On Starting 2017: Honesty is the Best Policy

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There are things that I promise to do differently next year. Promises are often broken so we will see how many of them I can keep. In anticipation of my endevour to be more frank and cut the bullshit with others, I am starting with myself.

I am a reasonably happy individual, all things considered. But what things exactly am I considering? It’s a hard story to tell in one blog entry (and I am trying to keep it down to one).

I was a relatively happy child, but poor as fuck. Not rural poor. Not as poor and as desperate a situation as other kids (because of course, the sick beauty of this world is that no matter how hard you have it, there is always someone else who has it worse).

But yeah, childhood was intertwined with intuiting my family’s socio-economic status and trying to the best I could with it. To be honest, I have never gone to bed hungry in my life. To be honest, I have always had a roof over my head.

But to be honest, I’ve been homeless, for extended stints throughought my childhood and adulthood. The first time was when I was 8. Spending the weekend at my cousin’s house and wanted to call my mom. My uncle’s wife (more of wicked stepmother type than the cool aunt type) at the time, told me there was not point to call home becuase there was not home call and that my family (mother and siblings) were out on the street. Naturally, I didn’t believe her. I was already accustomed to her always finding the most mean and cruel things to say to me (I loved my cousin dearly, I guess, otherwise why the hell did I love going over there so much). Anyway, I tried to call the house, but the line was disconnected. And the evil aunty found comic relief in my confused face.

A couple of days later, my mom came to pick me up. I remember we needed some for me so we were going to the bastion of footwear for the poor: Payless Shoesource. It was there just a few feet away from the entrance that she told me we no longer had a place to live. I got my shoes, a pair of suede-like booties… and the memories of that time crstualized in my memory.

TBH the apartment was a hell hole anyway, teeming with mice and rats. I slept on the floor, another sibling on the couch (where the rats had bored holes and made a nice home for themselves no doubt.

But As I mentioned earlier, I have always had a roof over my head. We stayed with family for a couple weeks (interesting lessons learned from that experience for sure) and then with family friends. Within a month we were in a better apartment, in a better area. So I guess it worked out for the better in this case. We had fallen behind on the crappy place, and although we had a verbal agreement from the landlord that rent could be paid late, he double dealed and put in papers for an eviction anyway.

When I think about it, I never was the same after that. The new apartment was bigger, but we had no furniture for the first year. And eventually, with other members of extended family moved in with us there, the cycle began again…. By the time I was going to high school, another eviction loomed over us. This time, we got ahead of the curve though: We moved out before they could throw us out. And again we stayed with family friends until we got another better space.

Like I said, I’ve been homeless many times. This better space was fantastic at first, but when the working poor fall ill or lose their jobs, then their already tenuous situation gets worse. And this is how I started college. I worked my ass off (academically and literally in the dining hall shifts and other gigs) because my family could not support me financially at all.

The irony of the American dream is that here I was at one of the best colleges in the country despite my circumstances (and thanks to some good years of ebb right before)  and studied abroad (thanks to student loans and generous grants). It was not a fun time, (it was a very broke time!… but I made due).  But I came home to no home at all: In danger of being evicted yet again, after unemployment ran out, we had to move, this time leaving tons of shit behind/ or giving it awawy. This time, there were no real family or friends to lean on. What could you say? Yet again? Evicted yet again?

That stretch of time was some of the darkest days of my life to date: All of the complications, a sibling was also sick and I was sick too, in a way. I wish that I had done some therapy in retrospect, but therapy how? and Where?

This was the longest stretch of homelessness- from the summer before I went abroad. during the break between semesters we were living in one bedroom in the home of a then friend of my mom. Like I said, I can never say that I never had a roof over my head.  I worked that winter break and considered leaving school (but my mother said no). The house was in the suburbs but I walked two miles in shitty shoes in unpaved ice and snow to make 8 dollars an hour as restaurant hostess: Every penny counted. We were paying rent for the room, but things were strained and by the time I cam back from Morocco we were staying in an extended stay-like hotel.

