No. 22 – Testing…Testing

No. 22 – Testing…Testing

The day of my test was finally here. I felt like my future, my sanity, my well-being in general were all riding on one test. I had spent four long, hard years in college learning the skills necessary to be an effective teacher. But none of that mattered unless I passed this test. No pressure. Even though the likeliness of me finding a job at this point in the summer was nearly microscopic, I hoped that by passing I would be qualified to accept a position if something were to come available mid-year. Or maybe by filling in as a substitute who was certified, a principal would be more likely to offer me a job for the next school year. Regardless of how it would come about, I had to be certified, which meant I HAD to pass this test. Not to mention it was expensive, and I was not in a financial position to be throwing my money away.

I woke up before my alarm clock went off; a feat of nature for the anti-morning person that I am. I dressed quickly and headed down stairs to make myself presentable. In the words of Cassey, “you look good, you play good!” Or test well, in my case. So I applied some make-up, styled my hair and instantly felt a slight boost in confidence. I grabbed a breakfast bar from the kitchen pantry and headed out the door. I had a 45-minute drive to the testing center and wanted to get there early – alleviating any extra stress like running late, hitting traffic or getting lost. Even with a GPS in tow, I could still manage to get myself turned around.

I pulled into the designated parking garage 20 minutes before I needed to be present for check in. I briefly reviewed my study guide, touching on the objectives I wanted. After my quick refresh, I took the deepest breath my lungs could hold and let it out slowly. You got this,I assured myself. I gathered the few items I could bring with me, left my phone in the car and walked in to my destiny.

Two hours later, I exited the building and walked towards my car with a pit in my stomach. I was going to be sick. Each step further away from the testing facility sent a fresh wave of stomach pangs. I could hurl any second. Keep breathing, I instructed myself. Just make it to the car. I was going to burst. Into tears or with projectile. Either way it wasn’t going to be pretty. Finally, I spotted my car. I collapsed into the driver’s seat and buried my face in my palms. I dry heaved and dry cried simultaneously. A horrific blend of all my pent-up anxiety over this test. I could look forward to this torture for a whole week as I awaited my results.

Usually, I had an accurate gauge as to how I performed on tests, but this time I was clueless. One moment my natural test-taking confidence held the reigns and I was sure that I passed the test with ease. The next moment, my all familiar self-doubt creeped in and took control. Of course, you didn’t pass the test, Sarah. You’re never getting out of your parents’ house. This cyclical back and forth plagued my drive home. Stepping back into the palpable darkness didn’t help either. The presence of the house consumed my thoughts and poisoned any resolve I had left. I sunk into the couch and continued to sink into myself. I was a tiny speck in black hole that continued to suck me further and further downwards into the abyss.

The walls closed in on me, slowly, dragging out the painful reality that I might not get out this summer. I couldn’t take another year of being a disappointment. Another year of falling short of impossible expectations. Another year of wearing the façade that was killing me. The mask that left me feeling empty while still failing to please my parents. Chipping away at me each time I had to pry it off my face.

And what would come of my relationship? I couldn’t even begin down that road. The ONLY way we had survived this far was to take it one day at a time. Relishing the beautiful past. Trying to make the most of the present. And attempting not to zoom too far into the unpredictable future. At this point, we could make no plans, had no inkling of when we might see each other again, and my light at the end of the tunnel was blacked out.

I spent the rest of the day in a funk that I couldn’t shake. I didn’t want to be around anyone in the house, but my solidarity was only propelling my negative thought cycle. I decided after a shower and a brief conversation with Kendrae that it was best if I just called it a day and slept it off. In brilliant Sarah fashion, rather than relaxing my mind and falling asleep, I couldn’t shut it off. My mind was running rampant with question after question. I couldn’t quiet my racing thoughts and I lay awake for hours battling my incessant insecurities.

I woke up the next morning with a more positive outlook. Playing out all the ridiculously awful scenarios my tormented brain could concoct had done no good, and only made the situation worse. If I didn’t pass the test, I would figure something else out. I was nothing if not resourceful. If Plan A didn’t work out, there were an infinite amount of other options I could sort out later.

Sometime that afternoon as I was cleaning out my email inbox my heart caught in my throat. Was I reading that right?

Your score report for the following test…can now be viewed online.

I wasn’t expecting to get my test results back for another week. I instantly overwhelmed with dread. This could not be a good indication for passing. Results the next day? That must mean I completely bombed the test. A cold sweat covered the surface of my skin and my hands shook as I clicked on the link to see my score. Even after realizing that I was holding my breath, I still couldn’t let it out. The molasses slow internet in the middle of the country moved even slower than usual as my phone loaded the page.

The ringing in my ears grew louder by the millisecond. I rested my arms on my legs in attempt to steady the shaking. Now my entire body trembled with angst. This had to be the slowest page load time in the history of this internet.

The page finally finished loading and my eyes froze on the screen.

Oh, this was just the login page. A slight wave of relief washed over me as I typed in my credentials.

Then, even stronger than before, my intensity increased as I awaited another slow page load. This was it…

Seconds later, my screen illuminated. The page had loaded successfully.

As ready as I was to see the results, I didn’t know if I was ready to deal with the ramifications that would follow.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

I swallowed my fear and forced my eyes towards my phone screen. My eyes began at the top of the page and stopped. My results boiled down to one word: PASSED.

Tears streamed down my face releasing all the feelings of unworthiness that had coated over me the previous day. My breath deepened as my nerves relaxed. The end of my tunnel was blindingly bright. I took off in a full sprint towards the light.

 

No. 21 – My Best Bet

No. 21 – My Best Bet

Public school teachers started in mid-august, which meant the time was really ticking on my job hunt. I had begun the process of an alternative certification program to gain my credentials to teach. Which was all well and good, but the process was contingent upon my passing a content test. Once I passed the test, I would receive a probationary teaching certificate enabling me to teach in a public school. Without this certificate, no schools would even give my application a glance. So it felt pointless to apply for a job knowing that I didn’t stand a chance of getting it.

When I wasn’t working, sneaking off to the bathroom to send virtual love notes to my beloved, or contemplating an escape plan, I was studying. In my eyes, passing that Special Education content test was my golden ticket to get out of here! Ordinarily I was a natural test taker. I loved school, so I absorbed the classroom knowledge like a sponge and had no difficulty transferring it to a test. But this test, was different. It had been at least a year since I had taken my prepatory classes and I was under extreme stress from all angles. Not an ideal testing environment. I found it hard to concentrate. I was not retaining the information and the test questions did not center around common sense.

These tests are crafted with a perfect society in mind – unlimited resources, involved and supportive parents, students with an innate desire to learn and succeed, and formulated to be answered with the opposite nature of your initial response. So all my innate testing strategies went out the window. Answering with your gut – not effective. The pressure was on, and I felt one push away from cracking.

I was late in the game. The soonest I was able to sign up for my test was August 7th. The results of your test usually took about five days to receive. Teacher in-service training started mid-August. So I basically had no time. By the time I would get my test results back, schools would already be staffed for the year. If I waited until after passing my test to apply, it would be too late. But by applying early, and saying that I wasn’t certified, I was guaranteeing myself out of a job. I made a choice to bet on myself. I believed that if I willed myself to pass that content test, I would pass it. So I applied for Special Education teaching positions like a madwoman. I filled out the applications as if I had a certification under my belt. This way, by the time I hopefully got an interview, I would have already passed my test.

Now, my madwoman application spree was placed under some restrictions. Teaching in the Dallas area was my first choice, but in huge districts with no connections, this had proven to be extremely unsuccessful. I actually would have preferred to get rejection emails as opposed to no response at all. At least I would know my application was going somewhere. So I had to widen my scope of applications. If connections were the key to getting an interview, then applying at school districts near LeTourneau would be my best bet. LeTourneau holds a certain level of clout in East Texas, and would hopefully catapult my resume to the top of the deck.

But, this came with its own problem: I was forbidden to apply to any schools within an hour radius of the Longview area. My parents were firm on this stipulation. There was no discussing it, no loopholes around it – it was out of the question. I wasn’t dying to go back to Longview, but at this stage in the game, I couldn’t afford to limit myself to one geographic location. I applied to Big Sandy Elementary School, about 30 minutes outside of Longview.

To my utter surprise, I got called in for an interview! Finally, I was starting to see the light at the end of my tunnel of darkness. As excited as I was to have earned an interview, I was equally as nervous to break the news of where to my parents. Fearful that they would forbid me from even going. I mulled all day over the best way to tell them, and felt that my father would be the most likely to agree that I should go to the interview. After all, he was a business man and had made it exceptionally apparent that he was ready for me to get off his “payroll” and be out on my own. My gut instinct was right. My father expressed genuine excitement that I had gotten an interview, and understood that maybe being at a school near LeTourneau University would be in my best interest in securing a job. So it was settled, I had my first big girl job interview.

I woke up the next morning with a sense of purpose and a newfound determination. This was it – my chance to break free. Except, I wouldn’t even have to escape. I would have a legitimate reason to walk right out of the front door, no questions asked. Hopefully, with me out of the house and with three hours driving distance between us, the dust would settle between me and my parents. Time and distance would eventually reveal that this had all been blown way out of proportion. They would realize the error of their thinking and everything would work out in the end.

Flash forward to one week after my interview. I felt that it had gone well, but I really didn’t have much else to compare it to. The principal had been polite and informative of the position, but I had to tell her that I wasn’t certified yet. I assumed that she wouldn’t ask someone to drive three hours to an interview if they didn’t stand a chance of getting the job. After a full week had gone by and I hadn’t heard a response to my follow up email, I decided to give the principal a call.

I was beyond nervous. I practiced my phone script at least a dozen times in my bedroom. Focusing on breathing evenly so I would sound professional and calm. It wasn’t working so well. With each repetition my nerves only increased. My face was flush. My palms were sticky, even with my window AC unit set on 70 degrees at full blast. My breath was short and rapid. This was my only chance at leaving. We were in the last week of July, and if I didn’t get this job, I had no other options.

I walked over to the full-length mirror secured on my closet door. Placing both hands on the edges of the door, I leaned in and looked at myself. “You can do this, Sarah,” I reassured my reflection. “You can do this,” I repeated four more times. Each time with more vigor and belief in my message. I breathed out deeply before turning away from the mirror and sitting on the edge of my bed. I dialed the principal’s phone number and forced myself to breath out as it rang.

“Hello,” I was met with a professional greeting.

My heart started racing, this had to be a good sign that I reached her rather than her voicemail.

“Hello, Principal Varnado; this is Sarah. I was just giving you a follow up call to see if you had made any progress on selecting a candidate for the 3rd grade position?” I said all the words correctly, but I was speaking much quicker than I practiced. I couldn’t help it. This was a pivotal moment and my emotions were anything but calm.

“Hello Sarah. I’m glad you called. We have selected another candidate for the position; someone with more experience teaching 3rd grade,” she said so smoothly. Almost as if she had been the one rehearsing her line for the past half hour. “I appreciate your willingness to interview and wish you all the best. Buh-bye.”

And just like that my resolve was shattered. I couldn’t even bring myself to respond. I just sat there on the edge of my bed, phone still pressed against my ear in shock. And just like a well-rehearsed performance, the tears took their cue. An instant gush of heartbreak streamed down my face. I had received an extended sentence: one more year in captivity.

All summer, my thoughts were consumed with getting out of my parents’ house. I had played out a thousand different scenarios and explored many different options. But never once did the thought occur to me that I wouldn’t find a job. I believed that if I applied myself and sent out my resume to enough school districts, one would hire me.

Not in my worst nightmares did I ever consider having to stay for another year. My mind went wild with new scenarios. None of which ended well. The walls of my bedroom were closing in on me and I was swirling down into a pit of darkness. All my thoughts halted at the newest question in my head. What about Kendrae? How could we make this long-distance thing last under these conditions for an entire year? My mind reeled, searching for a glimmer of hope. Anywhere. Anything that would ease this fall. But I couldn’t concoct a happy ending. And then an even more concerning thought chilled me to my core.

What if…I never get out?

No. 20 – Wild Heart

No. 20 – Wild Heart

It hadn’t taken me long to settle back into my previous routine after coming back from Ohio. Nothing had changed during my trip. Except maybe my bank account, that had declined. But the severed relationships – were exactly as they were when I left – broken. I hadn’t gained any newfound perspective. I didn’t really enjoy myself either. All the time away had accomplished was to stress me out more.

I did receive my cell phone back from my parents. So at least I was able to communicate with the rest of the world. But I knew my parents were watching my account like a hawk. My good friend Chris and I had a phone conversation in the mid-afternoon because, well, no one knew why I dropped off the face of the earth for an entire month! A few hours later, I was brought into questioning.

“Who is this Houston number you talked to for 28 minutes today?” my mother sternly questioned.

They could see the number and the call duration, but they couldn’t see who the number belonged to. “That was Chris,” I responded flatly.

“Let me see your phone,” my father instructed, while holding open his hand.

I handed the phone over to him and could feel the warmth surfacing on my cheeks and forehead. They weren’t going to find anything on that phone. I refrained from texting about anything that could slightly be taken out of context, and decided all my communication on that phone would have to be via calls. I had sense enough to know that I could never communicate with or about Kendrae on that phone. Because it was under severe scrutiny and could be confiscated at a moment’s notice.

After about ten minutes of searching, my father finally found his way into my contact book and matched Chris’s phone number to the phone call from earlier that day. My cell phone was returned sans apology and I was dismissed from the room. I was irritated and anticipated that this would be added to the list of my new norms. But scrutinized conversation was better than none at all. And at least I knew how to work around it.

Jess, my best friend from college reached out to me later that evening with a plan to reunite Kendrae and me. The alibi – I was going to help Jess get her new classroom/office set up for her teaching gig. She had just gotten a P.E. job in Fort Worth. The truth – Jess had some old apartment furniture in a storage unit in Longview. Some she needed to sell, some she was taking back with her. In between moving, and selling her washer and dryer, Kendrae and I could finally see each other for the first time since the big incident.

I was absolutely flabbergasted that my parents were allowing me to leave the house to go somewhere besides work. But knowing that I would get to see Kendrae kept me awake – the butterflies in my stomach danced all night. My mind couldn’t fathom seeing him again. This whole time, we had been running on fumes. Not knowing how or when we would be face-to-face again. Not knowing if I would ever be able to breath in his intoxicating cologne. Unsure if I would ever feel safely wrapped up in his strong arms again. Certain that my heart would never recover until I felt his eyes light up as they locked with mine.

I got up early that morning and made the drive to meet Jess in Fort Worth. From there, we hit the road and made the two-hour drive to Longview. Spending time with Jess always lit my soul on fire. She has an unassuming away about her that puts you at ease, but pushes you to experience more deeply. Whenever we were together, no idea was too big and dreams were absolutely possible. My mind, heart and spirit were spilling from the brim with gratitude for this friend who shook me out of my slumber and helped me see the light again.

