Under-Over Achiever

(From my paper blog, which is far less polished than what I’m used to putting forth.)

End of November is coming up.

Been working on/borderline struggling on processing three decades’ worth of experiences and emotions that are swimming around in my head. Calgary is now said and done, and I’m spending most of my mental energy trying to cope with how disparate my memories are, especially in comparison to my expectations I had of the place. It was where I grew, where I saw my wretched pettiness and insecurity truly rear its ugly head, the place where I took my first and last stand against abusive situations. Most importantly, it’s where I learned to learn.

Calgary was the city where I expected to both flourish and self-destruct. I recall babbling of my desire to dive headfirst into college life, of drinking and wanton lesbian sex. Gimme a break, I was sixteen.

In this city, I expected to be free to be me, or at least in the way my scrambled teenaged brain expected me to be. Something simple, something beautiful, that would inevitably burn bright and burn out. Calgary was were I wanted to find out what I truly wanted, without the emotional entanglements of an oppressive and abusive family and social environment. Before I left, I physically felt suffocated by all the trauma and restrictions on my self-expression, and I yearned for the day I could truly take flight, without the pebbles to boulders of bullshit others tied on me. But like some sort of dysfunctional security blanket, I physically carted my abusers and baggage to in the U-Haul I rented.

I feel a great deal of disappointment in my delay and inability to shake those monkeys off of my back. They damaged me and I feel like so much of my energy was spent trying to survive and trying to convince myself that this cloud of depression and abuse was perfectly normal. I suppose because for a very long time, it was my normal.

Part of me is terrified that perhaps I couldn’t have been much better if left to my own devices.

So much blame is placed on my choices in partners and life choices, yet there’s this underlying terror that perhaps this is the best I could do, ever. But maybe it was, and maybe that was enough. If I reframe it, I did all sorts of crazy-cool-courageous shit.

I attended and did well in a vicious design program that weeded out 1/3 of the students who applied, worked from 7am to 11pm in both schoolwork, freelance and part-time work (considered impossible to do in the program,) grew immensely as an artist by honing my technical drawing skills, learned the painful reality of time and financial management, quit my self harming (cutting, drinking, sleep deprivation,) and anoretic coping mechanisms, came out as queer, left two abusive relationships and finally put an end to my being a victim of the cycle of violence by beginning the journey in processing the trauma of my past.

All of this before I was 23 years of age.

Oh, and I graduated from my design program and began working full-time in what was the first step in the rest of my life, as a professional creator.

That’s a lot. That’s a lot for anyone, at any age, let alone a kid who had a very screwed up idea as to what she was worth, and still kept her wild dreams of being something great.

My still-active neuroticism makes me paranoid that perhaps I’ve peaked. Maybe I have lost those hard-won lesson that I accrued from my life in Trail and Calgary.

Wisdom and age has taught me that when that voice crops up, all I need to say is “Shut the hell up, you’re killing it.”

Institutionalized Minimization

“We’re sorry, but your request for financial aid in regards to your sexual abuse case has been rejected. Unfortunately, you do not meet the parameters of this program, as while what you endured may have been traumatic, it does not qualify as sexual abuse..”

Upon reading this letter, my insides froze, just Iike they used to when my ex would touch me. There were no words to describe how much the world stood still in that moment.

(more…)

Hello Mother, Hello Father, Here I am, at Camp Grenada.

Like any good Chinese girl, there’s a great deal of ambivalence about my relationship with my parents. They’ve given me everything, and have taken away nearly the same; there’s no way I could repay them for their sacrifice, but the damage they’ve left me, has also been immeasurable in its cost.

I just don’t know how to feel about them.

Honestly, it feels like I barely know them; as people, they’ve been this peripheral presence in my life most of the time, and when they were in full focus, those experiences were something I’d rather forget. As parents, they were a mixture of “trying their best” and “how did you screw this up so badly?”

I hated them, I loved them. I feared them, and never respected them as parents.

Yet when I look at them, I see myself in them.

I see my mother’s smile, my father’s humour, and both of their relentless tenacity. As I grow, I find myself more interested in learning about who they were before, in order to get an idea as to who they are now.

I want to paint in the rest of the portrait, of these two individuals who met, fell in love, raised a child and proceeded to screw her up by trying to do the Right Thing the whole time. However, with each pass of the brush, they become increasingly layered and considerably more difficult for me to hold in my mind. They weren’t always the neglectful, abusive tyrants of my past, and they were more than the adorably aggravating, harmless parents of my present.

Somewhere, sometime, they were hopeful young lovers, heads filled with dreams of a new life in Canada.

Somewhere, sometime, everything went wrong.

The reason why I am in so much pain, is that I feel like I was that something.