“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
― Abraham Lincoln
“Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.”
― Dante Alighieri, Inferno
Today, some people where talking about times that they felt led to do things that might not have been within their comfort zones. I think that my entire life has been like that… at least the past nine years.
I was comfortable in Oklahoma City. I moved because I wanted to prove that I could make it on my own and I was failing, as privately as I could, out of sight. Making it on my own included being left alone with children, a small apartment to unpack, no phone, and no car, when my water broke early, with my third son; my ex (boyfriend, at the time) was getting high. I waited tables, in bad breakfast restaurants, overnight, and was often drunk people’s verbal punching bag. Sometimes, I only made enough to buy a pack of diapers… it really was not the best part of town. I was robbed at gunpoint… twice and in the middle of two gangs drawing guns on each other, after I moved to a different part of town. I worked at Denny’s through my last pregnancy; many times, until I could not stand. I could not count on money, from my ex’s end. My water broke at just a little over 26 weeks, after I had worked crazy shifts. I could not get hold of my ex and I drove myself to the hospital. In the hospital, they thought that I was medically stable and nurses left my room after I called twice; I knew that something was wrong and called again and said, “somebody has to check me.” Sure enough, I was not in active labor, but Alex had a leg through, and I had to have an emergency C-section. He was 2.2 lbs. and I was a wreck. My family had my kids/ so that my ex could work/ and he did not go to work because he was stressed. I was calling my job, finding out when I could go back, before I left the hospital; Alex stayed in the NICU, for ten weeks, and I had to go back to work 12 days, after my C-section, to make rent. My incision became infected, but I had to keep packing it and going to work so that I would have money to drive to the hospital. I served pancakes to people who looked down on me because of my job and gripped about the fact that they had to tip, while I was only standing because I could not sit and be able to get up again. It was about that time that I decided that I could not stay in that position forever and really live. It might have been the most selfish thing that I have ever done but I called it quits with the children’s father and he kicked me out of the apartment… but I was allowed back in to “babysit”, after I had worked all night. My mom gave me one chance to say that I wanted her to pick me and the kids up. I said, “no” and hung up the phone. I immediately knew that I had chosen wrong and called back. My children and I stayed in one room at my mom’s house, for a little while, and I was faced with facing everything that I had left to prove that I could make it on my own. I was only 23.
My mom suggested that I go to college. I was terrified. As someone who is probably somewhere on the spectrum, myself, I was always very smart, but the social parts of school were terrible, and I always had to fight to keep my head above water. One year, I was in the yearbook for “Biggest Airhead”… I was not dumb, I was just awkward, and had trouble trying to figure out what to say. I always tried to be nice and it usually got the best of me. I was fired from one job at a Mexican restaurant, for being a lesbian… I actually just did not want a girl who asked me out to feel embarrassed, so I accepted and planned on explaining that I was flattered but straight, away from the other people that were in the room. It was a set up (this was 2002 and pre-social media). I even legitimately failed Algebra. I am also dyslexic and directions mean nothing to me, marching band was a nightmare, and I would do things like get to intersections and not be clear about the lane I would be turning into. Going back to school sounded like a terrible idea but I felt this push to try anyway and it was just a “Jesus take the wheel” moment. I got involved with a group that helps “at risk” students and they helped me fit in and with tutoring. I just needed a little push and I passed and tutored college algebra, honors comps, chemistry, and anatomy and physiology. I graduated with my A.S. in pre-nursing and was excited to find a program so that I could get in and out. I got lost at Oklahoma State University trying to find another college’s nursing program (they shared a campus).
I asked for directions and this lady pulled me in and asked me if I had considered speech pathology. “Umm, no, I am Captain Awkward,” but I listened to her and did some reading while I was in the building. In the parking lot, I called my mom because I felt like I needed to go into this other field; I explained that the classes were night classes and I would need help with the kids and that it would take me longer to complete my education. I have no idea why she agreed but she did. I graduated with my B.S. in communication science and disorders, in 2013.
