|My first college ID photo.|
When I was kid, I had a hard time sleeping. I was always scared because of the Vietnam War being broadcast every night during the news, and the fact that in the middle of the night when everyone else was asleep, I would hear weird noises that I was sure had evil intentions. My mom was still alive back then and she would let me listen to the radio all night, to drown out the scary sounds. It usually helped, but one time I woke up in the middle of the night and heard the song, "They're Coming to Take Me Away" was on. It scared the crap out of me and I ran down the hall to sleep in my mother's bed with her. Unfortunately, my sister was already in my place and I set my pillow on the cold, tile, floor next to my mom's side of the bed to sleep.
After my mom died, we moved in with my abusive aunt and uncle. I was miserable for the 8 years I had to live with them and I never thought I'd get away. I had elaborate fantasies of being saved by someone or about running away somewhere, where I wasn't constantly being threatened or ridiculed or or called names or being forced to cook and clean with any time I had away from school.
I turned 18 in July, about a month before I would leave for college. My brother told me to stay with my aunt and uncle for that month. "What's one more month going to harm?" he asked. He was probably right. It would be hard to find an apartment for a month and my aunt and uncle didn't really let me work outside of their home, except for a week or two in the Summer to detassle corn, so I didn't have much money. Plus, my brother thought maybe if I stayed that month, my aunt and uncle might give me some of their old towels or sheets for my dorm room. So, I stayed.
By the day I left for school, I thought I might die. I didn't think I would finally be allowed to be free without something bad happening to stop it. My aunt and uncle and cousins dropped me off at college and it turned out that my roommate wasn't coming that first night, so I had the room to myself. I thought I would be thrilled the second they took-off, but I wasn't. I hadn't been allowed to just relax without worrying they would come downstairs and find me and start yelling at me for being lazy or threatening me if I didn't get up and clean or cook. I had no idea what to do with myself. I could do whatever I wanted and it was almost paralyzing. I had no idea what I liked anymore. What things made me happy or comfortable.
I went to bed that night and couldn't sleep. I had no idea what to expect from my life after that day. As I tossed and turned, I could hear someone was playing David Bowie's "Changes One" album. It brought me back to my childhood, when my mom was still alive. I was scared of the unknown, afraid of the dark still and I was a mess, but I thought I might finally be okay. I just had to keep reminding myself of who I was and what I liked to do when I was a kid, before my mom died, and I was free to make my own choices. I finally fell asleep, lulled by David Bowie's voice. The next morning I would start figuring out who the hell I was. It would take years...