Where I’m coming from?
Childhood involved a rich, complicated, quasi-nomadic family life, and a lot of Mormonism, and incest, neglect, and abuse. It also included some pretty substantial psychological abuse from religious leaders. I suspect that the work of coming to terms with all of it will never be finished, quite. That isn’t a commitment to wallowing, just the nature of the beast.
Part of the reason it will always be a part of my life is this: I sometimes love and always care about my family. I try to be as close to them as I can while staying healthy. They do their best to take care of me too. We try so hard–even though sometimes it feels like we’re pretty bad at it.
I spent my early 20s trying to cope with the consequences of my upbringing without addressing the roots directly. With the generous support of family members who could see that I was in pain and didn’t know how to get out, I traveled and spent a couple of years studying dance full time. I started volunteering intensively with a variety of programs, including as a CASA.
I had intimate partners who routinely bullied, coerced sex, and/or threatened violence. I watched children being abused by state and private institutions and was powerless to help them. Reaching for financial independence, I got several part time jobs (some in the child welfare system), and worked 50+ hours per week while living in a camping trailer to try to save money to finish college.
I became politically radical when the only person who seemed to have insight into my world was a would-be Marxist revolutionary. He taught me how to use an assault rifle.
When I was 24, the city evicted me from my camping trailer. My parents–deeply interested in helping me find feet in the world–helped me buy a house. By renting out rooms and working several jobs, I almost made ends meet.
I tried to volunteer on the rape crisis team in the county where I lived. I couldn’t–too much baggage–but they did send me to one of the two clinics in my area that charged on a sliding scale based on income. Getting therapy that worked was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
After I worked hard with a series of intern psychologists, that clinic broke their rules and assigned me to a clinician I never could have afforded, an extremely experienced therapist with special expertise in virtually all of my issues. After nearly a year with her, I had a breakthrough and changed everything about my life.
At 26, I applied to the liberal arts college I’d wanted to attend when I was 17. A year later, I had work that I loved, the best friends in the world, and a GPA that allowed me to reasonably fantasize about elite graduate schools. Now I’m facing the sort of future that’s seemed absurd to dream about for most of the past decade. If this were a feel-good movie, maybe it would end there, but in real life you keep working.
So this is my life: how do I get from here (liberal arts student, passionate activist, person of disconcerting past with various resultant quirks to work around) to there? (documentary film maker, financially solvent, agent of social change, great parent, rooted in lasting community). . . ?
Optimism and kindness are important. I have no idea how this is going to pan out, but when I’m being sensible, I admit the possibilities are both frightening and exciting. 🙂