with a chance to get away. Where is far enough? Where is too far? What can be achieved while there?
16-year-old with a sibling, recently deceased, a month away from 19.
16-year-old astonished by broken glass shining like a sea on wooden floors.
16-year-old watching a tray of homemade cookies dumped into the trash. Right there. Watching it happen.
16-year-old with a red handprint smear on a cheek.
16-year-old trying to protect the brother who would die next year.
16-year-old and 15-year-old and 14-year-old and 13-year-old and 12-year-old with self-inflicted scars. Grounding. Reconnecting. Punishment, because everyone else was right and this pain is deserved.
14-year-old who told lies about smears of red.
10-year-old curses and more redness smears on a cheek.
10-year-old in a dingy swivel chair, hand placed on a grimy Bible, a coat puffy and protective in a stuffy room. Face the camera. Tell the truth.
8-year-old hiding from broken glass.
A child’s parent wanted The Brady Bunch. A child’s parents tried to make it on their own, tried to avoid debt, failed and failed again. A child strategises, attempts to survive before puberty, and then through it, and then they want to know what the child will do at the beginning of its 50 years of adulthood.
Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt
Everything is my damn fault and I need to do everything by myself and nobody helps me and how am I ever going to get a job when I can’t live properly let alone interact with a customer and I sometimes lie catatonic in bed because my mind makes poison in order to feed me and I’m made to feel bad for trying to do anything and for needing help to even get to a job because I live in an inaccessible place and brain.
I saw a chance to get away when applications to colleges and universities were thrown at me. I took it. I took it and didn’t think of the loans. I moved away, free, still not legal (#OctoberBaby), and then the money hit me. It still hits me.
There I was, carving a path for my future while my tools continued breaking and I needed to rent them repeatedly. I’d get the money back somehow. I’d pay for the tools I used, the years it took me to carve through this mountain.
Do not judge my adulthood existence by your journey toward your adulthood. A tree planted in unsuitable soil cannot grow tall and strong, but this isn’t evident until it has grown up some.
Existing is a battle when you have mental illness and are an abuse survivor. In my first year of university, I was almost forced to withdraw from school because my grades were so poor. In my second year of university, I wanted to commit suicide.
It’s hard to consider making money when you’re simply trying to live. To breathe. To wash your damn body. How can I put on a face and say, “How can I help you?” to a customer who might yell at me? Especially if every yell at me brings back memories of trauma.
I sit on 40K and will never have children until I can ensure (and insure) they don’t go through the same financial strife. The same guilt of being another indebted child as I am. My mind and its pools of poison tell me that I owe something to everyone.
And sometimes society tells me I owe something to certain people. I owe nothing to people who biologically created me, but failed to take care of me. Who failed to repair a link every time it was broken. Who failed to say sorry when they hurt me. Who failed to acknowledge that they hurt me.
I owe no explanation to people who managed to work their way through high school, and then college or university. I owe no explanation to people who question my anxiety about finances. I owe no explanation to the acquaintances who want to know why I don’t want to pay $7.99 + tax at a restaurant for a shitty entree, and thus do not want to go out.
We can’t all work through the strife. When you’re a child and all you do is work on living… when you’re a child and your life is only strife… when the glimmers of pleasant memories come so infrequently that you think they’re just nighttime dreams… You can’t make your adult self part of the economic sector without wanting to die. Without waiting for something to jump out of the bushes and tear you apart. Without beating yourself up for not doing everything correctly, for slipping up, for accidentally breaking something at work, for getting an order wrong, for working overtime, for crying in the break room, for snapping at a customer, for avoiding people because otherwise you’ll break under the weight of your own guilty and traumatised conscience.
I am very unemployable, and it isn’t my fault. I’m trying to be better.
I am very much in debt, and it isn’t my fault. I’m trying to work through it.
I chose to go to university. I chose to go into debt. I chose to try and earn something—to earn a degree in the hopes of learning more about myself and about a future career field. I chose and I chose and I chose, and my priorities (1. not dying; 2. not hurting myself; 3. wanting to not do either number 2 or number 3) aren’t the same as yours.
I am not the same as you. We do not have the same story. We do not climb the same mountains. You, with a tall mountain of responsibilities. With crags and nooks that require effort to ascend.
I, with a tall mountain of responsibilities. With wolves and banshees chasing after me. With avalanches called upon by the demon of my childhood. With crags and nooks like yours, but just out of reach of my stunted motivation.
I am not the same as you. Your journey—where you gained something through hard work, by hustling, with careful planning—is not my journey.
My journey—where I needed to work hard to continue going, where I gained an, “Alright, if you want, but we can’t help yet,” and self-doubt, and where I had no rest since my memories began—is not your journey. It is mine. And you have no right to wonder why it is so different from yours as you sit on a rocky outcropping, eating organic trailmix, and ask why I’m still so far down, battered, bruised, with the handicaps of scars and pain slowing me down. The least you could do is shut up. The most you could do is offer some help.
In unrelated thoughts, a happy birthday to my brother today. You would have been 24 and that blows my mind—not the age, but how long you’ve been gone. You stopped ageing when you died and now all of your siblings are older than you.