I can see very clearly now where my path diverged. I was in college and graduation was fast approaching. The panic settled in long before that. Where will I live? How will I live? I need to find a proper job. One that allows me a place to live and food to eat. I had been on my own since 8th grade (there are some arguments to be made for even before then). My home life was a bit chaotic in comparison to the type of person I was. Even while living at home, to avoid distractions, the children, the people and their needs from me, I stayed at school. There, I was able to create a space specific to my needs. I completed homework assignments, I got ahead, I played “hot paper ball” aka “don’t touch the ground” and “paper ball tennis” in the hallways. I even swept the hallways for pocket money. Pocket money that I ended up saving for rainy days.
I went on to boarding school and did the same there. I missed my family very much, but monetarily I chose specific holidays to visit home, I used breaks to relax on an almost empty campus with little responsibility, I worked on assignments, or I worked cleaning the dorms for more pocket money. Pocket money that went to toiletries and other needs. I worked the summers (summer camps and cleaning dorms), I also came back to campus early to adjust and ready for the new year. Many of us city kids, I was born and raised in the projects of the Bronx, were products of busy homes. Nothing we’d trade but it was our reality; survival. Most likely being first generation everything, so that meant shouldering ALOT overall, and being home meant shouldering even more by proximity. I understood to move forward, I particularly needed to be away. Even if temporarily.
In college I had many interests. Mainly I loved writing. I had a fantastic communications professor Mark White. I created a course and did an independent study with him. The paper I wrote he submitted for the College’s Student Symposium. I am known for my bravery but my doubt and fear won. I declined to present my paper. I hold dear an email where he said he saw me writing for the Village Voice. He had contacts and would help me figure things out. I remember being unsure about grad school, that cost was too much to enter unsure so I passed that up as well. Very easily who I was and wanted to become wasn’t important. I am not sure if I ever learned for it to be. I stayed in survival mode. All I knew is that I could not go back home to the Bronx. Not my mom’s two bedroom apartment. I needed my own space. I was (am) particular, organized and if there was any chaos or disjunction, things/life to pause for me to gain clarity and for me to hear my thoughts. I also needed physical space to have a chance at creating an adult life that was mine. I did not realize I was already selling myself short.
I learned all the Career Advancement Center’s stratagems and strategies and landed myself a job in the same city. I really wasn’t going home. My boyfriend and I got a place (rent split), yes! I had no idea the way I was raised, the traumas, my personality, the limited perspective I had, and the choice of survival I had made, was leading me into some of the most toxic relationships and workplaces I would ever experience…