“The Piemaker had come to understand home did not mean four walls and a door you never walk out of. Home was a feeling of where you belong.”
– Pushing Daisies
I moved back to California in December of 1999 with every intention of starting the journey I am on now. I left Arizona in the middle of my last year of high school. I was moving back to do the rest of the year on independent study and live with my aunt. I had the contact information of one of the agencies that is helping me now. I was told that if I called them, they would help me with whatever I needed, which most importantly meant finding me my own apartment after I graduated. I thought it sounded amazing. I thought it was going to be easy. Everyone made it sound easy enough. I was just a kid then. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Life decided I needed to do some more living first, even though I had lived what felt like five lifetimes by the time I was eighteen. I came back here and worked my ass off in school — actually finding out I was behind — I somehow managed to do an entire year and a half of school in ONE semester. I had never worked harder than I did that semester. I didn’t want what I had gone through to keep me from graduating when the rest of my friends did, even if I wasn’t with them anymore. After I worked so hard, my aunt kicked me out of her house for “disrupting her lifestyle.” I moved in with my grandparents, they would always do anything to help me. I called the agency and got a social worker. The one I was given was actually kind of harsh and verbally abusive. Things she said to me, hurt me to a point that one day my Papa just asked her not to come back. She didn’t. My mother moved in with us shortly after and all went to hell as things tended to do when my mother was on whatever drug of the moment. While I still had the support of my grandparents, I didn’t have the RIGHT supports. For seven years I had no physical friends whatsoever. My grandparents both passed away. I didn’t know how to deal and my mother completely lost her mind. I bounced between aunt’s houses like foster homes, no stability whatsoever. I had a heart attack. It was all dark. Things started to turn around when friends I made online made me meet them in person. Scared to death because I didn’t know how to be around people anymore, I did it anyway.
One moment can change your whole life and that one changed mine. I began to build the right kind of support. I began building the family I never had, always wanted and like my little sister likes to say, was always waiting for me. It was like life was finally starting over. It’s interesting the longer you’re alive, how frequently life “restarts.” I guess you could call them new chapters. The thing about this chapter and these people is, while they were here to support me, they did it in a way that was new to me. There has always been someone here to help when I need it, but they’ve showed me how to navigate things on my own, that I have the strength to fight through to the other side. I moved in with friends, that didn’t work out. I had a possible cancer scare. I was basically treated daily like an animal. Even with the right support it was sometimes dark and ugly. There were a couple of catalytic events that pushed me completely over the edge, where I realized I either had to learn how to deal with my life in a different way or I was going to die. I didn’t fight my entire life and build the things I did just to give up, so something had to be done. One kind statement from a stranger and one empowering song changed everything. Again.
I called that agency back. I got a new social worker, my third at this point in the journey. In just ten months she found me an apartment. Two months later, I signed the lease. Nine months after that, I was allowed to completely move in. In that nine month waiting period, I’d go back and forth from the apartment and my mother’s house. I didn’t let the delay stop me from having Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas there. My first big holidays, where I learned that living alone on holidays is actually the most lonely and worst feeling ever. I had a caregiver who was such a nightmare and stressed me out so badly, I’d have anxiety attacks nightly, her actions and past escalating to situations I never saw coming. I had to learn to fire someone. Like I said, life apparently needed me to test-drive real, adulthood-sized hurdles, stresses and new traumas before I could come “home” for good.
We are now entering April. Everything in my apartment has been modified to my needs. I’ve taken a much needed vacation to see my East Coast family. I’ve renewed my lease for year two. I’ve hired someone new – her name is Bianca – she’s from Brazil, loves Once Upon a Time and she used to work at Disney World. Those things aside, she’s excellent at helping with whatever I need. We laugh all day long and lose track of time. She is perfect. She helped me unpack the boxes that have been sitting in my bedroom closet for almost a year. I took her to IKEA and we’ve spent our days since decorating and making this place feel like home, like someone actually lives here.
Home. I’m home. I did it. Nobody can take this away from me now. It’s mine. When I got to the point where I was REALLY ready to take my life back, my Susan told me that I was addicted to my story, that I needed to kiss it goodbye and move forward because the addiction didn’t serve me. Maybe I was, because that’s just what I’ve known. So I guess this my public farewell to that story, a brief letter to my past:
Dear Past Kimmie:
Thank you for teaching me what you have, but we have to break-up now. You will always be a part of me. I will think back on your struggles with gratitude because you made me strong. Thank you for giving me both human beings who taught me what not to be, while also giving me human beings who guided me to show me “how big [my] brave is.” My next act of bravery is to move forward without fear of the future. We are over. I am just beginning. Now be gone – someone has dropped a house on you.
Yours, Present Kimmie
On I go and on I grow. All is well.