We got to her storage unit and quickly took care of business. We emptied it out quickly and secured everything in her U-Haul. She would drop me off at Kendrae’s then sell her washer and dryer, catch up with a few of her former basketball teammates, then pick me up and we would head out. We would only get about an hour together, but I didn’t care. When it feels like you’ve been separated for an eternity, one hour suddenly seems infinite.

The ride from the storage unit to Kendrae’s apartment complex felt more like 100 miles than 10. I was beyond nervous. Would I feel the same? Would he feel the same? Would we feel the same? Had we built up our love to more than it was? Would he still look at me the same after everything that had happened? My whirlpool of what ifs had sucked in me too deep to escape. All I could do was gaze out the window and focus on breathing. Breath in. Breath out…

We were here. The car was moving in slow motion and my ears were ringing with silence. Jess pulled up in front of the apartment and said she’d be back in an hour. I slowly stepped down from Jess’s royal blue Jeep Patriot. I took a deep breath as I closed the car door and waved as she drove away. Breathe, Sarah. I truly didn’t know if I would ever see this view again. This modest three-bedroom apartment that housed Kendrae and his two roommates. I paused for a moment and stared at Kendrae’s apartment door. It was the most beautiful dingy white door I had laid my eyes on. I swallowed slowly in an unsuccessful attempt to settle my fiercely beating heart.

The first step towards the apartment door felt like the first step out of oblivion. Right foot. Left foot. Right. Left. Right. Until I found myself at the door. My nerves and excitement were racing neck and neck to see who came out victorious. The butterflies were in full flight and felt more like pterodactyls than delicate creatures. As I raised my closed fist and rapped on the door, my emotions were so intense I was afraid I might pass out before the door ever opened. I heard the feint click of the lock sliding out of its cave and saw the knob turn. My whole body was underwater and the weight of my storm of emotions was too much to bear. And then…I was greeted by the most handsome face and an instant calm washed over the shores of my emotions.

I found myself instantly wrapped in a warm embrace. Big arms braced me as my head fell into Kendrae’s chest. The warmth of his skin comforted me and sent chills down my entire body. The feeling I had been dreaming about for the past month. Safety. And the tears flowed from eyes as all my pain, grief and frustration quickly exited my body. I was going to be alright. We were going to get through this.

When I said an hour could be infinite, I was wrong. It felt more like a blink. Before we knew it, Jess was outside and I had to leave. It wasn’t enough time, but no time spent with Kendrae ever was. Like bookends on a book shelf, I ended my visit with Kendrae in his doorway with a tear-soaked hug. These tears felt different, because again, we had no idea when we would see each other next. The future was so foggy and neither of us had a compass handy.

That one hour, however brief, was more than enough time to reassure us that nothing had changed between us. In fact, we found ourselves more in love than ever before. I wasn’t imagining our relationship to be grander than it was, like we were the starring roles in a Shakespeare play. If anything, I was underestimating the depth of our love. For it was more complex than any love story I could have ever imagined. And even though our visit ended with a goodbye, Kendrae reassured me that this was just a “see you later.”

I joined Jess in the Jeep, and attempted to recompose myself. It took a good fifteen minutes before my eyes finally cleared up. The heart is a wild creature, able to feel multiple extremes simultaneously. But the emotion that continued to rise to the top was gratitude. Grateful for a ride or die friend who found a way to help two people rekindle their love. Grateful for a man who loved me so purely, even when he had so many reasons not to. And grateful for a heart that continued beating regardless of all the pain it endured. An honest smile found my face for the first time in the past month. The dawn was coming, I could feel it.

No. 19 – Forged Freedom

No. 19 – Forged Freedom

Freedom is not about the size of your cage or power of your wings or non-attachment to a person or thing. Freedom is about being so truly, madly and deeply attached to your own soul that you can’t bear – if only for a moment – a life that doesn’t honor it. – Andrea Balt

July 4, 2014 – a day that started no different than any other the past few weeks. Even though it was a holiday, Crow’s was still open for lunch. So I got ready for work and welcomed the escape from the house, however brief. On top of the small window of freedom, I enjoyed waitressing because it allowed me to interact with people who knew nothing of my current situation.

For a couple hours a day, I could take on the role of Sarah, the waitress. Exhaling kindness to strangers and more often than not, inhaling it back. A shift from the pollution I was forced to breath in my parents’ house. I didn’t feel looked down upon. In fact, people were grateful for my presence. Regardless of how surface-level my feelings of purpose were, I soaked them in nonetheless. Storing them away to sustain me through the trenches.

Quite a few people came to dine for lunch at Crow’s. I was appreciative of the amount of people because it helped the time pass smoothly and kept me busy. Focused solely on serving my guests. I wished we were open for dinner, because I’d rather be at work than stuck at home pretending not to be decaying away on the inside.

As I walked out from the kitchen and into the dining area…

“Sarah, phone for you,” my boss, Lee, shouted across the restaurant.

I blinked. “For me?” I questioned, confused why anyone would call me at work. Or who knew that I was working for that matter.

“Yes. Phone call for you!” he declared a little louder and with a hint of irritation as he crossed the dining room floor on his way to the back. Mostly likely headed to wash dishes.

“Okay,” I responded as I briskly stepped across the backside of the restaurant to the phone behind the bar.

“Hello, this is Sarah speaking,” I stated in my most professional tone.

“Hey man, it’s Cassey. I called your dad to ask if you could come over and hang out at my Mom’s house with us tonight for the Fourth. We’ll shoot off some fireworks and chill by the pool. He said you could, so you can just head over once you get off work.”

It was all I could do to keep my jaw from dropping. Besides the initial shock that the prisoner was allowed to leave the premises, this girl had called her 22-year-old friend’s father to ask if she could hang out. When I say that Cassey is a real friend, I mean it. Hell, she had my back more than my own family members did.

“What?” I said in surprise, “My dad is cool with me leaving the house?”

“Yeah man, so just grab your suit and head over later.”

I reassured her that I would, hung up the phone and went back to taking care of my tables. After my shift at work, I went home, changed out of my uniform, grabbed my swim suit and made the trip to Cassey’s mom’s house. This was the first speck of good luck I’d stumbled into all summer. My father had always been a fan of Cassey; he appreciated her bluntness and transparency. Ironic, because these were traits he didn’t appreciate in his own daughter. So I wasn’t completely surprised that he’d agreed to let me spend time with her. But then considering my current situation, I learned to eradicate any expectations for my family.

On the fifteen-minute drive from my parents’ house to Cassey’s mom’s I couldn’t help but feel my spirits lifted. I had forgotten how good the freedom I had been longing for felt. Even if my sense of freedom had a time frame, I embraced every second of it. I rolled down all the windows of my 2009 Honda Accord and savored the fresh air. No music, just the gushes of the wind in my hair and ears. I viewed this slice of freedom as the foreshadowing of what was to come in my near future. Maybe I was making something out of nothing. But in times of desperation, all you have to cling to is hope. Hope that what you’re enduring is temporary. Hope that you’ll emerge through the other side stronger, wiser and ready to thrive.

My time with Cassey and her family was just what my battered and worn out spirit needed. To be around a family that enjoyed each other. They laughed, teased and interacted with one another in love. I sat back observing that families could be warm and supportive and tender. This wasn’t to say that I had never experienced these same feelings with my own family, but I certainly hadn’t recently. I so desperately needed reminding that my new normal didn’t have to be this way forever.

We swam, ate, and set off fireworks. Simple and spectacular simultaneously. After the festivities, Cassey and I found ourselves relaxing in her room. Cassey’s mom joined us and asked how I had been doing. I was honest with her. Not well: I was hurt, confused and unsure. I was a captive in my parents’ house. I couldn’t trust anyone. And I missed Kendrae desperately. She may have been the first adult I felt comfortable around the past few months.

Her mom listened and responded in a way that I will never forget. She explained that as a mother, it was difficult to imagine what I was going through with my family. She comforted me with her kindness.  She went on to talk about her relationship with her three daughters and how she may not always agree with all their choices, but that she would much rather them be open and honest with one another. This two-way communication allowed her to share her mistakes with her daughters in hopes of preventing them from having to learn those same lessons. But it also allowed her daughters to come to her without fear of rejection when they did mess up. And rather than navigating their messes on their own, they could sort things out knowing that they had the undying support of their mom.

Cassy’s mom’s words felt like salve to my wounded heart. For once I didn’t feel judged and criticized. I wasn’t lectured or shamed for not thinking a particular way. The conversation was just that – a conversation. She listened to what I said and responded in a way that let me know she not only heard me, but sympathized with my pain. A reaction opposite of what I had been experiencing lately. Further confirmation that my situation was visible to those not a part of the nightmare.

I left their house that night appreciating the support from Cassey’s mom. I’m not sure she had any idea what an impact her kindness had on me. The taste of freedom left me salivating for more. I was determined to get out, sooner rather than later. I didn’t care if I had to sleep on the floor and eat 25 cent ramen noodles. I was willing to sacrifice minor comforts for my overall well-being. My freedom was worth fighting for.

No. 18 – Backyard Rain Drops

No. 18 – Backyard Rain Drops

My eyes inadvertently squeezed tighter as the morning light peeked through the window. Distaste for mornings and my lack of sleep did not blend well together. Placing my right hand over my eyes and forehead had no effect on the throbbing. I gripped the outsides of my face as I slid my hand downwards, a feeble attempt to wipe off my headache. It was unsuccessful.

I sat up in the slim, twin mattress set in the middle of the small upstairs bedroom. My eyes lost focus in the light breaking through the window slats as my mind wandered to last night’s events. No, it wasn’t a nightmare; it had all been real. The love of my life had told me that he didn’t think we could make this relationship work – that it was too hard. And in a simultaneous split second and an eternity, I felt my heart rip in two. I couldn’t breathe. I was paralyzed in agony and unsure how to cope. Yet somehow, a beacon of hope propelled me forward to respond in love rather than pain. The epitome of an out of body experience because in that moment I was not lucid enough to respond in that nature.

I know…I know. Do you really want to be with someone you had to convince to stay with you? No response to this question seems justifiable enough to be true. But these circumstances were different. And I wasn’t convincing Kendrae to keep fighting for our love. I was sending his fear on its way. Banishing it from ever returning in the space between us. Because even a 240-pound man of pure muscles can be overpowered by fear.

We had talked into the night, much longer than our usual thirty-minute window. But again, these were extenuating circumstances. Our relationship’s pulse had flat lined and I wasn’t going to let it die without a fight. For once, my brain had relaxed and let my heart do the talking. I acknowledged Kendrae’s fears and reassured him that I too had endured some crippling bouts of it. Fear attaches itself to powerfully exhilarating things. So if our relationship lacked any fear on either side, then I would be concerned. The unknown is frightening. Opening up your heart and allowing another person to hold it, is petrifying. Working through distance and family drama was no different. But I took all this as a good sign. It meant we had truly tapped into magic. If my life experiences had assured me of anything, it was that nothing of great value came with ease.

Running through our conversations from the night before my brain was processing on overdrive. Creating an entirely separate sub conversation occurring between the lines of what was really said. Unsure if it was my desperation or the depth of my love, but I was relieved my brain handed over the reins last night. Otherwise…

I shuddered at the thought. Unable to continue thinking it.

Kendrae and I had come to the agreement that we would wait this whole situation out. Emotionally taxing was an understatement. Neither of us wanted to split up and given a less toxic environment, these doubts wouldn’t be quite as palpable. We both believed that once I got a job and could stand on my own two feet, most of the tension would resolve itself. I wouldn’t be so stressed about getting out, and we could be open about our love. The conversation ended with a comment that we should just, “go with the flow,” and see how things played out. This, was perhaps my least favorite phrase in regards to relationships. It very much went against my nature and left me more anxious and insecure as ever. One half of me was attempting to take the phase to heart and relax. And the other half of me was in a complete panic. Alarms were sounded, barricades were in place and my mind was running rampant in a thousand different directions, none of which were helpful.

I let out a deep breath and thought it best that I conquer these inner demons in the light of day, outside. They never seemed so big and scary in the sunlight. So I walked down the stairs, through the kitchen and onto the patio deck. Spotting my sister out in the yard at the outdoor table, I decided to join her. I pulled up the metal chair and sat down, facing my sister and the deck behind her. The yard was at my back, and the sun warmed my skin.

My sister and I had an interesting relationship. We didn’t get along as kids, grew closer in our teen years and since I had been in college, gotten even closer. But now, I felt like I couldn’t be myself around her. I didn’t think she felt the same as my parents, but I also understood that she still had a few more years of living at home. I didn’t want to put her in a situation where she would have to choose sides. No. It was just better if I kept some things to myself.

We did talk about my relationship with my parents though-especially my mother. This was a common topic, because well who better to understand your twisted mother-daughter relationship than your own sister? I expressed my frustration with never being able to please my mother. How nothing was ever good enough for her unachievably high expectations. How we were always at odds with one another, yet my quest for her approval remained unrelenting. It was a vicious cycle that left us both upset.

The conversation started out fine, but as usual, I can’t keep my personal opinions, personal. I made a remark asking my sister how I could compete with her, the “golden child who could do no wrong.” I admit, I didn’t intend it as a compliment, but it was more of a jab about my mother’s vantage of me than my sister. But it wasn’t untrue. In fact, it was pretty spot on.

But my sister didn’t take too kindly to my observation, because she quickly spat back, “Don’t make me feel bad for listening to Mom and Dad. The Bible tells you to obey your mother and father, Sarah.”

I paused for a moment before posing a question. “Even if you don’t agree with them? I’m not like you. I can’t just go along with something that I don’t agree with.”

That only fanned the flames in my sister’s eyes. Visibly upset, she stood up from her seat, and walked back in the house. This was exactly why I couldn’t be myself around anyone in my family. I hadn’t intended to hurt her feelings. I was just so frustrated. With this mess. With my parents. With my relationship. With my life. How had everything spun so viciously out of control? And how could it continue to get worse by the day?

Ahhhhhh! I screamed inside my head.

Deep breath Sarah. You’re losing focus on the end goal here: freedom. All your thoughts need to be framed around getting out. But I couldn’t shake my sister’s words. They bounced around in my head all afternoon.

Later that evening after dinner, I used my sister’s cell phone to call my mother. Sure, we definitely didn’t see eye-to-eye, but I wanted to find some common ground. I wasn’t sorry for being with Kendrae, but I was sorry that our relationship was so strained. I hoped the physical distance between us these past two weeks would take some stress off our frayed relationship. I was sorry that I had been so terse with her. I could sincerely apologize for that.

Sister’s phone in hand, I walked out to my grandparent’s backyard for the second time that day. Physically incapable of sitting and talking on the phone, I began walking in a square pattern in the grass behind the garage as I dialed up my mother. Something about walking and talking was soothing to me. Especially when having a difficult conversation. I began my walking and the phone started to ring.

“Hello…”

“Hey, it’s Sarah…I…wanted to call you and say that I’m sorry. I know things have been crazy lately, and I haven’t been the nicest to you. Actually, I’ve been really mad at you, and I don’t want to be. So, I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry.”

A long pause.

“Mad at me? I don’t understand why you would be mad at me?”

“Just from this whole situation. It’s been a lot, for everyone. And we don’t have to agree on everything…”

A little louder and more succinct, “So you still don’t agree with this, do you?”

I made the fatal mistake of pausing. My pause to search for the right words to diffuse my previous remark signaled to my mother that she now had the floor.

Thirty minutes later and my ears were still burning from her heat. I heard every word, but they slid in my right ear, curved around my brain, and oozed out of my left. Tears hung on the edge of my eyelids, so full it was all I could do to keep them from rushing over. This was impossible. We spoke two entirely different languages, and it was apparent no common ground was anywhere to be found.

The buzzing on the other end of the phone continued, but my frustration was too much. My tears tipped the balance and poured down my face. I looked up, towards the blackness above me in hopes of finding solace among the light of the stars. Just as soon as I had succumbed to the heavens, a splash met my forehead, right between my eyes. Then another found my cheek. And then my shoulder. And then the splashes fell closer, almost simultaneously and the splashes turned into a steady rainfall. I aborted my square pattern and darted to the backside of the garage, seeking cover. Pushing my shoes against the wood that outlined the dirt between the garage and the grass, I leaned up against the paneling. My legs locked and my back fleshed up to the white siding. If I was going to be stuck out here, I didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of this diatribe too.

“Look,” I interrupted, “I didn’t call you to get a lecture. I called you because I wanted to apologize and try and start over. This wasn’t supposed to turn into an argument…” Deep sigh. “I can’t even apologize to you right.”

Those pesky tears started welling up again.

This time much softer, “I’m sorry Mom. I love you. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?”

“Alright, love you too. Good night.”

I pressed the end button, and slipped the phone into the back pocket of my jeans.

My fingers brushed my wet hair away from my face, tucking it gently behind my ears, and I stared out at the falling rain. When I was upset, nothing eased my pain, like a steady rainfall. Partly, because I garnered joy from the weather matching my disposition. And also, because rainfall is temporary. Another reminder that my storm wouldn’t last forever.

The thunder rolled in, and I knew that lightning wasn’t far behind. I braced myself and darted into my grandparents’ house.

This storm was far from over.

No. 17 – The Shower Ritual

No. 17 – The Shower Ritual

My communication with Kendrae had fallen into a routine. We were only able to communicate while I was fully alone, which wasn’t often. This usually happened in the bathroom. I know, a strange place to long to spend precious time. But nonetheless, bathrooms were where I longed to be. They seemed to be the only rooms with locks. And they required others to leave you alone. Since my contraband phone’s hiding place was in my bra, I did not want the off chance for my chest to light up or vibrate. So I couldn’t just text Kendrae sporadically throughout the day. No, I had to be intentional in carving out time where I could just focus on texting him unsuspiciously. But we had to plan this slice of time out in advance so he could ensure he was free to send forbidden virtual love notes as well. The time that naturally worked out the best for both of us, was in the evenings after 9:00. I could use the bathroom without interruptions and without drawing any unwanted attention.

Like an unruly child who didn’t want to take her bath, I would let the shower water run, while I sat, back pressed up against a wall, and wrote my love. I had my routine down to a science. After turning on the shower water, I knew I had ten minutes. Ten minutes to catch up and reconnect. ‘How was your day’s and I miss you so much’s were frequent in the first phase of communication. Then, after ten minutes, I would jump into the shower and cleanse myself so furiously, that I almost worked up a sweat while rinsing. Shampoo first. Then body wash. Condition. Then face wash. Rinse. And I was done. I would step out of the shower, don my towel and pick up my phone in one rhythmic motion. It was an act of beauty. Now, if I had to shave my legs…that was a completely different scenario. I didn’t dare infringe upon my precious time with Kendrae. That would take place in a completely separate shower, usually in the morning. No, my nighttime bathroom rituals were sacred and not to be sullied with leg shaving.

The lapse in my end of the conversation was precisely timed so that my last text was sent right before stepping into the shower, and Kendrae’s response tended to arrive right before my shower exit. Next, I had five minutes before turning on my hair dryer. This phase of our conversation usually consisted of dreaming of the future. A time where we could be open about our relationship and live in the same area code. Where our conversations were face to face rather than screen to screen. It was a treasured time and one that kept us both encouraged about why we continued to jump through all these hoops. The distant light at the end of the tunnel of darkness that propelled us to continually put one foot in front of the other and walk forward.

Next was the hair dryer phase. This usually lasted around twenty minutes and varied every night. I would blow dry my hair while keeping my eyes peeled for the glow of my phone so our conversation could remain constant. I would keep the dryer on for about five minutes longer than necessary just to squeeze in a few more precious texts. This initiated the wrap-up phase of our conversation. The sad portion of my evenings, because it bookmarked my pain that would continue for yet another day. Another day spent apart. Another day wished away. Another day with a broken heart.

I would then move to the final stage of preparing for bed. Teeth brushing, flossing and mouth washing. The last five minutes together. Filled with reassurances that neither of us knew were really true. Usually concluded with tear-filled eyes. As I read the final text, my forbidden phone would find its nest, tucked away, safely. I would dry my tears, and stare into the mirror. Lingering fog still dancing around the edges. I would attempt a tight-lipped smile in an effort to shake away my sadness. But as I gazed into the eyes of my reflection, their flatness gave me away. No twinkle or sparkle or depth. Just listless pools of blue. That weak smile wasn’t fooling anyone, not even myself. I broke my own gaze and hoped no one would be analyzing my eyes anytime soon.

These brief interactions were the most riveting parts of my day. They kept me lying awake at night, running through every word, and gave me something to look forward to when I woke up in the mornings. I would play our conversations over and over keeping our love at the forefront of my mind. Resolve strengthened, I could go about my day with a more positive outlook. Future focused, rather than present-minded, I continued my march through the trenches.

This particular evening had begun just like all the others. 9:00 on the dot, I slipped downstairs and into the bathroom. My grandparents had gone to bed, and my brother and sister were watching television in the living room upstairs. I locked the bathroom door behind me and jiggled the handle just to be sure. Yup, it was secure. Removing my phone from its holster, I began typing out a message to Kendrae. I slipped out of my clothes and into the plush, blue bath towel that was hanging to the left of the shower. I turned the C nozzle first to get the water running. I then turned the H nozzle, just slightly though because I didn’t want to waste hot water. I turned it just enough to mix with the cold water to make a lukewarm shower temperature.

I settled into my usual position at the right of the shower, on the tiled bench. Back pressed firmly against the wall, feet up with knees drawn into my chest. I pulled my towel tightly against my skin as if insuring an added security measure. My eyes found the screen of my phone illuminated and my heart started beating faster.

As an individual whose present life experiences had just shaped her less than optimistic mind frame, I often found myself surprised and thoroughly delighted at every message from Kendrae. The thought that he might decide all this effort wasn’t worth an outcome that neither of us had much control over. Not that any relationship comes with a guarantee, but ours seemed completely unpredictable. So throughout the course of each day, my heart and my brain battled. My brain reasoned that Kendrae was an intelligent guy who would come to his senses and leave. But my heart reassured me that our love was different. And that he wasn’t going anywhere. And then my brain would concoct another doubt and the battle would continue. My brain had pure intentions: protect her heart. But my heart cried out: I placed it in the best hands. Tumultuous to say the least.

But now, for 45 minutes my heart would claim victory and my brain could retract its weapons and focus on connecting with my love. I opened the new message and absorbed its entirety quickly. It was brief. It was dry. It was different. My heart began beating faster, but not in a good way.

“Is everything okay?” I typed, “You seem a little off.” Talk about a loaded question. Was there a good way for Kendrae to respond to this? Or maybe I was too sensitive, implying meaning where there was none?

All I could do was sit there, with my heart in my throat. Trying to avert the focus of my gaze on anything but my phone screen. Chills coursed through my veins and I noticed that wall behind me felt like ice on my spine. But my skin radiated heat, and it was getting hotter by the second. My stomach was in knots. I felt like I could re-experience my dinner at any moment.

A glowing sensation paused my downward internal spiral.

A new message. I was frozen. My eyes couldn’t focus. My muscles couldn’t move.

Deep breath.

Swallow.

Trembling, I picked up my phone and opened the message.

“I don’t know if I can do this anymore, Sarah. Your family is never going to accept us. You’ve been second-guessing everything. We can’t see each other or even talk. It’s too hard.”

Ringing sounded in my ears. Then progressively through my entire being. This was the kind of deafening ringing where the silence feels as if it will make your eardrums explode. Knocking the breath out of your lungs, forcing you to crumble. Tears gushed down my face and pooled on the bathroom floor. My body shook viciously as I pulled my towel up to my face to muffle my sobs. Heart pounding, I lay there helpless. An empty, broken shell.

The pain in my heart overwhelmed my mind, sending it into a state of numbing shock. My eyes in an ocean of tears, blinked and caught a glimpse of something. I focused on my left hip, at the upside down Latin inscribed on my skin. I ran my fingers over the faintly detectable letters. Amor vincit omnia: love conquers all. A tattoo I received before Kendrae was in the picture. A declaration that I believed to the core of my being. If what Kendrae and I had was love, and I believed it was, then we could get through this. Our love could conquer the fear manifested in his text. Our love conquered that same fear that hounded my thoughts on the daily.

I picked myself off the floor, sat down on the edge of the tile bench and grabbed my phone. I reread the text; this time through a different perspective, and I could sense the fear behind the message. This wasn’t Kendrae talking, this was his fear. The same fear I lived with so closely that I knew just how to send it on its way.

My brain passed the baton back to my heart and switched on the autopilot, a rare phenomenon in itself. My heart would know exactly what to say. A message birthed from a place of love, not a place of fear or panic. My heart poured out and my fingers took to the keys. I didn’t even know what I was typing, my fingers were just punching away. And when my fingers lulled, I glanced down at my screen, and read the message.

“I know that it’s been hard. And I know that it seems bleak. But, I love you. I love you, Kendrae, and that is more than enough to carry us through. This storm won’t last forever, and when we get through it, the other side is going to be so worth it. We’ll come out stronger, closer and more in love than ever before. Please don’t give up on us.”

I hit the send button, and set my phone down on the bench beside the shower. I dropped my towel, and turned the hot water nozzle up. I stepped into the shower and let the water wash my tears away. As I slicked my sopping wet hair back from my eyes, I noticed a bright light from my peripheral vision.

My phone screen was illuminated.

 

No. 16 – Swinging

No. 16 – Swinging

A week had gone by at my grandparents’ house, and I could not be more ready to go back to Texas. Not that my parents’ house was a desirable destination, but at least it would submerge me back into reality. Up here, it felt like I was swimming in a pool of gelatin. Every effort on my part was maximized, but my progress was minimized. In short, I was flailing yet going nowhere. But I did accomplish emotional exhaustion, that I had managed.

I never had a spare moment alone. It was as if the entire household had conspired to tag-team who was responsible for watching Sarah. I didn’t understand the perceived need to keep me consistently entertained with company. But it was infuriating and ever so frustrating. When I was alone, my thoughts could travel outside the confines of my limiting mind. Alone, my thoughts could rocket off into the unknown. And given enough time alone, I could sit in wait for my thought boomerangs to return. Coming back with new-found perspectives and information. But when deprived of this solitude and accompanied by another person, most of my thoughts never had a chance to escape the chasms of my mind. The few persistent ones that did escape, were prevented from coming back to me. It was as if a thought-blocking force field prevented any original thoughts to enter or exit my mind.

One afternoon, I caught a spare moment alone. I was in the living room, sitting on the couch with my sister, watching some uninteresting thing on the television. She had gone upstairs to retrieve her phone charger because her cell phone was running low on battery power. I sat on the couch for a moment, before realizing that I was by myself. I looked around the room and quickly got up from the couch. I slinked through the kitchen, stepped down a few stairs to the side door, and slipped outside. I gingerly closed the door so as not to alert anyone I had left the house. I walked alongside the deck, up the driveway, past the garage, and found the sliding, glider swing in the backyard. I surveyed my surroundings, and it appeared that I truly had carved out some time alone. I let out a sigh of relief as I crumbled into the seat.

I closed my eyes, lay my head back, and breathed deeply in the solitude surrounding me. The forest green and white striped chair cushions and matching metal frame blended in well with the greenery around it. The glider swing was stationed about the middle of the lot and was on the left side of the property. The chair backed up to the neighbors’ rectangular yard on the left and faced the neighbors’ rectangular yard lot on the right. No fences between any of the yards. A row of trees was at my back, outlining the plot lines between my grandparents’ yard and the neighbors’ property, and a big, open field of grass was to my front. Out of my peripherals I could see the white-sided garage, so I tilted my head just enough so that green saturated my vision.

The warmth of the sun peeking through the tree tops comforted me. I opened my eyes and allowed a moment for them to refocus on my surroundings. My thoughts had been so suppressed, that they bolted at the slightest opening of freedom. Some shot straight up in the sky. Others bounced off the tree tops. And some launched forward into the yard, taking off as fast as they could in every direction opposite of me. I sat back, amazed at the power I had within me. So many thoughts and ideas streaking through the air. Hoping that some would return, enlightening me with a clear plan with which I could move forward.

My right leg dangled off the seat of the stationary swing and rested on the ground while my left leg settled in between the angle of my knee and right thigh. My right foot pressed slowly into the earth and the swing began to sway. I continued the gentle motion, and my body started to relax. The tenseness in my shoulders lessened and my breath slowed. And then the sound of tires crunching on a cement driveway pulled my attention to my right, just beyond the garage. It was my grandmother, returning home from work. My guard reassembled and my breath intensified. My stomach dropped as I glanced back towards the empty yard in front of me. My thoughts! None of them had returned. Frantically, I glanced up at the tree tops. Nope, there was nothing. A lump formed in my throat as the sliver of my solitude blacked out completely. My gaze returned back towards the driveway, as I spotted my grandmother walking towards me. Alright, I thought to myself, be ready for anything.

“Hey Gram,” I greeted her as she reached the stationary swing.

“Why are you sitting out here by yourself?” my grandmother questioned as she joined me on the swing.

“Just enjoying the beautiful weather,” I fudged. Well, partially. I didn’t want to let on I came out here to think, because then we’d have to get into a discussion about what I was thinking about. So to avoid that whole mess, I attempted to keep our conversation on the surface.

Perhaps seeing through my murky answer and ignoring it, my grandmother dove right into the depths.