I worked my ass off that summer, to help pay for the room for the night. My days were spent thinking about how to get the 77 dollars needed for the room that night. Our meals were either rice eggs and vegetables, or noodles eggs and vegetables (all we could afford and cook in the room). Depressed isn’t even the word to describe that time. We didn’t even have time to be depressed literal homelessness loomed all around. By the time I returned to college that fall, we had moved to stay with a family friend/distant relative. But that soon soured, and my siblings were in another hotel situation. The job situation picked up though, so by October at last… we had a place to call our own, a bigger one.

I always remember how people remarked so positively at all the weight I had last: Between shitty study abroad and shitty living at-no-home, I went down a dress size. They had no idea what I had gone through to become the then much skinnier me. Yet through it all, I studied for the GRE, got a fellowship to graduate school. Talk about high functioning depression!

Sadly, sickness would rear its head again and again so eviction happened some years later. By then I said fuck it and shouldered the responsibility of making sure as best I could that it didn’t happen again. There have been some near misses, especially when I went to grad school the second time (In search of the almighty steady paying job, I assure you, but before I would be able to get it). Needless to say, I was well into my late twenties before I could begin to maybe hope that poverty and homelessness were a thing of the past.

It’s been interesting to occupy my own unique form of intersectionality.

Being poor ate my youth. Sometimes I think it sapped our energies so much, that we couldn’t really have been fully functioning human beings. I see the effects on myself, on my siblings. I understand what the working poor go through, my life is the embodiment of that struggle. But I also have had opportunities that others perhaps have not. Despite the shit hole that so many months and even years have been, I was never prevented from pursuing opportunities… We simply made due. For that, I am always grateful to my mother; she saw that dropping out of program X,Y or Z or not pursuing A, B, or C would hurt me more in the long-run

Upon further reflection though, this thread of homelessness is the reason behind much of my decisions. Like I said, it ate my youth. Sometimes I look back on things and people and think why didn’t I do X, Y, or Z, but then I remind myself that I was poorer than a church mouse at the time and didn’t want to have to explain myself. Why am I explaining myself now? I don’t know, I just want to get it out and leave it in the dustbins of history.

I was never a flake. I was never afraid to make bold changes. I had real deal shitty circumstances to contend with and for longer than anyone knew. I think this is why time is so important to me. So much of my life has been wasted fighting this scourge, I didn’t have time for much else. I don’t like the idea of wasting any more time than I already have. Gazelle feels every trash relationship, every shitty business meeting more acutely because I feel like I’m playing catch up with life, like I’m just learning how to breath.

But I know I’m not alone. This piece on NPR and this one from the Atlantic say what I already know. It does feel good to get it out though. The one thing I will say for this life experience is that it’s taught me how to weed people out, and the importance of trying to be sensitive to other people’s sensitivities. You never know what someone is going through, has gone through. And you also never know where someone will end up. It should come as no surprise that I’ve had an inordinate number of people shit on me and my family (even members of my extended family) and yet many of those people who wrote me off as trash back then, have a very different opinion of me now. But I just roll my eyes. (and keep my friend circle amazingly small… ha ha… had to have some levity in this post, no?)

Finally though, needless to say it’s made me very sensitive to issues around homelessness. In my own way, I have tried to fight it on the individual level. Why I didn’t end up pursuing it as some sort of career goal is anyone’s guess.

I think what I call immigrant sense of shame kept me from saying any of this, like ever. But now I have declared it on a public blog(that a very finite group of people read, so there is that). I want to leave this heavy load in 2016. Putting it on here, and out there, is one way I am trying to do just that.

I guess I could write more, but this post is long enough.

This was a lot more cathartic than writing about the online and offline randos that I have unfortunately crossed paths with this year… ha ha

 

 

 

 

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On one year Anniversaries: I wish I had a time Machine

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I am always trying to explain my funks. And it hit me today, as I made plans with friends for spring break (might actually make it to Sub-Saharan Africa this time around!)

It’s been a year since I started making really bad decisions. TBH last year from January – end of September is a stretch of time I deeply and bitterly regret. It’s not like good things didn’t happen during that time. They did. I accomplished some goals.

But if I was balancing on a scale, the effed up decisions I made have had long-lasting impact. (Maybe I should be over it by now. But I am not, and since it’s my space, I will bitch and complain and reflect on it until I decide that I no longer wish to do so).

