For the purpose of this writing I’m going to pretend that someone is reading it.
Hello, dear reader. Nice to have you here.
I should start out by saying that I’m here because of my therapist, Josh. I want to be forward about my experience with therapy because of the stigma surrounding it and because I believe strongly in self actualization through therapy. Josh has recently been encouraging me to write, to which I said "But why? To what end? What do I have to say that people would want to read? I'm not a writer!" He made me realize there doesn't need to be a purpose beyond my own enjoyment, that it just might feel good.
I think it’s important to start with some basics about the themes that drive me: authenticity, travel, and family—both given and chosen.
It's a challenge to be 100% yourself—caught between who we think we should be and who we think people want us to be. I've spent a lot of my life running from who I am, afraid to be honest about where I come from because I didn't want to have to explain. As I've grown, I've learned to accept my past and celebrate my individuality. In my experience with the Internet—specifically online dating and social media—it is easy to treat others as if they are not real people with feelings on the other side of the screen. In a way, this anonymity has helped me be fearless in speaking truth to who I am. It's still a struggle to stop myself from putting up a protective wall but when I’m comfortable then it’s easy to be myself. I am learning that I’m empowered to put out into the world that which I hope to receive: authenticity and genuine connections.
What I love about making real connections is communication. I love talking and sharing—the energy of learning about new friends or the deep connections made through long conversations that weave in and out of topics. When trust replaces fear my heart soars. As I've started to write I've found myself facing the fear of being perceived as self absorbed or self indulgent in writing personal narratives. It’s because of my desire to be free of this fear that I know I need to write and why I feel called to write openly about my experience growing up. Through writing it’s my goal to understand my narrative in a more holistic way and become the most authentic version of myself.
I was born in a field outside of Waxahachie, Texas, in the back of a Toyota Chinook. My birth announcement read, "Born into her father's palms." I'm fairly certain my mother still has the tiny scissors she used to cut my umbilical cord herself.
I grew up in a nomadic community of artists, musicians, and vagabonds at Renaissance Festivals throughout the country. Raised by my mother, a free-spirited hippie, we moved every two months on a steady circuit, constantly chasing the sun: Arizona in early spring, Texas while the wildflowers were blooming, Colorado for summertime, the Midwest or Northeast in late summer, and back to Texas for winter. I was homeschooled, so it helped that I loved to read a lot. I devoured novels at such an impressive speed that my mother once joked about not being able to afford my book habits. The phrase it takes a village could have easily been coined to describe my childhood, as I lived in an actual village—though a village staged for the enjoyment of visiting patrons.
As a way of rebellion I not only wanted stability and normalcy, I needed it to thrive. I spent a year in Port Townsend, Washington, attending public school for the first time in my life, and my whole perspective changed. Suddenly I was accomplishing things I’d never imagined possible as a kid growing up in travel trailers. I joined the swim team and became a winning racer. I competed in the district spelling bee and narrowly lost to an upperclassman (losing word? ‘laceration’), and I was awarded “Most Bubbly Personality” by my classmates. It became my ultimate goal to make something of my life by getting a high school diploma so I could eventually go on to college. I was eleven years old.
I settled into Port Townsend life easily and enjoyed every minute. Staying in Port Townsend was an option but I missed my mother who was still traveling year-round for work, so I decided to leave the stability behind and head back out onto the road. The desire for stability didn’t leave me so easily though and it became a popular topic of conversations with the people in my life.
It turns out that living in Port Townsend was the first of many times I would live with family friends. First there was Kryss, a tattooed single-mother who gave me my first peek into life in the Twin Cities when I was thirteen. She became like a big sister to me in the six-ish months I lived with her though we haven’t seen each other in close to a decade now. Next, when I was fourteen, was Matt—a young performer who became my legal guardian for a few months so I could travel apart from my mother. Matt shaped my taste in music by introducing me to stuff like the Pixies and Radiohead, and would later be my road-trip partner when I moved to Austin. As was only fitting, we listened to Radiohead for 24 hours straight.
At the age of fifteen I ended up living in the suburbs of Minneapolis with acquaintances who became my family. I finally had the stability I’d always wanted and the opportunity to fulfill my childhood dreams. I got involved in extracurricular activities quickly, from one-act plays to tutoring elementary students in reading. I had a job at the one-hour photo in Target, just down the road from Prince’s Paisley Park studio. Most importantly, I excelled in school and my self confidence grew exponentially in those few years. I finished high school with honors and went to college with scholarships in hand, though I ended up leaving university after freshman year—mostly out of fear of mounting student loan debt. It would be hyperbolic to say those were the best days of my life, but it was the first time I can remember feeling like I was living up to my potential. You might think of Minnesota, and that chapter of my life, as a first love. It was my first home and when I left Minnesota, I knew I would always yearn for it—that it will always be my heartland.
Anyone who’s had a conversation with me in the last 15 years about my "mom and dad" has likely been confused. There is my mother, the hippie artist, and my father, a traveling musician. My second parents, Carr and Marian, are the folks I lived with in Minnesota during high school. Though we are not related by blood you wouldn't know it if you met us. Carr is the person I call when life is getting me down—he gives me advice that I often need to hear and gives me a kind of love that only a parent is able to give. He is always ready to remind me how capable I am, never hesitating for a beat. And then there’s Marian—we make time when I’m home to go out for mom/daughter dates so we can talk about love and life without dad around. It feels good to be close to them in this way, but it can often feel like betrayal to my "real" parents. Yet it feels equally weird to say "real" vs...what? Not real?
They've all had a hand in shaping who I am in a very real way. I certainly get my sense of whimsy and adventure from my mother (the artist mother), and my brooding and hotheadedness from my father (the musician father). Carr and Marian’s deep commitment to long lasting friendships has shaped my dedication to nurturing relationships. Plus, I can see myself in my dad’s taste in style and music (but, Minnesota dad, not musician dad), and my mom Marian’s particularity for how she organizes her home is pervasive in my life. (Someone recently said, “This is the kind of kitchen where everything has a place.” My mom would be so proud. She’d also disagree with every system I have in place.) To say that one set of parents is more real than the other isn't fair. I've spent half my life learning that I don't have to reject one family to love and be loved by the other family. In many ways I am still figuring this out and in some ways I imagine I will always feel confused.
Through the writing experience I’m looking forward to collecting the thoughts that make me laugh and cry—the stories that make me who I am. Thank you for joining me in this journey.
Until next time.