I choose to move forward and draw strength from my hard past.
I have been thinking a lot lately about where I came from verses how I am today. My first thought would be that I am so much better off now, but the second thought would have to be; I am who I am today because of what I went through.
I am originally from Sothern California. I have lived in Lake LA in the Antelope Valley near Palmdale and Lancaster most of my childhood. I have lived in Paso Robles, Atascadero, and Pismo Beach (Cities along the coast and up the mountain from the Pacific Ocean.) Some places were nice and I have met many wonderful friends, but my home life was never as “Stable” as I made it out to be. I never indirectly lied about an event in my past, but I have been ashamed of certain events and omitted the truth.
When I was 10-years-old my father broke his neck at work after a co-worker neglected to put up indicators that the floor was wet. Then when I was 11 turning 12, my mother underwent a gastric bypass surgery and never fully recovered. She became addicted to pain medication and from lack of nutrition turned to drinking and an abuse of prescription drugs. That abuse exasperated her undiagnosed bipolar disorder and eventually turned into schizophrenic episodes. Ultimately, my Sister Tara and I became the parents to our younger sister Rebecca. Our brother was already living on his own and trying to make a name for himself. When I was 17 the episodes were very bad. I kept a bag packed because running away was my only option to escape the madhouse. We as a family kept our dysfunctional secret. Relatives were made aware of the situation but they did not know the whole truth.
My father would have to sleep at the back door and I would take shifts in sleeping near the front in order to prevent her from wandering the streets or committing suicide (Which she attempted regularly). All the while, my sisters and I still needed to attend school. (I had taken the CHSPE and graduated at the age of 16 and was on my way to college.) I couldn’t afford college far from home. California has a program called the Board of Governors Grant or B.O.G.G. which means that California residents did not have to pay tuition to go to community college.
I worked on weekends and all summer, I rode the bus and biked 5 miles to get to my classes. There I took film classes and General Ed. I wanted to go into respiratory therapy, but I eventually turned my sights on Emergency Medical Technician. The stress of home life and the stress of work cause me to lose focus. I had to withdraw from the EMT program due to insufficient grades. I didn’t have a computer or a smartphone, so I didn’t get the email. I walked into class only for the teacher to pull me aside to tell me that I was no longer in the class. She stated that I could try again next semester. I left with dignity, but when I was out of site, I cried more than I have ever cried. I also had just gotten into a fight with my father hours before class because I told him that I wanted to better myself and go to school; that I wasn’t going to stay home and babysit my mother or feed my younger sister. Not only did I feel selfish, I also felt like a failure.
I called up a friend (Janice) and asked if I could spend the night at her house. I had only known her for a few months, but she was very accommodating. Janice pampered me. She dyed my gray hairs (which I have had since I was 16). She took me out to dinner and we had a blast. She also let me stay at her house for over a week. She lifted my spirits and I was willing to try again. I finished the semester and the next; I took on the EMT program again. This time I passed with a 99.9%. BOOYAH!
So there I was. Making money and being guilt-tripped into giving it to my parents to feed the family (or rather the addiction). I wanted to save and get the hell out of dodge. We were living in a broken down cockroach infested trailer. I even had to go to the hospital because one was lodged in my eardrum (a story for another time, or perhaps a story best forgotten.) My sisters were living with church members because they couldn’t be provided for. I felt like nothing was holding me back since I didn’t have to take care of them. Then my 20th birthday came around.
I am a proud member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was born in the church but became less active due to my parent illnesses. However, I still believed in God and prayed, no . . . I begged him to help me. I had been attending church in San Luis Obispo. A friend, Shayla, would pick me up and drag me there. It really was the best thing she could have done for me. The next day there was an activity, a bonfire at the beach. I was hanging out with friends and they asked me what I wanted to do for my 21st B-day. I don’t drink, so I said. Skydiving. Then I jokingly added, or go on a Mission and be a Missionary.
That got me thinking about a lot of things. Did I have a testimony of the gospel, or was this just a lingering up bringing my parents taught me? Do I really believe? I decided to pray and study the gospel and eventually (After a year of daily study) I decided to serve a mission. (I was also living with a roommate at the time.)
