In the day to day, I forget who I was. Who were you when you were young? I was a complex teenager, eager to live life and be a little dangerous and edgy. After passing my driver’s test, the first thing I did was go pick up my friend and speed down the road to the Waffle House, to smoke cigarettes and drink cheap coffee. It’s what the cool kids did in suburban Gwinnett county in the late 90’s. We were just on the edge of cool, just outside the perimeter. It was the line in the sand, in order to do anything legit cool you had to drive inside the perimeter, I-285, into the dark urban landscape of Atlanta. To Little 5 Points, or to the Roxy, or to the Tabernacle.
Once I got real freedom after moving away from home for college, even though I was actually farther away from Atlanta, I’d go to parties at the Pyramid and later the Church. To big warehouse parties and big raves in parking garages, at the Tabernacle and in places I don’t even remember the names to. It’s a blur. To me, those times were unreal, and at first I was scared to let loose and have fun. But boy once I did. Those years were wild and crazy. I discovered that to me, being a little dangerous and edgy turned into being too dangerous and too edgy.
I almost failed out of college. Things with my parents turned cold and dark. I moved in with a generally abusive guy. I began to morph into something else. In addition to having flown too high and burnt my wings off my first year of college, my French classes were a disappointment and I wasn’t focused on what I needed to in order to major in French. I changed my major from French to Business Administration. A few semesters I just went to class on auto-pilot. I took Spanish. I drudged through my core classes. I hung out with friends, edged into scenes on campus and forgot about the mysterious and cool person I wanted to be in high school. I got a job at a sandwich shop. My boyfriend dropped out of college, too focused on other things to make it to class on time. He spiraled into manic behavior. I let my boyfriend talk down to me and destroy my property and be generally abusive. He hit me and pointed his assault rifle at me. He took me out in the woods the day after to go shooting and I was almost sure he was going to kill me. He didn’t. I met new people and hid that part of my life from them. He wasn’t a good person. But I let myself get swallowed up by him and his hatefulness, his mean spirit. The psyche of an abused person is damaged. And I blamed myself and tried to do anything to please him.
I met my now ex-husband in class, in Economics while I was living with the abusive ex-boyfriend. I found out that F was a part of a larger network of international students at my college, and that a few of my other friends were also hanging out with the international kids so I started to edge into that group. My ex-husband was dynamic and charismatic and darkly handsome. He was also damaged enough that I wanted to comfort and fix his sadness. We tumbled into a relationship and it was a whirlwind of romance. I also let myself get swallowed up by his personality and lost who I was. He was also a roller coaster of manic/depressive cycles and I was along for the ride. He talked about Islam to me and business ideas and his culture and country and fucked up family. Everything was fascinating to me. We got married before I finished college.
You see what’s happened when I start to describe my life? It’s what happened in real life. My life. My self. My world.. got sucked up into whoever I was seeing at the time. And it continued, relationship after relationship.
But who am I now? Today I’m far away from the edgy and dangerous person I envisioned myself becoming. I am an almost 40 French teacher with an almost 10 year old daughter, living a quiet life in Athens, Georgia. Atlanta, where I once thought one had to be in order to be “cool”, is one of my least favorite places in the world. I have sworn off all relationships because they are toxic for me. My favorite things to do are to play video games and knit.
I guess everyone is a progression, morphing from one person to another in a fluid way. No one knows anyone else’s journey, the continuum from where they started to where they are now. Or why or how they got to be how they are. We are all mysterious and complex. Who were you when you were young? Who are you now?