“You know, we all go through tough spots Sarah. When you’re young, you think you know what you want, and you’re open to so many ideas. As you get older, you learn that certain things aren’t meant to be. You become less open to everything and are more cautious of what you go along with.”

I sat there in silence, just listening.

She continued, “When I was your age, I was open-minded too. I believed in a lot of things that I don’t believe in now. Because now, I know better.”

My outward silence continued. Inward, my mind was reeling. Was she referring to my relationship with Kendrae, a black man, as being open-minded? And that in a few years, I would grow out of it, and know better? Don’t say anything, Sarah. Just keep it together.  

“We all love you, and we just want what’s best for you. Everyone makes mistakes. God wanted you to get caught Sarah, so you could fix it before you get in any deeper.”

That last bit, knocked the breath out of my lungs.

God wanted this?

God wanted this?

God wanted this?

Those three words echoed in my head. I felt dizzy. But I was afraid that if I tried to stand up, I would be sick. So I just sat there. Unable to move. Unable to speak. Barely able to breathe. How could people who appeared to mean so well, miss the mark so terribly?

Loving Day

Loving Day

I wrote this post a year ago and shared it on my personal Facebook. As I reread this emotional time capsule, I realized that I still feel exactly the same. The issues I wrote about a year ago are still just as prevalent now, if not more so. Because unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in a year’s time. So I decided to reshare my old thoughts with some present day updates.

Loving v. Virginia. In 1958, two residents of Virginia, Mildred Jeter, a Black and Native American woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in the District of Columbia. Richard and Mildred could not be married in their home state of Virginia because the state wouldn’t recognize their marriage. The couple traveled up North, to DC where their marriage could be legalized. The newlyweds returned to Virginia shortly afterward, but were charged with violating the state’s anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored”. The Loving’s were found guilty and sentenced to a year in jail. Or they could leave their home in Virginia so long as they would not return together for twenty-five years. If they agreed to these terms, the judge would suspend their sentencing.

Mildred and Richard Loving decided that leaving their family in Virginia was a better alternative to serving jail time. I don’t blame them. But leaving the only home she ever knew and not being allowed to visit her family was not an alternative that sat well with Mildred. She reached out to a lawyer in hopes of being able to appeal their sentencing. And after nine years of waiting, the Loving’s case reached the Supreme Court.

June 12, 1967. The Supreme Court came to a unanimous agreement that outlawing interracial marriage was unconstitutional. The court stated:

“Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

In 1967, there were 16 southern states with effective laws outlawing interracial marriage. Even after the Supreme Court ruling, several states made no changes to their constitution’s laws. South Carolina did not correct their state constitution until 1998, 30 years after the ruling. Finally, in 2000, Alabama was the last state to alter their constitution in regards to interracial marriage.

June 12, 2018. Today is the 51stanniversary of the declaration made by the Supreme Court pronouncing all state laws prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional. Fifty-one years. No, scratch that. Eighteen years. Meaning, that in the duration of my life, only eighteen of those years it has been legal in every state for me to marry Kendrae. While laws have changed, some of society’s viewpoints have not. Eighteen years later, and interracial couples are still plagued with shame, opposition and hatred.

In my four years together with Kendrae, we have certainly faced all three of these obstacles. Obstacles based solely on our outward appearances. We have been out in public and been treated notably different; we have heard from both ends of the spectrum some of the nastiest words and phrases that one can utter; we have faced rejection from family members and from total strangers; and received the full range of looks and insensitive comments. Fifty-one years later, in the year 2018, an interracial couple is still faced with the same recurring stigmas. We’re plastered with labels declaring our love to be less than and impure because we have two different skin tones. Our characters are attacked and we’re painted in unflattering light based on a difference in skin color. It is absurd and a concept I will never fully grasp, but it will not alter my view of myself, my partner, or our love.

All of these experiences have helped our relationship more than they’ve hurt. Sure, the words sting, being made to feel as inferior is certainly not pleasant, but we have made the choice to be even more intentional with our interactions with those around us. By Kendrae and I being kind to one another and maintaining a positive relationship in public and behind closed doors it helps to combat these contorted mentalities. In the past year alone we have seen racism flare its foul head with even more frequency and intensity.

Each day, now more than ever, we consciously choose to fight for true equality. We share the same dream. I am not so proud to think I could more eloquently convey a message that has rung true since the moment Martin Luther King Jr uttered it into existence on August 28, 1963; that we will one day live in a nation where we will not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. Today and every day we fight to break the stigmas swirling around us by doing what comes so naturally: loving each other.

No. 15 – Houses

No. 15 – Houses

Another day’s worth of traveling and my brother, sister and I had arrived in Fairview Park, Ohio at my grandparents’ house. A house that had been a safe haven and the most consistent place in my ever-changing life. Our family had never truly set roots because we moved fairly frequently. In fact, I never attended the same school for longer than four years. My routine became my lack of a long-term routine. I never truly settled in anywhere because that made it easier for me to disconnect and uproot when the time inevitably came. So I learned to enjoy my many houses, but I never made them my home. I saw no sense in getting attached to a place that wouldn’t last.

The first two houses on my list, were not ones that evoked fond memories. Simply because I was so young that I don’t remember much of anything about my time there. House No. 1: Huntington Beach, California. The place where I was born, and lived for about three years. Besides photos of little Sarah there, I have no recollections of living in California. Which brings us to House No. 2: Streetsboro, Ohio. Shortly after my sister was born, our family of four moved from California to Ohio, where my mother had grown up. Streetsboro was a place I don’t much remember and was not much talked about. We lived here for about two years, before moving again.

House No. 3: North Olmstead, Ohio. We moved here to be closer to my mother’s side of the family. Her parents, grandparents, and many of her aunts, uncles and cousins lived within a short driving distance from our new house.  I have some great memories here. We lived four houses down from my great grandmother, and many of my relatives were close by. We had a large front yard that was ideal for baseball and kickball games. The backyard contained a swing set and playground built by my father. My brother was born in there. And I have nothing but fond memories of my first memorable house.  We stayed in this location for the next five years.

House No. 4Allen, Texas. Due to a new job, my family of five packed up all our belongings and moved to Texas. A place where we had no family or friends. As a nine-year-old, leaving her entire family behind and moving to an envisioned tumbleweed tumbling, tractor driving, horseback riding flatland was a scary adventure. Much to my surprise, all my notions about Allen, Texas were wrong. We moved into a two-story house with a salt water pool. My brother, sister and I each had our own bedroom with plenty of space to grow. Our house backed up to a small lake and greenbelt with a walkway circling the water. I fell in love with this house and its location; it was definitely one of my favorites. My family resided here for four years, until my parents decided it was best for us to move out of the suburban city and into the country.

Cue House No. 5: Van Alstyne, Texas. The last six weeks of my eighth-grade school year, my family moved 45 minutes North of Allen to Van Alstyne. We moved into a log cabin set in the middle of 20 acres of land. Instead of a pool, we had a barn and lots and lots of backyard. And front yard for that matter. I was against this transition since the idea originated. Moving to the middle of nowhere and living thirty minutes away from a real grocery store did not sound like my idea of fun. But I adapted and met one of my best friends while living there, but it was certainly not at the top of my list of houses. The entire house was brown and dark. Dark brown wooden walls, dark brown wooden ceilings, dark brown tile, and dark brown wood floor. The whole nature of the house was depressing to me and housed some dark days during high school. I couldn’t wait to graduate, leave that town and never look back.

Flash to House No. 6: Longview, Texas. Well, it was more of a dorm room than a house, but I can’t exclude the place where I spent four years in college. Longview is not a large city, but it is certainly more populated that Van Alstyne. It is packed with majestically tall trees and bursting with green life. It’s quiet-natured and lacks much traffic which gives it a definite plus in my book. Most necessities for a college-aged girl were readily available within a short driving distance. And it was here that I met some of the most wonderful people. I discovered who I really was. And in a series of incredible events, I met the man of my dreams. A lot of major life events took place during my college experience in Longview, Texas.

After living in six different houses in six different cities, I somehow found myself back at House No. 5trapped and stifled. I had never intended to go back to House No. 5. In my past 22 years, my input hadn’t mattered about where my family lived. But now, as a college graduate in search of a job, I could choose to live wherever I wanted. In theory, of course. I would require a job that covered the financial burden of living on my own, which I hadn’t quite worked out yet. I was doing everything in my power to add a House No. 7, to the list.

But through all the moving and uprooting, my grandparents’ house had remained the same. In fact, my grandparents had lived in that same house since my mother was a little girl. Do the math and that’s about 50 years. All throughout my childhood and young adulthood, my grandparents’ house had been a desired vacation destination, a central gathering place, a creative workshop, the most delectable goodie store and my favorite place to spend my time. Everyone was always welcome, and good times were never in short supply. When my family lived in Ohio, we naturally spent a lot of time at their House. It was about a ten-minute drive from ours. Even after we moved to Texas, we continued to make trips at least once a year to visit our Ohio family, usually staying at my grandparents’ house. Spending time there was a treat, and one that I never tired of. My grandparents’ house was my epitome of home.

Their House was two-stories high and complete with a basement. It sat on a long rectangular lot with tall trees at the front and back of the property like bookends. The garage had been converted into a workshop/garage so that my grandfather could run his printing business out of their house and still have room to park their Ford Explorer. The garage turned workshop was my favorite element of the entire house. It was carpeted, had a television set up with cable, outfitted with heat and air conditioning and was constantly stocked with any art supply imaginable.

My grandfather is an incredible artist and an even better art teacher. He took great joy in helping to instill a creative love within his grandchildren. Anything we imagined, he would help bring to life in his garage studio. I would spend hours out in the workshop dreaming and creating. None of which was very good, but I didn’t care. And neither did my grandfather.

As soon as I pulled the Pontiac Torrent into the driveway, I expected the all familiar feeling of home to greet me and welcome me in. But to my surprise, the welcoming feeling was nowhere to be felt. I felt nothing. The place looked the same, but the feeling was gone. I quickly glanced back at my brother and sister, but neither of them said anything. I looked closer. They didn’t seem to notice the missing feeling. Maybe I was just tired from two full days of travel. That’s all it was. I was tired. After some time settling in, home and I would be reunited.

Later that evening, after some light unpacking and a home-cooked meal, I found myself out on the covered deck, soaking in the cool night air.The deck was enclosed, but the windows were open so that the screens could let in the fresh air while still warding off the night creatures. I was seated on the porch swing and lightly rocked myself back and forth. The House felt the same, but I didn’t. I felt different. Everything around me looked familiar. Nothing was out of place. Except me.

What had changed? Could it be my newfound individuality and perspective? Could it be that I had grown into my own woman? Could it be that I was simply tired and had been through a stressful past few weeks? As I continued to sway myself back and forth, my grandmother joined me on the swing.

“It’s nice out tonight, isn’t it? The weather hasn’t felt this nice in a few days,” my grandmother disrupted the silence.

“It is a lot cooler here than it is in Texas,” I responded. I didn’t know what was worse. Addressing the drama head on or babbling on about trivial details pretending there wasn’t a giant elephant sitting on the porch with us. His grey, heavy trunk weighing on my shoulders, enhancing the internal pressure I already felt.

My stomach was in knots. There really wasn’t a good direction for this conversation. Of course I didn’t want to dissect my “former” relationship with Kendrae, I knew my grandparents felt the same as my parents. Attempting a conversation with someone who refuses to hear you out is infuriating, not to mention pointless. Neither side can find common ground, and all your energy is left spinning in circles. I was exhausted: from the past two weeks and from the past two days. But, by ignoring the obvious reason for my visit, it just left room for the conversation to present itself later. Leaving me in wait for the inevitable. Which almost seemed worse than just getting it over with.

Meanwhile our talk danced around the truth and consisted of fluff. Filler to appear as if a conversation was being held, but instead we were just living in denial. All the while, mister elephant just continued pressing his trunk on my shoulders. Increasing the pressure ever so slightly. I leered his direction and smirked. After my past two weeks, it was going to take more than a little pressure to make me crack.

Perhaps this was for the best. I was exhausted, out of place and a stranger in what I once considered to be my own home. Delving into my personal life tonight would only lead to more heartache. So I continued swaying on the swing, elephant trunk on my shoulders, and talked with my grandmother about the Ohio weather. The house was reminding me of a familiar feeling, but it didn’t feel like home anymore.

 

No. 14 – The Cycle

No. 14 – The Cycle

I was being shipped up to Ohio for a “fresh start.” Which meant two weeks taken off work. Two weeks away from my parents. Two weeks away from my problems. Well, not really. I was in for two weeks of a microscopic study session and discussion of them. Not to mention, I had to make the 22-hour drive with my younger brother and sister. I didn’t mind having them around, but I just wanted to be alone. Throughout this whole incident, it felt like I was being watched at all times. I was not interested in having company, because I couldn’t think straight unless I was in complete solitude. Which I think was the idea. If they ever left me alone, they feared I would come to my senses and bolt. They were right about that part. But my leaving had to be calculated. Because when I did finally leave, I wasn’t coming back.

I had to seize any possible sliver of solidarity so that I could vet my plan. Which at the moment was: GET OUT ASAP! I hadn’t had enough time to work out the details to get me to that point yet. I was hoping for a job offer that would give me the financial security to make that jump, but right now, that plan wasn’t looking too promising. So Plan B was to waitress as much as possible and save every cent. But with two weeks off work, that plan wasn’t progressing at the pace I’d prefer.

Regardless of my dissatisfaction with the timing of the trip, my brother, sister, and I awoke early that morning, loaded up the car and began the arduous trek to Fairview Park, Ohio. As I directed the car down the long winding driveway away from my parents’ house, my eyes were drawn to the sky rather than the gravely path. The skyline was deeply blue, not quite black. It was the early time in the morning where the nocturnal creatures had called it a night and the early risers were still in bed. It was silent and still. The air crisp and dark with an edge of chill. The crunch of the gravel underneath the tires fell into a rhythmic pattern and lulled my nerves to sleep. My brother and sister settled for a few hours of rest leaving me alone with the road and my thoughts.

As the tires of my brother’s Pontiac Torrent eased us away from Van Alstyne, my eyes continually found their way to the sky. The moment of day break was upon me. The pivotal point where the night turns to day. The point where the light slowly creeps into the darkness. The exchange was so gradual, that I didn’t notice the presence of the light so much as the absence of the darkness. The transition a gentle one, nearly unnoticeable until the light had totally consumed the darkness. The sky danced before my very eyes illuminated with beauty and radiance. Each color sauntering into the next, quietly edging out the darkness while blending together to create a colorful tapestry.

The exchange between the darkness and the light fascinated me as my eyes focused on the road. It gave my thoughts a chance to explore in a new direction. As the road moved us onward, my mind ran parallel to it as well: forward on a new path. Perhaps the action in the sky was prophetic of what was to unfold in my own life. I couldn’t help but hope the magnificent sunrise mirrored what was to come in my near future. Oranges, yellows, peaches and reds painted over the once dark sky in my mind to reveal that every period of darkness ends.

Then, as they often do, my thoughts drifted towards Kendrae. What was he doing? Was he thinking about me? Would he wake up tomorrow and realize this was all too much, and find someone else? No, don’t go down that road. I backpedaled as much as I could and went a different direction. Maybe later that evening after we stopped for the night, I could sneak a moment and give him a call. The sound of his voice would dispel all those nasty self-doubts and give me the strength that I needed to press on. Just the thought of Kendrae’s voice occupied my mind for hours as the sun slowly rose in the sky.

Our 22-hour trek paused for the night in St. Louis, Missouri. All three of us were grateful to have arrived at the hotel and get some rest from the road. The trip hadn’t been as awful as I expected. In fact, I had actually enjoyed the bonding time with my siblings. We didn’t discuss my current prison sentence and I feigned optimism and excitement of our potential “vacation” activities. Regardless of my own feelings towards this trip, I knew my brother and sister were looking forward to it. Maybe if I bought into the vacation idea, I might end up enjoying myself more. It was at least worth the effort for my siblings’ sake.

Three full stomachs later, we were ready to settle in for the night, stretch out and get some rest before another full day of traveling. My brother plopped down on one queen mattress and began surfing the screen of his cell phone, and my sister occupied the bathroom taking a shower.

Opportunity!

I made up some excuse to go look for something in the car, and darted out to the parking lot. I quickly shimmied my burner phone out of my bra and punched in Kendrae’s number. I knew I wouldn’t have much time with him on the phone. Ring. As the phone rang, I walked to the trunk of the Torrent, opened up the rear door of the sport utility vehicle, and sat on the flat, carpeted floor. Ring.I positioned myself behind the head rest so that the hand holding the slim phone to my ear was camouflaged. I didn’t think you could see our car from the hotel room, but I didn’t want to risk being spotted. Ring.I hadn’t realized I was holding my breath until I heard Kendrae’s voice.

“Hello,” his molasses-smooth, melodious voice beckoned me in.

Every muscle and tendon in my body relaxed, even if only slightly. Because I could never fully let my guard down. Not while I was in survival mode at least. Wanting to ensure I captured every decibel of sound in Kendrae’s voice, I pressed the phone speaker closer to my ear. My senses heightened as the car pulling up three spots over caught my eye. Slam. The car doors closed and the couple flitted in, hand-in-hand into the lobby. The aroma of coffee from the diner in the next lot consumed my nose. And the simultaneous softness and prickle from the trunk’s carpeted floorboard danced on my legs.

I quickly updated Kendrae on our day’s progress. I also updated him on the depth of my longing to see him again. And how much I loved him, no matter my geographic location or duration of time between us. Much to my utter relief, Kendrae expressed feeling the same. With reassurance of our love, we daydreamed about when we’d be able to live in the same city and spend as much time as we wanted with one another. But those thoughts were short-lived as I knew I had to get back up to the hotel room. I didn’t want to give my brother or sister any reason to wonder why I was out of the room for more than a few minutes. We both clung to someday, as we exchanged goodbyes with one another, and I promised to text him when I could.

Pressing the red phone icon to hang up the sleek black phone filled my eyes with tears. Recently, I often found myself in an uncharacteristic state of sadness. Despair, depression, melancholy, heavyhearted. All words that better suited the depth of my feelings. But any emotional label other than sadness would have been too overwhelming. Considering myself just “sad” was the least sad emotion I could be feeling and  while still being true. It sounded less hopeless and not quite so far away from happy.

My eyes averted to the skyline above the diner across the parking lot, in hopes of finding the silver lining I stumbled upon that morning. As my eyes settled on the low-hanging light left in the sky, a lump formed in my throat. The darkness was overtaking the sky. Forcing the light out of it completely. Its presence was heavy and weighed down upon my chest. Knocking the breath out of my lungs. The victory this morning was a pyrrhic one. The darkness had reclaimed its kingdom in the sky, vanquishing the light. No matter how many times the light captured the sky, the darkness would always return. My epiphany this morning was nothing more than false hope. If the day’s light cycle was any indication of what my future beheld, the forecast seemed bleak.

But a still, small voice quieted my thoughts and whispered to my soul. A grain of peace sprouted in the depths of my heart. So I steeled my resolve, wiped my tear-streaked face and narrowed my gaze towards the sliver of light left in the sky. Sure, the darkness returned for the night, but it would be dispelled yet again in the morning. Day after day, this exchange of power occurred. The light never tired of battling the darkness no matter how many times it was forced out. Maybe my epiphany wasn’t what I originally thought, but I could still have a change of perspective.

I hopped out of the trunk, slipped my burner phone back in my bra and closed the trunk lid. I quickly checked my makeup in the car window reflection. Ehhh…it was good enough to pass an inspection at a distance. I locked the car and slinked back into the hotel room. My brother was engrossed in the screen of his cell phone, ear buds in mesmerized by another Breaking Bad episode. Bullet dodged there. And my sister was still in the bathroom. Shower off, but steam was seeping through the crack of the door. Another dodged bullet. I quickly gathered my shower toiletries and prepared to occupy the bathroom. I smiled to myself, because the number of obstacles in-between Kendrae and me didn’t matter. Our light would drive out the darkness every time.

No. 13 – The Burner

No. 13 – The Burner

I was standing in the grass outside the house, but not outside the fence that enclosed about half an acre that served as the front yard. Even at 6:00 in the evening, the Texas heat still pricked my skin causing a warming sensation that was both uncomfortable and reassuring. Uncomfortable as my pores opened up and released the perspiration that would cool my body, but dampen my clothes. But the heat was welcomed, as it drew my attention to something other than my current state of depression.

My father joined me in the grass and stood close enough to where I could feel his presence without him having to announce himself. The two of us stood there in uncomfortable silence. Until…

“What are you thinking about?” my father questioned, breaking the ice.

Everything and nothing, I thought to myself. A response that I knew would not be acceptable and only probe further unwanted questioning. One trait my father always appreciated was directness, so I decided to give him what he asked for.

“About how I can get out of here,” I stated as directly as I could.

“You’re not stuck here, Sarah,” my father responded.

As soon as his words hit the air, tears as warm as the sun on my skin began streaming down my face. Tears of frustration, despair, confusion and longing. Somehow, we always came back to the same issue: they didn’t understand. We were speaking two different languages and they refused to work with a translator. Of course, I was stuck here! I tried to leave but was forced to stay. My voice went unheard and my feelings dismissed. Every aspect of my life was controlled and twisted into what their vision of my life should look like. And still, neither party was happy.

“It sure feels like it. I can’t leave. I can’t talk to anyone. I can’t do anything but be miserably stuck here,” I managed to get out between deep breaths and tears.

“You’re making this more dramatic than it really is. It’s not like you’re a prisoner here,” my father made a stab at a reassuring response.

My father was the king of comments that were not intended to be hurtful, but were. I was the one being dramatic? Oh, but not approving of the person your 22-year-old college graduate daughter is dating, so you lock her in your house, take away all her freedom and expect her to thank you for it and be pleasant isn’t dramatic? Breathe Sarah. Bringing that up would get me nowhere and would just further escalate the current situation. I certainly did not want to explore how things could get any worse.

“Right now, it feels like I am a prisoner. I can’t talk to my friends. I have no freedom to do anything. I’m miserable…” I choked out in between more emotional tears.

My father paused for a moment before speaking. “Well, your mother and I are going out to run some errands tomorrow. Why don’t you see if Brad can meet up with us for lunch? He’s a good kid.”

Brad was a friend of mine since I was fifteen. We had met at church and our enjoyment of tennis coupled with our shared bond of being raised by strict parents had made us fast friends. My parents and his parents had never spent time with each other outside of church, but both sets approved of the friendship. We lived about 30 minutes apart, but when you live in the country, that’s as good as right down the road.

To my sincere gratitude, Brad was able to meet up with me and my parents for lunch. We met up at BJ’s Brewhouse and shared an interesting lunch. Brad hadn’t the slightest idea of what chaos my world was in, but he played along nicely. Any rude and sarcastic remarks from my father didn’t faze Brad. He could certainly hold his own. Much to my surprise, my parents decided that Brad and I could spend some time without their chaperone so long as he didn’t mind dropping me off back home.

Brad and I parted ways with my parents and headed towards his car. Before either of us could get our seatbelts on, I exploded. “I need to get a burner phone. Can you help me?”

Without so much as a hesitation, Brad responded, “Sure, I think there’s an AT&T right around the corner from here.” See, there was a reason we had remained friends for so long.

As Brad drove to the AT&T store, I spilled my guts about everything that had gone down. How my parents had broken up with Kendrae for me. How I was an actual prisoner in their house. With no phone, no freedom, no contact with the outside world, least of all with Kendrae. And now I was being shipped off to Ohio, to stay with my mother’s side of the family so that I could be supervised more closely. I think my parents were concerned that I would run away.

Brad was as shocked as I had been. Laughing at the sheer hilarity of it all, because it didn’t seem real. Over the course of our friendship, Brad had come to know my parents through personal interactions with them as well as recounts he had heard from me. He told me that even in the wildest interactions and bewildering stories, he had never expected a concoction such as this.

What a rush of relief I felt all throughout my body! This was the reassurance I had been longing for. That I was not crazy. This was not normal. And was certainly not right. Brad had been my first true contact with anyone in the outside world, and it felt SOgood! The fog from the Twilight Zone had not seeped into my pores yet. There was still a chance for me to escape with myself intact.

A short while later, I was the proud owner of a pay-as-you-go phone. A tiny little thing with unlimited text messaging and 250 minutes of talk time. I had selected the slimmest phone model I could find, because it would have to remain hidden on my body at all times. I paid all in cash, and filled in the home address with my college address, so that no paper trail could ever make its way back to my parents address. When the month was up, I would just come back to this store and pay for another month’s worth of calls and texts. A $40.00 phone and a $25.00 monthly plan was a price I was happy to pay for the slightest taste of freedom.

On the night that my world had been turned upside down, by some miracle I possessed some sense of foresight during utter chaos. After begging my parents to allow me to call Kendrae upon learning of the terrible text my mother sent him, I quickly looked up his cell phone number as I was pretending to dial. And I repeated the digits in my head to commit them to memory. I hadn’t quite known at the time, when I would be able to use his number, but I was hopeful that I would eventually.

As Brad kindly made the drive back to my parent’s house, I held the jewel of a lifeline in my hands delicately. I punched in the one number besides my own I knew by heart, and typed out a brief message.

Kendrae, it’s me, Sarah. I bought a burner phone so we are able to communicate. We’ll have to be careful when we talk and text, but anything is better than nothing. I’m sorry that we have to go through this, but being with you is worth it. I love you.

The second I pressed the send button, a thought caught in my chest and took my breath away. What if this was too much? What if Kendrae didn’t want to be forced to communicate sporadically with a girl whose parents hated him? He certainly wasn’t limited to being with me. There was a long list of girls just waiting for him to be single. In fact some of them, didn’t even care about him being single. What was to say that he hadn’t changed his mind since he agreed to wait?

*New Feature* Audio file of this post. 

 

No. 12 – My Twilight Zone

No. 12 – My Twilight Zone

Twilight Zone:

(n). A state of surrealism, where things that should not make sense seem to do so.

No other word could better suit the house I was confined to. Upon entrance of the house’s threshold, what seemed right was now wrong. What was once wrong was now right. Up was down. Left was right. And I was left tumbling around in the spin-cycle of miasma. Never have I experienced a more palpable feeling of downheartedness. It was as if the house was its own entity. Breathing confusion gas to all who inhabited it. Perpetuating the lack of clarity. Watching my every move. Hearing my every thought. Most of which were incomplete, because I couldn’t get a true sense of who I was in this labyrinth.

My only sense of liberation came from the runs I forced myself to take. My parents allowed me to step off the premises so long as I was going for a run along the winding country road the house was set off on. From the first step over the cattle guard I could taste the freshness in the air. I could breathe deeper. Think clearer. And feel the cloud lift from off my shoulders, and I embraced the sunshine. Each step on the gravel road assured me that I was still alive, and I could find a way out. The strength in my legs wouldn’t allow weakness in my thoughts. No tears or negativity allowed.

With the road at my feet and the wind at my back, the possibilities were endless. It was as if my mind opened up and allowed only positive thoughts to enter in. On the road, I believed that I could get out and that Kendrae would still be waiting for me. I was sure that I would be able to find a job that would lead me far away from my parents’ house. And I was hopeful that the growing strength in my body would translate to inner fortitude that would propel me to freedom. Each run brought me one step closer to anywhere but here.

But as soon as I crossed back over the cattle guard after one of my runs, a powerful haze clouded all sense of clarity I had found on the road. My hopes of escape all fled upon crossing the threshold that led into the 20-acre property. My despair, always awaiting me at the property’s gate, without fail. He had no problems with letting me leave, so long as he could greet me right where we left off once I returned. He’d lead me back down the long gravel driveway. And hold the front door wide open to ensure my entrance back into the house.

The air inside was stale and prevented me from ever receiving a full breath. Perhaps this element is what perpetuated the fog that never ceased to linger and stirred such turbidity. I was forbidden to have any contact with the outside world. My phone was held hostage by my father. My car was useless unless I was driving to work. I was a captive. All I knew was the longer I was kept prisoner in that house, the lower my chances of ever escaping became. As a result, I spent most of my time in solitude outside where the air didn’t seem quite so choking. Anything I could do to stay out of the house that seemed to slowly be killing any shred of me that remained.

My parents had decided that I was to be shipped off to Ohio for two weeks so that I could have a “fresh start.” They felt it would be in my best interest if I spent some time away. My best guess is that they worried if I stayed there too much longer I would either run away or try to meet up with Kendrae. By sending me off to Ohio, I could be better supervised and 1,123 miles away from Kendrae. But the distance in miles had no effect on me. At the moment, it seemed as if Kendrae and I lived in two different worlds.

Initially, the idea of putting a thousand miles between me and my parents was incredibly appealing. My battered heart could use some relief from the constant barrage of questions and pointless conversations that never ended well. Until I learned that my mother had discussed my current situation in detail with her parents, brother and sister-in-law. Now, rather than two people dissecting my private business and discussing it with me to no end, I would get to have the brutal discussions with four more people. Although, discussion is perhaps much too strong of a word. Lecture, guilt manipulation, sermon or reprimand are all much better suited to what was to come my way. And suddenly, my two-week Ohio retreat seemed much more like a punishment than a break.

Sure, I may have been getting some relief from my mother and father, but now the heat was going to be turned up tenfold. This was not my idea of an improvement to my current situation, but maybe the change of scenery could be beneficial. Neither situation was ideal, but there was nothing I could do either way. At least my Ohio trip would have a time frame. My stay here, had no end in sight. Before my brain took a trip down the rabbit hole of self-despair, I remembered something. I hadn’t checked my Facebook to see if Kendrae had written me back. A glimmer of hope broken through the abyss.

Again, I waited for the all too familiar feelings of guilt to seep in. But much to my surprise, I felt nothing. Nothing but excitement about the possibility that the love of my life had replied to my heartfelt and desperate plea.

Perhaps my lack of remorse stemmed from spending the entirety of my life unable to perfect the role of the perfect daughter. I had portrayed her so convincingly, that I even fooled myself for a while into believing that I could actually please my parents. But I couldn’t. My enough never matched their standards. So both my parents and myself were left discontented. Stuck in this perpetual cycle of unhappiness. I was tired of tumbling around exhausted from futile efforts that brought me no personal satisfaction and had clearly not appeased my parents either. If I could make decisions based off what would bring me joy, at least one of us would be satisfied. A seemingly better alternative than three unfulfilled participants in this losing game.

My decision was clear. No more imperfect “perfect daughter.” I was just going to be Sarah. So I anxiously waited until after 10:00 when most of the household was sleeping, or at least in their rooms. Biding my time in the downstairs living room, waiting for an opportunity so I could sneak into the office, grab my computer, and creep into the bathroom unnoticed. I turned on the shower and let the water run. With no intent of going in for several minutes. I opened up my laptop, logged into Facebook, and held my breath as I waited for the screen to load.

And then I saw it. A beautiful, little red circle with a white number one in the middle of it, hovering above the message icon. Kendrae had written me back! I exploded through the bathroom ceiling and through the second floor of the house and soared into the dark night air. The love of my life had seen my message and was willing to wait on our love.

But then, the house realized that I was flying above it. This could not be. So it launched an arrow, aimed directly for my heart. What if Kendrae doesn’t want to wait for you? What if his message is just telling you to leave him alone? Or, what if that message notification is not from Kendrae at all? I was hit. Wounded and unable to fly, I spiraled down towards the house. All the way back down to the bathroom floor. I found it hard to breathe again. My hands trembled as I moved the cursor over the little red circle.

I gingerly pressed on the red icon and held my breath as the screen loaded the new page. I closed my eyes in anticipation. I couldn’t watch the screen load. The whole day, the thought never occurred to me that Kendrae might not want to wait. That he may want to just cut his ties with me and move on with his life. And as devastated as I would be, I would understand. I knew I was asking for a lot. Eyes closed, I took a deep breath in and let it out. My eyes peeled open and focused on the name of the first message.

Kendrae Carter. My heart was racing. I clicked on the message. My eyes absorbed his words so quickly that my brain could scarcely digest it. I swallowed. Leaned my head back. Closed my eyes and let the tears stream down my face. Through the trail of tears, my lips spread and a smile overtook my entire face. Kendrae was willing to wait on us. He didn’t want to be with anyone else, and he knew that our love could carry us through to the other side of the pain.

I quickly undressed and stepped into the shower. I wanted to savor every drop of Kendrae’s message before crafting my response. With jewels few and far between these days, I was determined to make the most of this one. The water washed over my body and rinsed off the stench of the house. My issues would still be there tomorrow. The Ohio trip, the job search, the family dynamic, my fight for freedom. They would all be there tomorrow. But so would Kendrae.

*New Feature* Audio file of this post. 

No. 11 – Porcelain Thoughts

No. 11 – Porcelain Thoughts

I sat hunched on the lid of the toilet in the downstairs bathroom. It was somewhere around 4:00 AM. The door was locked and the lights were off. The only trace of light came from the glowing computer screen on my lap. I turned the brightness down as low as I could. So much so that I had to squint to make out the screen. My senses were heightened as I listened to every creak and moan of the old log house. Every decibel of noise would catch my breath in my chest. My brain hustled tirelessly to catch up with my senses, and to reassure me that creak was just a creak. And that moan was just a moan.

I was intent on typing a message to Kendrae. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to write, but I knew I couldn’t leave things as they were. I hadn’t been able to explain what had happened on our phone call. In part because I was wracked with heartbreak and because I still wasn’t clear on those details myself. My mind was still reeling from the series of unfortunate events just a few hours ago. The one thing I was sure of was that Kendrae must be just as confused and hurt as I was.

The cold porcelain of the base of the toilet chilled the skin on my calves. Goosebumps creeped up my skin, slowly, then all at once. The hair on the back of my neck stood at attention maintaining a sense of alertness that coursed through my entire body. I couldn’t get caught. My breath was slow and steady as I attempted to quiet the sound of my rapidly beating heart. The warmth of the laptop radiated through the tops of my thighs, drizzling beads of warmth past my kneecaps and down to my toes. The ebbs and flows of the coolness and warmth synced up with the cyclical thoughts in my head. What once seemed so clear to me would grow hazy within seconds. Only to return into focus moments after the haze.

How on earth could I find the words to explain to the man of my dreams that my family didn’t approve of him and our relationship? That I was given no option and was being forced to end things against my own will. How would I be able to accurately explain that none of what transpired the night before had changed any of my feelings towards him? That even after being dragged through what must have been hell on earth, I was surer of my decision of wanting to build a life with Kendrae.

I couldn’t think straight with my thoughts and emotions so scattered. I closed the lid of the laptop, gingerly set it on the sink and fixed my eyes on the space where I knew the wooden bathroom door set. The trace amounts of light were quickly sucked from the room. I allowed my eyes to adjust to the total darkness. So thick and overpowering that I could taste it. I was in the bottom of the pit. I looked up and saw nothing but darkness. To my left absolute darkness. To my right, more of the same.  I drew both of my legs up onto the toilet lid and pulled them tightly into my chest. As I hugged my own legs, I tried to deepen my breath in attempt at releasing the slightest bit of tension and uneasiness.

The longer I sat in the stillness of the dark, the more real it became. I’m not sure if I left my eyes open or closed, because the blackness was the same. Cloaked over my body like a damp and heavy blanket. Compressing on my skin and lungs making it hard to breathe. The sensation I felt wasn’t as if I was falling, but rather I remained grounded while the walls of the pit shot up higher and higher around me. I sensed I was trapped in the chasms of my own heart: dark, cold and empty.

The night before had been so loud; my ears were still ringing from it. There was so much noise in my head, but none of it came from my own voice. Where are you?I wondered, eager to learn what my own truth had to tell me. So I steeled myself and listened.

With no recollection of time in the pit of despair, I’m not sure how long I sat in wait. My heart rested while my mind roamed aimlessly, so exhausted from the tireless circles it had been running. Then, a soft mummer, like a whisper, spoke to my spirit. Wait.I focused my thoughts on the split second of clarity I had just encountered. What a notion. Just wait.

Just as quickly as my glimmer of hope had peeked through the veil of darkness, my mind quickly pounced atop the light. Could I just ask Kendrae to wait for me? For something that was not guaranteed?  Kendrae had shown me nothing but loyalty, support, transparency and love. Was that fair of me to ask of him?Fair or not, I had to ask. I had to fight for our love the only way I knew how in this moment. By buckling down and waiting out the storm. This would be the kind of waiting with no end in sight. The kind of waiting that would shake and rattle, while we would have to remain unmoved. This kind of waiting came with no security or precedence. It was the kind of waiting that would drive you mad, if you gave him the keys to the car.

I inhaled deeply, then grasped into the darkness for my laptop. The smoothness and warmth of it soothed my trembling fingers. Not quite sure how to begin, I lay my fingers on the keys and let the words flow out of me without thinking or restraint. I typed out a message explaining everything as best as I could. How my parents had seemingly exploded without any warning or provocation. How I was hurting and heartbroken.  How I wanted nothing more than to be in his reassuring arms. I made certain to express that none of my feelings for him had shifted. That I was not going anywhere. That we may have to operate under some new rules for the time being until I was able to get out. That I loved him and that I couldn’t be sorrier for how my parents had treated him. And then I asked him something absurd. I asked him to wait for me. To wait on our love.

I gave a once over to the Facebook message I had written in one foul swoop. The manifestation of my beating heart bled onto my computer screen. I took one final slow breath and hit send. I logged out of my Facebook account, cleared the computer’s browser history, and shut the computer off. I had to be sure that I left no trail, or all my efforts would be in vain. I was never one to disobey my parents. As an avid rule follower, I anticipated feelings of guilt for straying from the path that was so forcefully laid out for me. But there were none. In fact, after hitting send, I felt a slight ease of pressure on my chest for a moment. Yet still, the darkness lingered.

Our love had just begun to blossom. The roots still thirsty and seeking sustenance. Could our love grow through an extended period of waiting without nourishment and light?I thought questions the darkness seemed to have no answers to. So, I sat on the porcelain toilet and allowed fresh tears to warm my face.

No. 10 – Sticks and Stones

No. 10 – Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

I used to think this was a funny saying because it seemed so obviously overstated. Of course, sticks and stones being thrown at you could break your bones. And how could words hurt someone? They were just words…

I’ve come to radically change my opinion on this topic because of this very situation. I’ve experienced hurtful words before, but none that have pierced through my very skin and punctured my heart. Words that are branded into my brain that even to this day still ache. Words that are so saturated with emotion and so intent on drawing blood that I can still feel their impact. Words that can still bring me to tears. Words that to this day continue to make me sick to my stomach. Words that bring me back to the exact moment in time again and again and again. Words I will never be able to forget.

I remember everything about this day. I remember the warm Texas sun beaming through the open windows. I remember my forest green Crow’s Country Café t-shirt that I was wearing because I had just gotten off working the lunch shift. I remember that my sister had been exceptionally withdrawn that afternoon and seemed anything but interested in how amazing my weekend had been. I remember thinking how incredible my life was and how lucky I am. And then, I remember everything changing.

Kendrae and I were starting to get this long-distance thing down better. No, it wasn’t ideal, but it would do for the time being. We were going to be spending the entire weekend together. Kendrae didn’t have to work and we had actual couple-esqe plans. Friday evening, we decided upon the traditional date night and went to the movies. When I tell you I cannot remember what we saw, I truly can’t remember! I couldn’t concentrate on anything else but the skin of his hand intertwined with mine. Was my hand sweating? Oh God, please don’t let my hand start sweating!

All nervous hand sweat aside, I had never experienced the sheer romance that is holding hands. Perhaps because in a room full of people, your emotional bond with the person with whose hand you’re holding is expressed in the most organic of form. No words, no movement, just pure and utter stillness. That felt anything but still. Electric pulses were shooting up my veins and into my head. First the tingling started in my fingertips. Then it navigated ever so sweetly up my hand and through my arm. Before long, my entire body was intoxicated with the gentle warmth of Kendrae’s hand holding mine. The rest of the night was a blur, but that moment in the darkness of the movie theatre, surrounded by other people was one of the most intimate moments we shared.

The next day, Kendrae and I attended a wedding of one of his high school teammates. Besides the fact that the ceremony was outside in the dead of a Texas summer, I was excited to share a new experience together. Getting to meet some of Kendrae’s friends from high school would be a nice treat. Or maybe the heart of my excitement stemmed from getting to see my man all dressed up. But the other stuff was nice too.

The ceremony was heartfelt, the venue was breathtaking and the atmosphere was playful. The love in the place was palpable, and it was the first time I had been around sheer joy and felt that we existed on the same planet. I had met the kindred spirit I had waited in anticipation for my whole life – joy. A joy that was deeper than happiness that gave me a glimpse of what my future with Kendrae might look like. A wedding surrounded with friends and family that loved us. And a love for one another that was real enough as guest at the wedding.

I ended the weekend with Kendrae feeling better and happier than I could remember in a long time. Nothing remarkable had happened or changed, but his presence made me feel like I could just be Sarah. If I was feeling goofy, I could be goofy. When I was feeling unsure, he reassured me without even realizing that’s what I needed. I felt beautiful all the time around him, whether I was dressed in my wedding best or in a big t-shirt and no make-up with a messy bun on top of my head; it was all the same to him. I could see myself come alive in his eyes. Most of all, I felt safe. Safe to be myself, safe to be vulnerable, safe to fall deeper in love.

My fairytale weekend came to a close and my work week began. After my lunch shift at Crow’s, I came home to find my sister sitting in the family room watching television. We chatted sparsely. In fact, she didn’t say much at all. She didn’t make much eye contact with me either. This wasn’t necessarily unusual behavior for my sister, because she can be a reserved and shy creature. Exceptionally tender-hearted and only spoke when she deemed it absolutely necessary. However, most of this didn’t apply to me lately. Being home for the summer had really given us a chance to bond, and she had opened up to me more than ever. I found myself not thinking of her as my younger sister, but as my true friend. So, I found it odd that the conversation seemed so one sided and didn’t feign her interest in the slightest.

Then my parents both walked into the house at the same time. Not a few minutes apart, not one after the other, simultaneously. My mother sat down on the opposite end of the couch I was on, and my father sat in the big chair directly diagonal of me. Unusual behavior as my father usually went straight upstairs to his bedroom and my mother usually went straight for the kitchen. My sister immediately went upstairs without a word or prompting. I looked after her and wondered why she had left so quickly. As I turned my gaze back towards the direction of my parents…

“Sarah, we need to talk,” my mother declared. Perhaps the most loaded phrase in the English language.

I looked at both my mother and my father and blinked, waiting for what I was sure wouldn’t be a pleasant conversation. Here comes the job search talk…again, I thought.

“How serious is this, Sarah? Are you two talking about marriage?” my father barked.

“With Kendrae? Yes, we’ve talked about…”

“You told me you hadn’t! You lied to us. Why didn’t you tell us how serious this was?” my father continued, disapproval oozing out of his voice.

“You asked me when we had been together for like three weeks. Marriage hadn’t come up yet.” I stated defensively, confused why I was on trial for actually enjoying being with the person I was dating. I had no idea planning a future together would be an issue, I thought this would be good news.

My mother and father were both physically upset. Arms crossed. Stern mouths. Flushed faces.

I was getting increasingly more uncomfortable with each passing millisecond. I could feel that my face was flushed as well. I was completely ambushed by this double-team barrage of questions that seemed to have no correct answer.

Then as if I wasn’t caught off-guard enough, my father aimed his verbal AK-47 right at my heart and pulled the trigger.

“What makes you think he hasn’t cheated on you? You know he’s a player.”

Hit. The first draw of blood.

“Has he hit you yet?”

Hit. I was now stumbling backwards on the battlefield.

“He doesn’t want to marry you, he’s just telling you what you want to hear. You’re going to end up knocked up with a bunch of nappy-headed little kids running around, and then he’s going to leave you, just like they all do.”

