Today I’m answering a double question from my journaling prompts: “What was the worst phase of your life/what was the best phase of your life?”
Worst? Aw shit I love negative topics. Easy. BET YOU THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO SAY FOSTER CARE DIDN’T YOU? Well, it’s surprisingly not. That was maybe the hardest phase of my life, but it wasn’t the worst. I learned unwanted, valuable survival skills and I made the longest lasting friendships in my life during that time. Plus foster care was a very long experience, peppered with so many different phases in itself I could break it down by home or by event and I don’t care to.
No, when I read ‘the worst’ one era of my life sticks out like a sore thumb. I think it’s pretty standard that people who have broken home and family lives try to reconcile maybe past the point of reasonability. I had stayed away from my family dutifully, for years, and around this time I just missed them I guess. I’d gotten in contact with my absolute favorite aunt, my mom’s older sister Doris. I spoke to my sisters on social media. I was in a long distance relationship with a sailor who had just been stationed in Virginia, a mere hop skip and jump away from my home state.
And to start this shitty phase off right, I’d quit my job as a teacher and was feeling entirely lost, jaded, and depressed. My students were my world and I still haven’t enjoyed anything quite like teaching. The experience really prompted me to look elsewhere for happiness and it seemed logical to go toward home. I was very ‘Jack Dawson’ in my early 20’s and just kind of flitted around everywhere, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but it definitely was when what I needed was stability and security.
I moved back home. After spending a few weeks with my then-fiancee, I moved in with my Aunt Doris who had completely hidden the fact that she was bedridden and suffering congestive heart failure. She was such an amazing, powerful woman and to see her incapable of even standing was….not the best. We were isolated, in the deep Georgia forest, with her dementia-ridden husband and abusive daughter in law. Again, not the best.
We hunkered down and suffered through a tornado. I went to a southern church again and remembered how mild the rest of the world is with their deity worship. I walked around in the Appalachian foothills like I’d done as a girl, but I did not feel at home for one second. I had some good old fashioned yelling matches over the phone with my fiancee. Doris got hospitalized and declined quickly–the EMTs taking her away on the ambulance marked the last straw before I pursued my own medical education. I remember feeling so powerless the entire illness. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t understand what her body was going through. I didn’t know how to help. I begged a foster sister to come drive me the 200 or so miles to my real sister’s house, and while I was settling in there, Doris passed away.
Living with my younger sister, who was also in an unfamiliar home waaaaaaaaaay out in the country, did my mental health even less good. She flew into a rage one day and started throwing everything but the kitchen sink at me, so I clocked her…not because I wanted to, but it was the only thing I could do to stop her tantrum. She went to Doris’s funeral with a black eye. Again, not the right place for me. I went to my other sister’s house and got into yet another altercation there after a few weeks, which ended with her getting pissed at me and calling the cops to remove me from her apartment.
They were pretty stumped at what to do with me (as was I!) so I just had them drive me to the bus station, figuring I’d take things from there. Let me tell you, a police backseat escort to the greyhound station, complete with them popping the trunk and handing you your luggage, is the BEST way to ensure that nobody at the bus station fucks with you. Those bus station dwellers scurried away like cockroaches and stared warily at me until I was on a bus to Virginia.
As you might expect, I got to Virginia and was greeted by a failing relationship. There were actually some peaceful, happy memories there, because I lived in a hotel next to the beach (you think I’m kidding?) We explored colonial Virginia, which was all new to me…we went to the aquarium, we went to civil war battlefields, we ate a lot of seafood and drank good beer. The fond memories, like everything else during this phase, were peppered in with some of the worst and most devastating fights and relationship turmoil that I’ve ever had.
I had moved down south in January. I moved back to Utah in July. I lasted six months through all of this terror, post-teacher-dom. It was a HELLISH six months and for awhile I had severe PTSD symptoms and crippling anxiety. Things settled down eventually, and that awful road was followed by a really lovely portion–moving to Sweden–but I’ll never forget 2011 as being the absolute worst year of my life in every way.
Just like answering ‘the worst’, this one is incredibly easy. And it makes me happy to say that. The best is now. It’s better than it ever has been. There are many reasons why. First, I do have that relationship with my family that I sought out for so long. My mother died and I have made peace with our horrendous relationship. My dad and I have never been closer, and though I worry about him, I also get to talk to him frequently and send him pictures of his grandson. I’m close with my sisters and I know I always have people and places to crash when I’m in Tennessee.
My job is the best job I’ve ever had. It’s unique, it’s the right environment and place for me, and it has given me opportunities I never thought I would have, like becoming an EMS instructor. I’ve met some amazing people around the globe, and I’d like to brag that I have some of the best relationships in the world, friend and otherwise. I have Flemith and Allyn and Ender. I enjoy being a mom, I enjoy being who I am and I live with people who respect and appreciate me. It hasn’t been perfect; for god’s sake we went through a flood and evacuation (and subsequent purgatory/homelessness) my labor was traumatic, I had HORRIBLE post-partum depression, I still need to lose another 30 or so pounds of baby weight and I regret chopping my hair off every day, but in the grand scheme of things I am so, so happy.