Resilience

[note: parts of this post were written yesterday, in case you care about that sort of thing]

I have left Pasadena again. Every time I leave that town, I swear I will never be back. Walking around the area is torturous nostalgia. In a way, I came of age there. I hate it there. So many memories, fond and rotten, tied to places that won’t stay the same.

I left because I hate it there. I left because living with Mom was not working. I left because I had no realistic prospects of self-sufficiency in the LA area without a car. I left so that I wouldn’t kill myself.

I’m much safer now. I’m also much less comfortable. I’m living at a place called Thrillhouse, a punk record shop in San Francisco. My friend lives in a bedroom upstairs, and she’s convinced the roommates to allow me to crash on their couch until I can get on my feet. The kitchen is the stuff of horrors, the fridge smells like something died in it (no joke), and a dozen or more people I don’t know come and go through the house according to a pattern that, if I comprehended it, would surely shatter my mind in an appropriately Lovecraftian manner.  I also feel better than I have in months. Making the decision to get out there and try another shot at life has given me a new sense of confidence. I have no guarantee of success,  but now I feel like I have a shot.

If I’m honest with myself, I was too comfortable in Pasadena. It was too easy to simply lay and wallow. Maybe I needed that for a bit, but I’m glad to be past that now. Thrillhouse is terrible place to live if you care about things like sanitation, so being here has really lit a fire under my ass to get out there and start seeking solutions. Today I registered for food stamps and learned about a job seeker’s group that meets every Wednesday at the LBGT center. Tomorrow I’m going to find a shrink and endocrinologist, and in 10 days time I’ll be able to apply for cash assistance from San Fransisco county. In the meantime I’ve got a job fair prep session to go to on Thursday, and will apply to 5 more employment agencies over the next few days. I’ve got a daily goal of at least two craigslist replies a day, too.  I also need to update my Monster page and find similar places to put my resume online.

All of this seems to be linked to a new kind of confidence I have found in myself. When my life in Portland melted down and I ended up living with my mother again, I wasn’t just sad, I was disgusted with myself. I felt like even though I’d had such an easy life, I still managed to fuck it up. I heard stories about people who were in tougher spots than me, and whose achievements surpassed my own, and felt worthless. For instance, I’ve got a friend from high school who got his girlfriend pregnant and married her while they were either still in, or just out of high school. At one point he was crushing boxes behind a supermarket to try and make ends meet, but he just couldn’t get enough cash. So what did he do? He joined the Army and went to fucking war. I felt like I could never measure up to that kind of toughness. I’d had a soft life, softer than his, and still I couldn’t even keep my shit together.

Recently, I’ve reevaluated that opinion. Perhaps my life hasn’t been so easy. Perhaps I’ve done better than I give myself credit for. When I was 9, my mother lost her job. We had to sell the house, and a year later, we left Ashland and moved down to Glendale to live with my grandmother. I lost every friend I’d ever known in one weekend, and the dog, too. We spent the next six months living at my grandmother’s house, where I had to live by strange rules I wasn’t accustomed to, and went to a public school for the first time. Prior to fleeing Ashland, I’d gone to a Waldorf school, so the culture shock was significant. Just as I finally made friends, Mom got a job and we were able to move to South Pasadena, where I had to start over again.

After that, I had two years of hell that I don’t want to talk about.

Then high school, which was actually pretty fun once I got the hang of it, and later college. There was a period at UCSC where I was really depressed, but for the most part it was a good experience. I graduated and moved to Portland.

Then two more years of hell. I got fired during the crash of 2008, and couldn’t find a job for the next year. It was during this time that I became suicidal for the first time, due to romantic troubles. The rest of the year consisted of mnths upon months of watching my savings, so carefully tended over the course of my life, melt away. I was forced to beg for money from my grandparents. I ate my stock portfolio that had been gifted to me by my great grandmother. All the while, feeling more and more useless, losing more and more confidence. I managed to enter graduate school and almost immediately had a panic attack over the workload; I ended up stabbing myself with a carrot peeler.

And on, and on. My life has lurched from one crisis situation to another for almost three years now. I’ve been almost killed by one roommate, and have been scared of two others. I’ve been seriously suicidal twice. I have completely run out of money, and my credit card is all but maxed out. I’m essentially homeless and on food stamps.

This is an abridged list. I haven’t included details of the family troubles, or the messy breakup at the end of my first relationship, nor the two separate shrinks who so thoroughly failed me that I gave up on therapy for more than a year, despite my history of mental illness.

So yeah, things have been rough. The last three years have been truly special in that regard. There have been good times, too, even during the darkest years. There always are. I used to only focus on those, pretend that my life was only the easy parts, and then hate myself for the damage I incurred during the rough parts. Didn’t I know that there are HIV positive child soldiers starving in Africa?! Compared to that, how dare I consider any part of my life to be less than perfect!

I’m not going to do that anymore.

I can also give myself credit for what hasn’t happened. I haven’t killed myself. That’s the big one. I haven’t fallen to drugs. I haven’t become a criminal. I’m not malicious, and in fact I have gained a new appreciation of empathy. And while I’m technically homeless, and thus at my lowest point materially, I now feel stronger and more optimistic about my future than I have in years. Life hasn’t been too good to me, and I’m still here. I may not be in the place in life that I wish I was, but I’ve managed to survive a hostile set of circumstances. In acknowledging that, I feel stronger. I feel like I can continue to survive.

I’m going to need that strength because it’s probably going to get tougher as I go. Right now, I still pass as cis. A cis man, sure, but cis. Once I transition, and get into that space where I’m visibly trans before (hopefully) making it through to the other side, things might get tough. Even in San Francisco, there might be people who will give me shit or discriminate against me.

Whatever happens, I’ll get through it. I always do.

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2 thoughts on “Resilience

  1. That’s one hell of a journey so far. I’m keenly aware of how lucky I’ve been, and that the fact that I’m not on a couch above a place like Thrillhouse can only be attributed to that. Unemployed/underemployed for three years now too. And fuck if that doesn’t take a toll on self-worth even when you still have a roof and a bed.

    But I know exactly what you mean by having a fire lit under your ass. My lease ends in 3 weeks and after that . . . yeah. I have places to crash but not to live. So now it all comes down to finding a job before then.

    Ever since coming out, though, I’ve been optimistic in a way that I haven’t in ages. Even now when I don’t know where I’ll be living on May 1st, I can’t seem to get too down about anything.

  2. Pingback: Scared | Destination Girl

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