I had great grades but not a lot of anything else and I had trouble getting in to graduate school. I worked as an autism paraprofessional, and got married, and kind of wondered if I was wrong in what I thought I was supposed to be doing. I applied around to graduate schools and, on a whim, applied to Southeastern Louisiana University; there was no way I could really go, I just wanted to say I was accepted, I think. Some schools were trialing distance programs, I kind of hoped that they would be on that wagon. I really loved my job with Tulsa Public Schools and I really loved the kids; that is what I wrote about in my essay for Southeastern.
One day, I got a letter from Louisiana and I had made it in to graduate school. It was bittersweet and I threw it away. I did not have a way to go all the way to the Gulf. My husband had just began to make better money at work and the kids were established here. My husband took my letter and was happy for me. I did not know what for and he told me that I should go and that we would work it out. It was a very sad time; I left my job, my home, my husband, my kids, and everything that was familiar. I cried leaving and I almost turned around several times, on that ten hour drive. I asked God several times if I could just go back and keep that acceptance letter in the trash. After I made it to school, I knew that I was supposed to be there and I gave it my all, because I should not give anything less, if so many people sacrificed to make a way for me to go. I counted weeks until I could see my husband and kids again and lived for those ten hour, 600 mile trips home. Sometimes, I made multiple trips per month and listened to recordings of my classes and notes. I learned to be more patient and that I was never more than half a day away from home.
On my way back to my last semester, I got caught up in the awful floods in Baton Rouge. I was moving back with all of my belongings and computers… with everything that I had done in my classes because it was my comprehensive exam semester. I also had my two cats. As my car filled up with water, I went for my cats who were in a dog crate, in the back of my car. Strangers helped save my cats but I was in a shelter, soaking wet, no shoes, no way to contact my family, no car, and a lot of hurt pride. As I walked on rocks, in my bare feet, I felt like God was telling me that I was going to be fine and I laughed at the notion. My husband and my grandfather were there by morning and we stayed at my program director’s house. She said that I should stay and finish and I thought that she was crazy too but I entertained the idea. People emailed me their class notes and I decided that I would stay and try. My husband and grandfather dove into my car and found my clothes and I washed them at another professors house. I saved less than a third of my clothes but my friends came together and really helped me get the things that I would need. I worked really hard and I passed my comprehensive exams and my children and family were there when I graduated.
I had some difficulty finding work when I made it home. I came across this autism clinic and they were not even advertising that they were hiring. They offered the lowest salary that I have ever head of someone in my profession getting, for one year, and then a better sounding figure. That it where I am at and I am kind of sure that I am where I am supposed to be. I hope that it is; I really like my job. I have no idea how I am going to pay for this surgery, coming up, and Christmas, and my student loans are getting ready to hit, but I have been getting extra hours. Luis is doing well, after his nose surgery, and almost 80%.
I still wonder if I will crash. If everything was a big mistake and I misread where I was supposed to be. I have only blindly followed by faith, understanding that nothing is guaranteed, or even deserved. Everything has worked out for good, so far, though. I was listening to “Hallelujah,” by Leonard Cohen, covered by Jeff Buckly, and I began to worry; this guy (Jeff) worked hard and made this great album, with songs that many people don’t even know that they know, today, and he died. One album. It is really frustrating to have to deal with multiple biopsies and not knowing, in general, if I will wake up from surgery without a uterus (best scenario) or to be told that I have cancer and will need further treatment. I feel like I have had to do everything that I have done to get to where I am supposed to be and I am here… I never had a chance to become comfortable, because I went to the doctor, the month that I made it home for good. I have a husband that loves me and who takes care of me, I am happy. I have great kids that are growing up, closure with my past, a good job doing something that I love, and future abilities to do things like get a house in a better area. and to take my kids on a first, real, vacation. I worry about that “one album”. “Jesus take the wheel.”
Back to Leonard’s Version (last two verses):
You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken hallelujah
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah