First Steps

Misguided by the 405 ’cause it lead me to an
alcoholic summer. I missed the exit to your
parents’ house hours ago. Red wine and the
cigarettes: hide your bad habits underneath
the patio

~”405” — Death Cab For Cutie

My biggest problem with myself is that I became the person I looked down upon in my past. I became the exact person my father feared I would and my mother predicted I would (“You‘re going to end up pregnant…or worse“). And then, I spent the next few years hiding from myself and everyone around me. When I finally began to emerge from my shell as a scared, abused, addicted, 90 lb 20-year-old, the self loathing began to take over. Self loathing only leads to more bad decisions.

I remember sitting in Jule’s Coffee Shop on Pearl St. in LaCrosse, WI every day during the end of winter through the summer of 2006. I was pregnant. I would walk there from my crappy little efficiency 9 blocks away, every day and spend anywhere from 4 to 8 hours there. Free WI-FI, fair-trade coffee, acoustic guitar slipping through the hidden speakers, and vegan hippies coming and going between Jule’s and the used book store connected through an open doorway. I’d spend the entire time listening to music and writing my way to carpel tunnel syndrome, spilling out my pathetic feelings and transcendental thoughts:

Friday, February 17th, 2006. 1:41 PM

Once again I’m sitting at Jule’s and I keep stopping. Staring. I made a play list of music…it’s over 14 hours long…although I suppose I plan on being here that long. Coffee shops always make me feel better; always have…sitting, sipping, reading, writing, listening, watching. I can breathe here, and that’s a feeling I haven’t had the luxury of having in a long time.

I love Jules. The table tops in the booths are black with green wisps of smoke painted in. Something to stare into when I fall into thoughts of love and life. The booth seats aren’t the most comfortable, but it turned out to be ok since I had to move to a table next to an outlet on the wall, just so the music can continue playing on my laptop. From my new point of view I am able to see the blowing sparkles of the 8 inches of snow we received yesterday. Every school in the area was closed. If I had continued with my semester at the local college I would have enjoyed this as a snow day. I wonder if I look sad to those around me. Or maybe they think I’m crazy because I keep staring. Luckily I’m just staring outside or at empty chairs instead of people. I used to want to meet a “coffee shop boy”…now I don’t want to meet anyone.

So she was right, my mother. I moved out of my parents house at 19 because I didn’t agree with having a curfew (especially when I was covering for my father and his affair…yes, it was pure blackmail). I quick going to college because I was too busy drinking and smoking pot and experimenting with a few other random options. Because my parents and I weren’t getting along (up until now, my father was my best friend) I also would go several weeks without talking to my little brother (my other best friend…only 5 years old, Autistic, and unable to understand my selfishness).

It all killed me inside. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat much. Mostly that was due to being poor. I rarely paid rent. And sure enough, only 3 months after running out, I was pregnant. I found out just a week or so before New Years. My father found out the same day I did. He had burst into my apartment because he didn’t know if I was alive. It had been weeks since I returned his calls. My brother spent each night in tears. Little did anyone know, but so did I. After putting me in my place, as usual, his eyes drifted to the empty E.P.T. box lying on my floor. “You’re pregnant now too? Great. Great job. What are you going to do? You really got yourself in a mess now.” I remember each word. And then he left. And I threw up. .

Of course by now I had also lost contact with all of my close, true friends from high school, and only because I would ignore all of their efforts to keep in touch, mainly out of sheer embarrassment, and the wasted hope that they wouldn’t find out. I was being naïve. I lived in a small town. They probably knew the second that god damn pink plus sign appeared on that urine-soaked stick. Mistake after mistake, and I couldn’t stop the avalanche of “fuck ups”. And I was student body president in High School. 4 year veteran of Spanish, and Show Choir and Summer Musicals. I was even the president of History Club. What happened to this nerdy, wholesome little girl? Honestly, I was never either of those. There was always a bit of darkness inside. A hidden Gothicism, revealed only under the most uncontrollable bouts of depression.

It took a long time before I made that first phone call to an old friend, agreeing to meet for lunch. I’d consider her one of my few saviors. We still meet at that same restaurant whenever I’m back in town.

I’ve realized, as it has been 3 years now and I am finally able to have the desire to love and forgive myself, that hiding this, hiding her, would only continue to hold me back. My significant other of almost 3 years knows, but I’ve made it clear I don’t want his family to find out, for fear they may then hate me, look down on me, or think I am no longer good enough. Well I already feel that way about myself and I hate it. I now know what an amazing experience it was and no longer regret it. Each time I see her face reminds me of this. I choose to no longer be ashamed. This is my first step to happiness.

Her father and I chose to place her for adoption. We didn’t decide this until I was 6 months along and just beginning to show. We picked out the family from their hand-made portfolio, among several others we looked at. They were the perfect choice and it was an “easy” decision the moment we met them. I do believe we actually said yes on that first meeting. AJK turned 3 just a few days ago. She’s the most beautiful angel. She came out perfectly. Yes, I still cry at night when I think about that first night she slept in my arms in the hospital; my only company through those dark hours. I still cry when I think about the court date where I signed away my rights. I still cry when I receive new pictures, or when I make the annual trip to visit her. But I cry different tears when I think of how happy she is, how happy her family is, and how much more blessed my life is now that she will always be in it. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Anyplace is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe well make something
But me myself I got nothing to prove

You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so you can fly away
You gotta make a decision
You leave tonight or live and die this way

~”Fast Car” — Tracy Chapman


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