The process is longish. Back then, a woman had to 21 years old and a man had to be 19 to go on a mission. The recently changed that to women 19, and men 18. Long story short. Members must try to provide as much self-support as they can to serve. An average mission cost $10,000 for an 18-24 month mission. I had worked my butt off and saved. Then after all that hard work and trust, my roommate stole all my money. There was a lengthy battle and the bank cameras were faulty (which my roommate knew) so I didn’t receive any compensation. Once again, I moved in my parents who were living in a motel room. I was more depressed than ever. Then there was a miracle.
My bishop (Bishop Goforth . . . not kidding, awesome name) had enough funds and supported my mission trip. I was then assigned to labor in the Phnom Phen Cambodia Mission for the period of 18 months. Speaking Khmer (Ka-m-eye). If you don’t know what that looks like, here is “I am a missionary” in the language:
Missionaries often live with and teach in pairs, sometimes in threes. I was in four tri-companionships. After a 3 month training period in the Provo Utah Missionary Training Center (MTC) I left with 2 other sisters (girls) missionaries and 3 elders (men) on a 30-hour flight to Cambodia.
We were exhausted and once we landed, we had skipped an entire day and it was morning. We then had a tour of the local market. We were asked to try to say hello and give a flyer out to a class that the church taught English. We had to do this speaking in their (super foreign) language because most of them had no formal English training thanks to the Khmer Rouge (Cambodia Genocide). After that, we returned to the missionary home (main office) and met our new companions. Sister Kan was a nightmare. She started out nice, but I had a sick feeling in my gut and I should have known better than to ignore it. God and his teaching might be perfect but people are far from it.
The language barrier was the downfall of our relationship. I was so homesick and my family did not email or write to me until 6 months after I was in the country (by then I was almost fluent in Khmer). Then after 4 months with my mentally abusive companion, I contracted an illness. I eventually had other companions and in whole, the mission was the best thing that I have ever done. However, I only served 10 months due to a strange illness that was not diagnosed. I lost 15lbs in less than a week. I was lethargic and dehydrated. My hair was falling out, my joints and muscles hurt, and I was sent home. Mind you, I could not go live in a motel while being ill, so a family from the church let me live with them.
I was diagnosed with Campylobacter back in the States. It is a bacteria that infects the GI tract and is usually easily treated and recoverable. I, however, housed the bacteria for so long that my body changed. I can no longer eat dairy or gluten (I’m allergic to almonds, so no substitutes. . . I do drink rice and soymilk now), My adrenal glands now function at a lower rate making me tired among other things. I have a bad immune system. My joints and tendons are really messed up and I have developed chronic tendonitis. Then I was expected to go to work 4 months after being home in order to have a place to live.
I eventually renewed my EMT license and moved out to West Virginia to live with a friend. We then got retail jobs and an apartment. I was hired by Mon Health Systems as an EMT. I met my husband. My health improved. My friend, through a series of unfortunate events, no longer was my friend. I finished my first book in The Vincent Series. My husband and I branched off into PA and we are doing well. I am trying to go back to school for SPFX makeup and Animatronic Puppetry. Life is good. Yes, I still get stressed out over bills and other daily struggles, but I am happy. I would never want to relive my trials, but I note them and realized that they are the reason why I am the way I am.
I am a fighter. I am a proud and faithful wife. I love my God. I give back whenever possible. I secretly hope to be wealthy enough to help others in need. I love writing. I love Halloween (It’s a lifestyle, not a holiday), and I love my friends and family. I have had a hard life, but it is my life. It is my story. The family is doing a lot better now. My father is great and my mother had received the help she needed. Most of us are married and have kids. We all survived our rough past.
We choose how to define ourselves. Make that choice to progress and better yourself. Better your community. Uplift your neighbor. Make a new friend(s). . . (K.T. Daxon). Live life to the fullest. Make mistakes, and then try not to make them again. Be the inspiration your younger self-needed and inspire others. We are all human from the same planet (I hope, but friendly aliens are welcome too). Share Inspiration, not Hatred. Be the best you, you can be, and as always. . . Keep Writing!