In the Beginning...Genesis Part 2
When I was born into the world, I stopped breathing. They took me away from my mom and resuscitated me, starting a lifetime of attachment issues. In the 3rd grade, everything changed when I suddenly wasn’t accepted. I was lost in the world with school bullies, a hurtful older brother, unsupportive teachers, and an emotionally abusive family. My mother was more athletic than what was popular to young girls. I never got to dress up or have parties that I wanted. Friends thought belittling me or failing to invite me to events was acceptable.
I no longer felt nurtured or protected.
In the 80s and 90s, Adverse Childhood Experiences and Toxic Stress were not really understood. So when I was about 8 years old, it was inconceivable that I suddenly couldn’t walk. My body had high levels of inflammation that paralyzed my legs for an entire week. I left Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital after barely any treatment and returned back to school with a “one day it might come back” warning to my parents. (They never told me.)
The Start of I Go Wherever the Hell I Want
I hid in bathrooms at school and home crying in pain until middle school when I thought hiding at the gym would be better. I quit trying to sing or play instruments. Then I ended up back at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital for an eating disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Not Otherwise Specified is not a helpful label for someone on the outside. For the third time before the age of 15, I nearly died. This time, I was an angsty teenager pushing the age limit for a children’s hospital. One day a nurse blocked my path, and I yelled I'm going wherever the hell I want. With my IV pole, I scooted on towards a dismal craft room. I sat there uncomfortably while struggling country music artists completed their ill placed holiday charity project. It was also Thanksgiving- the most uncomfortable holiday for family drama and food issues.
When I got out, I had to return to high school with a feeding tube. This was during the days of Razor flip phones (thank God for no social media) and long before moms on Etsy started illegally selling bags for their "tubie" babies.
I was banned from going to the YMCA. My parents hovered and yelled at me. I danced around awkward stares and conversation at school. Then I traded places with my paternal grandmother who passed away from cancer. (The last time she visited I was in the hospital.) Suddenly, I learned about heaven and death in ways no 14 year old wants.
The Art of Being Cut
Then I decided on a floral design class because "it looked easy". I later appreciated the irony of being tasked to create "so much beauty" from something that's been cut and is basically a symbol of sexuality and death.
My teacher let me stay late after school “to study” which meant I had an excuse to avoid home. I joined nearly every club.
In theatre, I learned that I was funny, good at improv, but never good enough to star in anything. Musicals absolutely not. I was also relegated to friend or I like you like a sister.
All excellent ways to destroy one’s fledgling self confidence.
My teachers took all of this as an opportunity for the kind of talent that grants teachers copious bragging rights by only slightly manipulating youth. Then I was given to other teachers for their competitions. I was featured at the Nashville Lawn and Garden Show and got my first professional job in Belle Meade at 17.
I learned some dark things about the entertainment industry and addiction.
However, I left Nashville for rural Mississippi, proudly as one of five seniors out of 314 to leave the state. I had scholarships and in-state tuition to boot. Perfectionism and over achievement was my go-to coping mechanism.
I learned that if you excel on the surface, you can do pretty much whatever on the inside.
There Better Be A Reason
Except loneliness and depression crept in with vengeance. Whereas I grew up in a sheltered suburb, Mississippi was a culture shock putting me in the middle of racism and social classism. (I was not on the winning side of either.) My attempts at working for the Dept of Housing & Res Life failed due to hostile residents who DID NOT want my optimistic welcomes or well planned activities.
Completely alone, I left to an apartment on the opposite side of town. One day, I sent an embarrassing letter to a guy friend and got trapped in a parking lot during a Mississippi rainstorm that would make even Biblical Noah nervous. (We're still friends over 12 years later and that letter still exists. I have no idea what I said in it.) I pulled out a To-Go menu from a hometown restaurant and wrote a plea to God. The next morning I retrieved my belongings and ended up at a railroad. I only got an hour away before breaking down. I slid down a hill and No Trespassing sign. I yelled God if you are real, prove it. I’m done. If I’m meant to suffer, THERE BETTER BE A REASON.
In case you have somehow never been in this situation, let me say that it’s never a good idea to challenge God. But it does get some interesting shit to happen.
At 22 yrs, I was in Miami on an impressive paid internship that failed to live up to expectations. Already I was in college a year longer than I planned due to adding extra classes in marketing. Suddenly, my perfectionism meant I was too impressive to be gainfully employed and content. I also decided that I would not marry the guy I dated through most of college. (His disappointment didn’t last that long because he cheated on me in the final year and married quickly afterwards. Then she was singing in the church he made me leave when we dated.)
Sandwiched between the Ritz Carlton and Lowes Vanderbilt Hotels, I received word that my mentors passed away. I couldn’t make it back for the funerals. I tried to flee to San Diego for a sunflower farm. God, however, decided to boomerang me back to the hometown I worked so hard to leave. Oh and without a degree or any job prospects. (Thanks God.) Some months later, I did receive my BS in Horticulture/Floral Design/Marketing.
Depression is being stuck in a haunted house where the walls suddenly change on you and you don't know where you are anymore
We are now to 2012-2013. I remained unemployed for most of the year until I finally landed some part time retail jobs. My detour resulted in sales and marketing for fashion apparel and accessories. I worked for a few large brands, earned a Master’s degree, and returned to music. Weirdly, I appeared in various film projects and on guest vocals. I defeated my childhood enemies with all the cool concerts and trips around the world. I volunteered for nonprofits and tried to make it in the corporate world as a project manager.
What I couldn't shake however was a desire to do something meaningful in the world. When you go through life thinking death would be more merciful, the 9-5 BS just doesn't have the same weight to it.
(So you tend to roll a Razor scooter down the hallway glaring in defiance of HR and realize your time is more valuable.)
Since I wasn't making a fair wage as a highly educated (and chronically ill) woman, I braved my own trail. We've existed for SEVEN years and are just beginning to have a voice.
I never set out to own a company or a nonprofit, but I knew what feeling invisible and broken felt like.
Gypsy's Graveyard, the store, and Gypsy's Ghost, the nonprofit, were the love letters to myself and the lonely around me. It was carving out a place to belong that did not exist when I needed it.
There are good days and bad days, but now I have a greater desire to take up space in the world. I have gratitude for unanswered prayers and wisdom from valleys. I let perfectionism go and embrace the unknown.
God isn't interested in just giving you a job. He's in the business of miracles. Be careful of what you wish for.
"Not all who wander are lost." Some wander to find the lost.
Florist + Missionary of Merch
Copywriter + Product Designer + Curator
Stickler for UX + Customer Service
Mental Health Advocate + "Spoonie"
Award Winning Crybaby