When I was 10 years old we moved from a mansion in Connecticut to a tent in Florida. I was uprooted from family and friends and seasons and all things familiar, and I never felt safe again. I was angry and terrified.
My mother turned into someone I didn’t know. She would come home from a hard day’s work at the only job she could find, as a cashier in a grocery store, and she would scream at me from her exhaustion and anxiety. I learned to hide in the woods for an hour or two, shaking and crying, until she had a chance to wind down.
I was also plopped down in the middle of a public school where I was the minority in the extreme and was beaten up on a pretty much daily basis. The education was so far behind what I was used to that it was two whole years before I learned anything new and had to actually open a text book. My mother would ask me why I didn’t have any homework and I’d say I did it right on the spot. I made straight A’s. I practically phoned it in.
The only thing I could be sure would never be taken away from me was my intelligence. I clung to that. I still do. And it probably makes me come off as pompous and arrogant a lot of the time. It’s purely a defense mechanism, though. I’m a mess inside.
It’s a shame, too, because that habit, early on, closed me off from many joyful experiences. There are some things about Southern culture that are delightful. While I was busy making fun of the Southern accent, “I’m fixin’ to go to the sto’.” I was missing out on the food, the slower pace, the weather, the beaches, the warmth of the people. Millions of people spend fortunes to vacation in Florida, and I wanted nothing more than to go home. Maybe that’s when my love of travel was born. I was convinced that life would be better just about anywhere else.
I hope that with age and the passage of time I’ve become more open to the experiences life has thrown at me, even if they appear unwelcome on the surface. Because you just never know when you’ll pull a gem out of the detritus of life, but you can only do that if you’re willing to look about you.