 

Anyway, I am a little sad because I had been doing well. But curiosity got the best of me this weekend and stared in the face of what I last year thought (foolishly) would not be something I would have to face. And I didn’t stand tall, unfazed; I crumbled worse than Fetta.

And once I crumbled with such ease, every insecurity, every doubt, every blame that I rightfully (and maybe even a few that I wrongfully) deserve just came in and set up house. In the end, I am not enough. Not for me and not for anyone else apparently.  I am neither kind nor smart, nor important, no matter Viola Davis says (ha ha)….

proof of lack of kindness: karma is a bitch, so this must be for ish I pulled. proof of lack of intelligence: Well, honestl what’s saddest of all is how long is taking to figure this out. And lack of importance: I am writing a cryptic as hell post about some cryptic ish that no one else cares about or is dealing with but me….. sigh.

Sometimes I dryly says that if my life was a movie title it would be “a series of unfortunate events” and sometimes when I’m super bitter I add, starting with the holiday season in which I was conceived (well just doing some math as I was born in September, I figure the holiday cheer had a hand in my creation … never asked though… ha ha).

I wish I could do better. That I had done better, that I could be better. Not so much for anyone’s aggrandizement, but for my own. I’m not sure when I became a flagellite but here I am (writing blog posts instead of working 😕 ) back in the same rut of anger and frustration.

Like I said, I bitterly regret last year… right now it feels like the damage is irreparable. Or maybe I am just acknowledging this fact.  But there are few things worse than feeling like the only thing that would help would be to jump into a time machine. I would warn my past self not to go to X or Y. To forget about Z. I would beat the optimism out of her and throw off her rose colored glasses and stomp them to bits. I would connect the dots better for her. I would show her the face of the future that I have seen.

On Counting My Blessings 2 and 3

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So I am gonna do these posts when I feel really led. A few nights ago, I ended staying at the office pretty late, but not for the reason you might think: I got into a spirited debate with some colleagues about the limits that can be morally placed on those too poor to afford to have children or more children than X number.

As you can imagine emotions were high for some. But it wasn’t in bad taste, it was spirited, but ideas were exchanged. I had decided to just order Thai that evening, but since we were together we decided to go grab something at a restaurant instead. And so we went, and had other more fun discussions about life in general and life here in particular.

I went home being thankful, that God didn’t give me what I thought I wanted… which was to be left alone. These days Gazelle alone is more like the depressed, brooding type and it takes a lot of energy out my already introvert self to keep talking to people, to give them the positivity that they need. But sometimes in talking to others, we forget, at least for a little while, what’s bothering us. And sometimes still, it gives us perspectives and epiphanies on ourselves.

That same night, I reached an epiphany of sorts on something that has been eating at me in ways I was concerned I would never be able to control.  But Gazelle has got her groove back, she’s starting to anyway. Alhamdullilah.

I have another blessing to count, well two actually.

 

Somewhere Between Anger and Depression

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I lost a lot of stuff last year.

Physical things, metaphorical things, optimistic perspectives about a lot of things. I’m chocking it all up to growing (up) which apparently I have not done enough of.

But I am in a funk, and am accepting that maybe this funk is here to stay for a while. In high school we were taught the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

The sad thing is though, that I’m not sure about my current stage. Sometimes, I think it must be anger. It’s come to my attention that a lot of people and things annoy me this day, to the point where I am audibly or visibly demonstrative: We need to fix this.

But does Gazelle even want to?

I am waxing tired of doing things without good reason (because others around me tell me to do so), tired of people who can’t face the realities on the ground, probably growing increasingly weary of ex-pat living and apprehensive  about a hella lot.

So yes, I am angry. I wish people would just leave me alone. Like for real, no one talk to me until April… ha ha…

And it’s on this point that I get confused because I think maybe I’m just depressed. Some days I would like nothing more than to stay home all day loooong. Maybe I’m not angry at people and things, so much as I am really saddened by how things have panned out as of late and don’t know how to fix myself, much less anyone else.

And here I am trying very hard so that the glum awfulness that was the last quarter of last year, doesn’t drag me down the first quarter of this year. Sigh.