Hit. I collapsed on the ground and gazed up at my father who now towered over me with the barrel of his gun pressed directly against my rapidly beating heart.

“He doesn’t love you, Sarah.”

Direct hit.

Each bullet had hit me harder than the last. What started as a beating heart full of love and promise was now a battered and empty shell. I could feel myself bleeding and had difficulty gasping for breath.

Completely speechless and stunned, my body was entirely frozen. Not even my thoughts could move.

I was absolutely frozen.

My state of shock quickly turned to intense pain. I was just regaining my eyesight as the smoke from the bullets settled. My eyes began to focus, just as I realized there was a grenade hurtling toward me.

“You either break up with him, or get out of the house.”

I had seen it coming and managed to duck for cover, but the aftershock still reverberated. The explosion left the air ringing.

My face was flushed and my body tense. I looked into my mother’s eyes and saw something I’ve never seen there before. I couldn’t place it, but something in me realized I didn’t want to stick around to find out what it was. Leave.My body was screaming at me. Get. Out. Now.

I stood up. “Fine. Then I’m leaving.”

I walked out of the living room and up the stairs to my room at the end of the hall. I opened my closet door. My whole body was shaking. I grabbed my belongings as quickly as I could, not bothering to even remove my clothing from their hangers. I took the first load downstairs and began a pile in the middle of the living room.

“You can’t take your car. If you leave with your car, we’ll call the police and report that its stolen.”

I turned my head and locked eyes with my mother. “Fine.”

“You can’t take you cell phone either. It’s on our plan.”

I ignored her response and made another trip upstairs to gather more of my belongings. I’ve never felt so many emotions at once. Confusion. Sadness. Anger. Uncertainty. Brokenness. Confusion.I felt as if I was watching this scene take place rather than acting as a participant in it. Maybe participant wasn’t the correct word, I didn’t choose this. I was dragged into it.

Three loads later, I was still confident in my choice to leave. My father called my best friend, Cassey, from my cell phone. “Come and pick up your friend. She can’t stay here,” he stated so matter-of-factly. The three of us sat in silence in the living room as we awaited Cassey’s arrival.

Cassey couldn’t have arrived quickly enough. My father explained to Cassey what a “slut” his daughter was and that she could not stay in the house so long as she continued to date Kendrae. Cassey, obviously caught off guard, tried to ease the situation. “Now sir,” she said in her most polite tone, “I think this seems worse than what it is, and is something we’re all going to be able to laugh about later.”

My parents were not convinced, and I certainly wasn’t laughing. I grabbed a handful of my clothes. “Alright, Cassey, let’s go. I’m not staying here,” I stated as dryly as I could, hoping my voice didn’t tremble as much as my insides were.

The next moments were a blur because what started out with my attempted leaving transformed into a crumpled shell of what once was Sarah on the couch sobbing uncontrollably.

I was not allowed to leave. I was given two options, and when I chose to leave, my choice was not accepted. Upon realizing that I called their bluff, my parents panicked and would not let Cassey and I leave the house. Two hours of mind-manipulation later, and I was worse off than ever.

Apparently, as I was hurriedly packing, my mother took it upon herself to send Kendrae a sharply barbed text message. “Don’t ever talk to my daughter, or anyone in our family ever again,” she sent him. She read me the text message and convinced me that even if I left, he wouldn’t want to be with me now. She had broken up with him for me. “What did you think you were going to do, Sarah? Go live with him happily ever after? He works at Kroger and you don’t even have a real job.”

The room started spinning again and I sunk deeper and deeper into myself. Mortified and heartbroken, both vast understatements.  I didn’t know what to do. But I begged for my phone back so that I could talk to Kendrae. He did nothing to deserve the rash and sudden break-up text that my mother sent him. I just needed to hear his voice.

As I dialed Kendrae’s phone number, I couldn’t suppress the tears. The pain in his “hello” ripped my heart to shreds. So deflated and lifeless, a side of Kendrae never revealed to me before. I was shaking so deeply from my sobs, that I could barely hold the phone up to my face. “I love you somuch Kendrae, and I’m sosorry.” I must have said those words fifty times. Our conversation consisted of little else, because I could not tame my sobbing. I couldn’t breathe it was so intense. “I love you too, Sarah,” Kendrae told me. Then he hung up the phone.

I collapsed completely and wept. Heartbreak wholly overtook my body to its core. As I laid there in anguish, Cassey stroked my hair. After what seemed like an eternity, I must have cried all the liquids out of my body, because my tears stopped flowing. Cassey left. My parents went upstairs to bed. And I couldn’t move.

The ferocity of the pain had numbed my entire body. Worn out from the most intense fight for my life, I drifted into what felt like unconsciousness. I don’t know if it was sleep, because when I awoke at four something in the morning, I felt anything but rested.

Then, as all survivors do, I had an idea.

No. 9 – The F Word

No. 9 – The F Word

Before embarking on the next part of my journey, I’d like to delve deeper into the “why” behind my posts.

Nine weeks in, and this hasn’t gotten any easier. Bearing my soul is just as difficult now as it was during my first post. Every Tuesday evening I get anxious as I pour over my post for the next day. Scrutinizing over every sentence and punctuation mark. Reading and rereading wondering if my message comes across as I’ve intended it to. But because of you all, I continue to quiet my inner demons, dance with my fear and post it anyway.

Much like Hester Prynne, I too am emblazoned with a giant, scarlet letter. But, unlike Hester, I had not willingly done so. A giant “F” is plastered across my chest, dripping down my spine, slit into my wrists and tattooed on my soul – my inner thoughts materialized on my flesh. The “F” represented Family that I was ashamed of, the Failure I had become, the Façade I masqueraded in, and the Fraud I believed I was. And perhaps the most powerful force the “F” represented was the Fear that had swallowed my life. But I was not brave like Hester, flaunting and owning my faults. Instead I forged an emotional fortress preventing anyone from getting too close. I believed that by concealing my faults and fears no one else would notice them. That if I kept these things clutched tightly enough against my chest, no one else would realize what a Fraud I truly was.

My thinking was so twisted. Rather than protect my heart and ultimately my pride, I was actually self-inflicting deeper wounds. What started out as a whisper in the back of my mind grew into a looming giant controlling my life. I fed these F’s without intention, and what transpired was their eventual feeding on me. They gnawed at my confidence and self-worth, they sucked at my joy and swallowed any scrap of truth left in my heart.

After years of soul searching and suffering in silence, I decided enough was enough. I was tired of existing rather than thriving, and I knew if I truly wanted a change, I was going to have to make one myself. My transition was not the flip of a light switch, and it is an evolution that continues to this day. And at the heart of all of this is my hope that by breaking my own silence and consistently bearing my soul, I can encourage others to do the same. Not by blogging or sharing their insecurities with the world, but at least with one person. Because through exposing my insecurities I thought were solely my own to bear, I heard a “me too.” Then I heard another. And then another. I was taken aback by the amount of people suffering in silence right next me. And I realized that on my journey towards healing, maybe I can be a support for others too.

But in order to truly heal myself, that meant reopening my wounds and exposing them to the light. In the process of my very transparent open heart surgery, I have come to redefine and repurpose the F’s scarred into my skin. What once signified Fraud, now represents Freedom in finding my voice. Failure and Façade have transformed into Forgiveness as I learn to give grace more freely to myself as I do to others. The negative connotations associated with Family have allowed me to be intentional in what types of energy I allow around myself and I now select which Family I invite to take part in my life and those I love from a distance.

The Fear has not changed. Fear is just as palpable now as it ever was, but what has shifted is my perspective. I no longer view Fear as a stealer of my joy and squasher of my dreams. Fear has become my catalyst for growth and my propellant towards chasing the desires of my heart.

As I learned to utilize my fear as a catalyst, I had a real-life epiphany. The parts of myself I considered faults and flaws no longer hold my shame. They have become the facets of my story that are most relatable, most teachable and most beautiful. So as this journey continues deeper into my experiences of pain and struggle, I hope that my message of being relentless in your journey of self-discovery shines through the brightest.

I’d like to end this chapter and begin the next on a note of my sincerest gratitude. In just a few short months since launching my blog, I have experienced more kindness and encouragement than I ever imagined. I have been honored to hear from so many of you about your own stories and struggles. That is a privilege I do not take lightly. So, thank you for investing in my journey, for sending love my way and for your time, week after week, to take a peek into my heart.

No. 8 – Crickets

No. 8 – Crickets

I was so anxious that I couldn’t sleep. My thoughts were in a perpetual state of chaos. What jobs are open? Where should I be applying? What do I want to do?What about Kendrae…? The past few weeks had been a whirlwind of emotions. I felt as if my world was spinning, but somehow, I was moving nowhere. I had sent out hundreds of job applications ranging from teaching positions to bank tellers to any position with an opening. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to get out of my parent’s house.

I applied for jobs in Sherman, 30 minutes North. I applied for jobs in McKinney, 30 minutes South. I applied for jobs in Allen, Dallas, Frisco and Plano, up to an hour away. At this point the job description was less of a concern than anything else. I just knew that I had to move out. Cassey and I had looked at a few apartments in the area, but had yet to find anything suitable for our budget. I even considered moving to Austin, with a college friend, Ali. She had just moved into a house and extended the offer that I could move in with her. So, I sent out applications in Austin, too. And out of the hundreds of applications I sent out, I heard back zero times.

For the time being, I was waitressing which enabled me to save up, slowly. Every day after my shift, I would place a $20 bill in my wallet and put the rest of the cash in a heart shaped tin I hid in the downstairs bathroom cupboard. If I still had my $20 from the previous day, then that was $20 more dollars that went into my tin. I had never been good at saving, but I was motivated now more than I had ever been.

I couldn’t understand why the household attitude towards my job hunt was shrouded in such negativity. Being at home around my parents had become borderline unbearable. It seemed as if each day I was interrogated about why I hadn’t found a job yet. Did I apply to this school district? Did I send out any more applications? Did I follow up? Had I signed up for my certification class? Did I send out that email? As if I didn’t have enough pressure on myself, they had to double up on it too? I was putting in the legwork. I checked all the job sites daily, critiqued my resume, spoke with a recruiter, and applied to any job I felt I was remotely qualified for. But all I heard were crickets.

All these expectations, well founded or not, transformed into such a source of tension in my life. Stressed was an understatement. No one talks about the struggles a college graduate can be up against. You think, go to college, get a degree and you’re set. Employers will be knocking down your door to hire you, right? Once you have a degree doors will be opened for you. Wrong. You have to have experience. But, if no one will hire you, how can you ever gain experience? Did I mention I was stressed out? And I tried not to let on to Kendrae about the depth of my concerns. When we spent time together, the last thing I wanted to discuss was how concerned I was about my lack of a career. I wanted to make the most of what little time we had, not shade it with my cloud of despair. Because at the moment, my prospects seemed hopeless.

This particular day, I was dog sitting for my uncle who lived in the Dallas area. I was thrilled when he asked if I was available. I didn’t care if I had to drive 45 minutes to go to work. Staying at his place meant some relief from my parents. I imagined that it was my apartment and that I lived in this sophisticated loft as a writer. Far removed from the truth or not, it was a daydream that gave me hope that one day my situation could change for the better.

I had just gotten back to his apartment from working my lunch shift at Crow’s. Paula, my uncle’s dog, was energetic and required a vigorous walking regimen. So, I grabbed her leash and headed towards the nearest dog park a few blocks down the road. I sat on the park bench and threw the tennis ball as far as I could. Paula watched the ball land at the other end, but was not impressed. Instead, she sniffed around the perimeter of the park and created her own entertainment.

The sunshine warmed my back as I breathed in the fresh, summer air. Just as I started to relax, my cell phone rang. It was my mother. Utter dread consumed my spirit as I had a pretty strong prediction of how this conversation was going to go. Conversation may have been an overstatement. I’m not sure if one person talking while the other counts the milliseconds until it’s over qualifies as a conversation. But I picked up the phone.

The pleasantries were brief and she dove right on in. Had I had any leads on a job?

I sighed, perhaps too loudly, and responded that no, I hadn’t heard back. Most schools weren’t even sure what positions were open until mid-July. Plus, I hadn’t received my alternative certification yet, so schools wouldn’t consider me in my current state. As usual, my response was bulldozed over and she went in on the lecture. I had heard this same speech so many times I could almost quote it. I would’ve wasted my breath by responding to anything she said. So, I sat there and feigned interest. After about 20 minutes she came up for breath and I interjected that I had to go. That I couldn’t talk on the phone and walk Paula due to her rudimentary leash-walking skills.

As I leashed up Paula, I felt a tinge of understanding for her. I didn’t care to be kept on a leash either. I wanted to explore and take in the scents. To have the freedom to change directions. To walk or run at my own choosing, not to be tied down on a tightly kept leash. Or maybe mine was more along the lines of a shock collar. I don’t know if it was for Paula or for my own sake, but we ran back the whole way to my uncle’s loft. My thoughts rattled around in my head, but one settled on top. I wouldn’t be under their reigns forever. Eventually, something would shake, and I would gain my freedom, right?

But all I could hear were crickets.

 

No. 7 – New Normal

No. 7 – New Normal

Fourteen days. That’s how many days were left until I would get to see Kendrae again. We tried not to go longer than two weeks without seeing one another. I was already counting down the days to our next visit, just seconds after leaving him. Trips every other weekend were a delicate situation for two people that worked around ever-changing schedules. Kendrae was working as a produce stocker for Kroger and I was waitressing at Crow’s Country Café. Taking weekends off to visit him meant losing money on Friday and Saturday nights. Not ideal for a recent college graduate saving up in hopes of moving out as soon as financially possible. But we were making it work.

The car rides from Longview back to Van Alstyne were always the worst. Buckling down for a three-hour sentence in a car with nothing but wide open road and no company to keep me but my thoughts. Were we crazy? We had only been dating for about two months before I graduated and moved back in with my parents. Were we pouring all our time, energy and what little finances we had into making this relationship work? Were the gut wrenching goodbyes normal? I prided myself on being independent and enjoyed spending time alone, so how could my heart long for another person this way? Had I just wanted a boyfriend so desperately, that I shoved Kendrae into the mold I created long before he came along? Could he really be as wonderful as I believed he was? And that was just the first five minutes of the trip! I turned on the radio in an attempt to choke out my trail of nagging questions and emptied my mind, focusing solely on the road.

Later that evening after my trek back to my parents’ house, I settled into my room for the night. I sat on my bed and stared at the wall in a trance for an unknown amount of time, until the vibration coming from my cell phone snapped me back to present time. I had a text message from Kendrae.

“Thanks for coming to see me this weekend, my love. Sorry I had to spend a lot of it working. I miss you already. 14 more sleeps until we get to see each other again. I love you, Sarah. Good night.”