It’s not that good things didn’t happen last year, it’s not that I didn’t have milestones that I accomplished. That’s simply not the case.

But that’s life, I guess. It’s part of humanity’s nature to focus on what went wrong as opposed to what went right.

Or maybe it’s all related to my being tired of a lot of things: There’s but so much bird shit that can fall on your jacket before you go home, take it off and perhaps decide to stay in for a while.

But I gotta get out of this shit hole. Being tired is tiresome.

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But, not really.        Source

Maybe I should take heart, and read messages like these:

On Love: GAzelleism of the week

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So I wrote this God knows when, I am just cleaning out my closet of sorts.. I think this is 2016 post, but it might be from 2015…honestly I have been recycling some of the same feelings. But in the interest of throwing out the trash, here it goes: Another GDS original.

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Preach Ernest! source

You can’t love people who have neither the desire nor the fortitude to love you back… well you can love such people, but it will probably be to your own detriment… just saying.

Love is built on three reciprocated pillars: Respect, care and trust. I don’t care what kind of love we are talking about if one of these three are missing you’ve got a problem.

Sharing common DNA does not necessarily mean that these three pillars will be there going both ways, (so that each person is both a lover and is loved). Really, really, wishing your feelings were reciprocated won’t make it so in romantic relationships either… ha ha…

So if you have a frenemy, explain your relationship status as complicated or feel the dire necessity of shaking them haterz off even amongst family… You may want to reexamine your motivations for staying invested and connected to these individuals.

Hanging onto people who don’t want to hold you… will just leave you all ALONE in the end.

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Lessons learned and they sure run deep!!!!  source

I Can’t Fix Everything

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And that is ok with me. I realized this a little while ago and it’s been refreshing to let things go. Maybe it’s the being the (De facto) eldest among my siblings, but I’ve become the De facto mother hen in a lot of different contexts and for different groups of people. That is NOT a role I volunteered to play. Frankly, I am tired of it and so many other things. I acknowledge that until people are real with themselves and about what changes they need to make in life, change will not take root. I know what it feels like to sit with someone for hours as they ask me about planning out scenario a, b, or c and warning them against D and they turn around and pick D anyway… Somehow I started thinking in these contexts that the blame was mine, that I wasn’t convincing enough. But, it’s not about me. It’s not my fault. And most importantly, it’s not my responsibility.

It’s not my job to clean other people’s messes, both literally and figuratively. People wouldn’t believe how apropo this has been for my life…. how for the first time perhaps ever in life, I am letting things and people go… I am letting the chips fall where they may.

The most amazing part is that earth didn’t swallow me or anyone else whole. It’s not my job to fix things. I can’t fix everything. If I spend so much time trying to hold everyone else together, what I eventually end up with is a very broken and fatigued me.

So yeah, going hand in hand with expecting nothing, is being somewhat numb to other people’s life choices… Adults are adults and every adult is entitled to their own decisions and can make up their own mind about whatever they choose to make a priority. Sometimes people will end up making mistakes they would not have had they listened to me… but that is not my fault, that is not my problem. Heck, not just adults, the same goes for any other living thing.

So will continue to do what I can, when  I can, but  I am under no obligation to hold up half the sky for anyone. Gazelle’s shoulders are much too small for all of that.

This affirmation/realization has been quite freeing for me. I can’t fix everything, I am not obligated to fix anything.  I too need to acknowledge what needs to be changed in order for change to take root. And hand in hand with that is undergoing a self valuation… ha ha…

At the end of the day people are people and they will do whatever they feel is in their best interest however narrowly or widely defined those interests are. At the end of the day, my intentions or sincerely wanting the best for myself or person x, y or z may have nothing to do with their intentions towards me or in spite of me: love, respect, kindness, peace, support, none of these are guaranteed to be reciprocated.  And even when they are not reciprocated, it’s not a reflection of my not being good enough.

It’s more about reflecting on the space and time that those individuals take up in my life and adjusting accordingly… whether that means giving them the BOOT! (ha ha)… or just 2% of my concern as opposed to 75…. sigh.

So yeah, I am not taking anything personal… I am also not concerning myself with who might take my words or actions personal either. This is all about expecting nothing and suspending optimism for people and things and ideas that are worth it.