My confusion about the direction my life was headed slowly slid down my body like the extra layer of skin I no longer wanted. The tenseness eased through my back and shoulders from the colossal weighted question mark I had been drudging around with me. If we were crazy, we were crazy in love. Real life Kendrae far surpassed any mold concocted in my head. And time had no barrier on the deepness of our connection to one another. I would not allow my mind to run wild and self-sabotage this relationship. Embrace this, I so badly wanted to scream at myself.

Why was this so difficult? I knew the answer before I even finished asking myself the question. Years of negative self-talk couldn’t be defeated so readily. The sweet and nurturing love of a man like Kendrae, were losing the battle to the power of my thoughts. My scars deeply rooted in my feelings of unworthiness. None of these questions and uncertainty plagued me when I was around Kendrae. They were too smart to know that one look into his eyes, and they stood no chance. No. They slowly surrounded me in my state of vulnerability. Launching a full-fledged attack and forcing me question how a man like Kendrae could ever be interested in a girl like me.

The physical distance seemed to insert an emotional distance in the middle of our relationship. Like a giant magnifying glass enlarging every little detail. Every emotion heightened; every silence loud. I didn’t know how to express all of this to Kendrae, and I didn’t know if I wanted to. But I did let him know how much I missed him. I missed him so much my body ached from it.

So, I typed a message that skimmed the surface of my feelings. “I miss you too, Kendrae. I miss getting to see you after finishing tennis practice. I miss studying and working on homework together. Spending our Friday night watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. I miss seeing you every day. I miss getting to hug you whenever I wanted. Basically, I just miss you, and I hate that that’s normal.” I hit send with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.

His tender text assuaged my plaguing thoughts for a moment. But just as quickly, my self-doubt and unworthiness swarmed back in to stake their claim. But this was not a battle I was going to give up fighting so easily. If I truly wanted my relationship with Kendrae to blossom, I had some gardening to do.

How quickly our normal had changed. As I laid my head on my pillow and swallowed the lump in my throat, I did the only thing I could muster up the strength to do: I prayed. Not with words. Not with a song. But with my tears. Each tear that streaked my face was a heartfelt plea for better days. For guidance through this fog. For the strength to combat my own deeply seeded insecurities. For a love that could conqueror all that lay ahead of us. I had the words love conquers allinked on the side of my body. And I desperately wanted to believe those words. But I couldn’t help but wonder: was love really enough? Could our love conquer it all?

 

No. 6 – Meeting the Carters

No. 6 – Meeting the Carters

The darkness of the sky was all encompassing as we cruised down the unlit highway. Old R&B jams sauntered through the speakers filling the cabin air of Kendrae’s Chevy Silverado. As smooth and cool as the air being pumped through his vents in attempt to combat the thick, summer heat.

His large, calloused hand interlocked with mine making me feel so small. A feeling that was foreign to a 5’11” girl like me. The warmth in his touch made my entire body tingle. Even though it had only been two weeks since we’d last seen each other, holding hands made me realize how much I truly missed him. I leaned into the side of the seat and fixed my gaze on Kendrae. This.This was what I had been waiting and praying for. All the dates I never went on. The dates I was never asked on. The nights spent alone rather than seeking solace in another for the sake of company. All the heartbreak and longing seemed like another lifetime in comparison to this.

I didn’t care if we ever made it to his parents’ house. I was relishing the moment to sit and enjoy being in Kendrae’s company. Words were unnecessary. I had never been so comfortable and so at home in my own skin. I took a deep breath and breathed in the scent of his intoxicating cologne. I could get used to this.This feeling. This man. This woman I became when I was around him.

My thoughts were interrupted by a phone call from Kendrae’s mom, checking on our drive. We were expecting to arrive in Crosby, a smaller town northeast of Houston, sometime around 1:00 AM. His mom expressed that she was excited to see us, but would be in bed by the time we got in. I was a little relieved that I would be able to get my bearings and make sure that I looked parent-presentable before meeting his family. Who really looks their best after a three-and-a-half-hour car ride at 1:00 in the morning?

The next morning at 6:00, not my best time of day either, I was awoken by a knock at the bedroom door. Kendrae was adamant that we get a good run in before making the rounds of introduction. I rolled out of bed, threw on some raggy running attire and barely managed to brush my teeth, let alone do anything to my wild hair and bare face. I walked down the stairs, still mostly asleep, and was startled to find Kendrae’s mom waiting to greet me.

“Hi honey!” she cooed, her voice as sweet as honey. She wrapped me in a hug and assured me how glad she was to meet me.

I’m not even sure what I managed to stammer out because I was so caught off guard by our greeting. This was NOT my best representation of myself and certainly NOT how I wanted to look the first time I met my boyfriend’s mom. Our casualties were interrupted by Kendrae’s entrance from the garage into the kitchen. He smiled at us both and announced that he was ready to go, and off he and I went.

The muggy Houston air filled my lungs and made my face even more red than it felt from my brief encounter with Kendrae’s mom. I mentally kicked myself the whole two miles until I realized that I would most likely look even worse post-run. What a winner he brought home with him…!

Later that afternoon after I had meticulously fixed myself up, I reemerged downstairs, ready to meet anyone. I quickly fell in love with his Dad. He was a quiet, reserved man who liked what he liked. I knew Kendrae admired him and they had a close relationship. I could sense that he had a somewhat rough exterior, but all I could see was his heart of gold. Kendrae told me that his Dad enjoyed cars and cowboy boots, so I worked those topics. Before I knew it, he had pulled out every pair of cowboy boots from his collection, and had them displayed in the living room for me. I knew right there, that we would get along just fine.

I was a little more self-conscious around his mom because I knew Kendrae thought the world of her. Not to mention my less than perfect, first impression. But, she was the most welcoming, down-to-earth individual I had ever met. She made you feel like you were the only person in the room when she talked to you. And she beamed sunlight.

Kendrae’s younger sister was so similar to him in many ways. She was easy going, full of laughter and possessed an upbeat attitude. Kendrae’s older brother was kind and equally laid back. He was witty and possessed the same welcoming qualities as his mother. I loved watching Kendrae’s interactions with his siblings; their love for one another so apparent.

I was surprised how effortlessly I fell into stride with his family. Similar to the way I felt instantly at home around Kendrae. It made sense. The rest of the weekend was smooth sailing. I really had hit the jackpot. Phenomenal guy. Phenomenal family.

Was this the stuff dreams were made of? Was it really possible life could work out so storybook-ending?Except, why had I never felt this sense of belonging with my family? And what about their less than loving feelings towards Kendrae? Would they come to love him as I did? Could they?

No. 5 – The Day After Graduation

No. 5 – The Day After Graduation

Cassey brought me back to my parent’s house after several hours. She had certainly held up her end of the bargain. She treated me to a celebratory drink and purchased me a delicious ice cream cake. She made a point of letting everyone in the house know that she had picked up their slack and gotten me a cake. But the family was still too fixated with other goings on to be concerned with me.

I had enough. I don’t know if it was the influx of emotions, utter exhaustion, or if I was actually thinking clearly, but I finally spoke my mind. I told my family that all I had wanted was one day. ONE DAY where I could feel special and not get critiqued or picked at. That all their unnecessary and rude comments could have been parlayed until tomorrow or truthfully kept to themselves. Had any of them bothered to tell me “congratulations” or “I’m proud of you”? No. Immediately following the ceremony it was rag-on-Sarah time. And as soon as I’d gotten home it was no better. None of this could’ve waited? And don’t get me started on how upset I was that all the pictures taken of Kendrae and me post-ceremony had been deleted because of “bad lighting.”

My speech was met with too many excuses to even remember. I figured my rhetoric would fall on unfertile soil. But, I had said my peace and now I wanted my piece. Of cake! After relishing every bite of my slice of ice cream graduation cake from Cassey, I made my way up the stairs and to my room to call it a night. What an emotional day, not at all the way I pictured it. I was beginning to learn that my mental pictures and real life never matched up. But that didn’t stop my brain from attempting.

I laid down on my bed in my room, but it didn’t feel the same. It didn’t feel like mine. The bed and room I had grown accustomed to were back in Longview. Floor three of the Davis dorm, that was my bed and my room. I felt loved and supported there; it became my home. The room I laid in now was familiar but foreign, no longer my safe haven. Like I was staying the night at a friend’s house. I knew where everything was, but I didn’t feel at home. I tossed and turned the whole night.

The next morning, I was greeted by my father sitting at the foot of my bed.

“You were right, Sarah. You were right and we’re sorry. Yesterday was your day and we really are all proud of you,” my father apologized. He went on to say how he had even teared up on the drive out to Longview before the ceremony. He assured me again that he was proud of me.

I told him thanks, but that he had nothing to apologize for. While his apology was a sweet sound to my ears, and not one that I heard often, it was not his to tell. In fact, I wasn’t upset with my father. He hadn’t said much the whole day, which was surprising as his normal remarks tended tilted towards the hypercritical. Yesterday, it was the others in the chorus that had been singing my blues. I was touched that he was apologizing on their behalf, because I was sure I wouldn’t hear the same from them.

As I came downstairs to face the rest of the group, my grandmother suggested we go shopping so she could buy me some potential job interview appropriate attire. I was familiar with this response; my mother deployed the same defense mechanism when an apology was due. Rather than apologize, my hurt feelings would attempt to be assuaged with gifts. In a sense, I hadn’t minded this method because if I wasn’t ever going to get an apology, hey, what girl doesn’t want to multiply her wardrobe? But I never came back from our guilt shopping sprees feeling satisfied. The wounded heart felt the same no matter how many new outfits or accessories she wore. Now I knew where my mother must have picked up this avoidance strategy.

My grandmother, mother, sister and I piled in the car and made our way into town, a 45-minute drive, one way. I wondered if the car ride could get any more awkward than two grown women trying to talk about everything but the true ulterior motive of this trip. Side note: don’t ever think ‘can this get worse?’ It almost always will.

“Kendrae is very polite,” my grandmother blurted out, cutting through the silence.

“Yes. He is polite. I wouldn’t date someone who wasn’t ,” I quickly remarked.

“I really was surprised at how nice his manners were,” my grandmother stated again.

“He has a very nice handshake too,” my mother added to the conversation.

“Yup,” I said as dryly as I could. My eyes found their way to the window on my left while my mother and grandmother rambled on about something. Was this their attempt at extending their approval of my dating Kendrae? Or were they searching for anything nice they could think of to try and chip away at the tension in the car? Either way, they were going to have to try harder if all they could think of to comment on was his handshake and manners.

If you haven’t met Kendrae, you are truly missing out. Everyone that has ever come in contact with him (present company being the only exception), instantly becomes a fan in his fan club. He is generous, kind, authentic, well-meaning, well spoken, funny, gentle, tall and handsome with a heart of gold. How could my family not see that? How could they not bring themselves to recognize that their prayers had been answered and their daughter’s wildest dreams and expectations had been surpassed?

No. 4 – Graduation Day

No. 4 – Graduation Day

May 6, 2014, the most monumental achievement of my young life up to date. College graduation. I was feeling a range of emotions. I was so ready to be done with school and start the rest of my life, but I also wasn’t sure what that entailed. For the time being that meant right after graduation, driving my packed-to-the-brim Honda Accord back to my parents’ house. I wasn’t happy about this, because it felt like backtracking. I also had no job leads or even the faintest idea what I wanted to do. The longer I was jobless, the longer I was at my parent’s house indefinitely. Not to mention, Kendrae still had one more year of school at LeTourneau, which was three hours away from my parents’ house in Van Alstyne.

Even with all my internal mulling, my excitement of surviving four years at LeTourneau University was unrelenting. It all felt so surreal. My family was driving out from Van Alstyne, with my best friend Cassey in tow. My grandparents were flying down from Ohio, and one of my uncles was joining as well. My family was never much for celebrating; we didn’t send out announcements or make a spectacle of the event. But I was so damn proud of myself. I was going to be the first person in my family to graduate college. This weekend was going to be about me. After 22 years, I certainly earned one weekend of being celebrated.

My roommate, Kayla and I, happened to be seated right next to each other in the lineup. It was reassuring to have a familiar face and a friend’s hand to hold during such an important experience. The ceremony flew by, and reality had yet to sink in. As our graduating class marched out of Belcher Center one last time, I tried to emotionally capture that exact moment. The feeling of sheer accomplishment. A mental snapshot, that I could recall upon for years to come.

I walked out the double doors and out into the bright, May sunshine and scanned the crowd in search of my family. I spotted Kendrae first. My eyes always have a way of finding him. I approached my group anticipating a warm embrace, but was quickly met with reproval.

Why are you wearing shoes that tall?

Oh, I wish your hair was blonde!

Sarah, why did you get your nose pierced? You know you’ll never find a job that way.

You didn’t get Cum Laude…

The cacophony of criticism sucked all the wind out of my freshly set sails. I forced a smile for the camera and pushed my tears down. The sooner we got this over with, the sooner we could go and eat my “celebratory” graduation lunch. And the sooner I could get everyone off my case.

After lunch, Cassey and I rode back to campus with Kendrae to retrieve my car. She gave us our privacy to say goodbye, and all the tears I had been battling for weeks came pouring out. I could barely utter a syllable let alone accurately tell this man how I truly felt about him. Kendrae gave his best efforts at comforting me and reassuring me this was just a ‘see you soon’ rather than a ‘goodbye.’ But truthfully, neither of us knew when we’d see each other again. I had no idea where I would end up. We parted ways, and as I watched his truck drive off, I was overwhelmed with a fresh flood of tears.

The car ride home with Cassey was a welcome relief from all the negativity. She apologized for my family’s reactions and rude responses, as if she had anything to apologize for. No matter what Cassey and I were up to, we had a great time. Our good experiences were better together and our not-so-great times were chalked up to adventures. We found ways to laugh a little more, worry a little less and always had each other’s backs. Her presence was salve to my freshly wounded spirit.

With each passing mile, the distance from Longview to Van Alstyne seemed to stretch further and further away. Most of the conversation circled back to Cassey’s bewilderment that my family had not even bothered to get me a cake, which was the least of my concerns. The family had beaten us home and feathers were already ruffled when we walked in the door. My grandmother was distraught about a family situation that she did not agree with. The discussion about how this situation should be addressed was becoming increasingly raucous. My grandmother looked at Cassey, and stated, “Cassey, you need to go.”

Without a hesitation, Cassey retorted, “that’s fine, but Sarah’s coming with me!” And we walked right out the door with not as much as a goodbye from the group.

Cassey and I sat in her car for a few moments before leaving the driveway. “I’m so sorry, man,” she said as tears were welling in my eyes yet again that day. Had I been too self-centered? Were my expectations for my family too high? Was one day of kindness and support too much to ask for?

“We need to get you a drink,” Cassey announced, “and then we’re getting you a cake!”

To be continued…

No. 3 – An April Weekend

No. 3 – An April Weekend

It was an April weekend in Texas. The grass was green, the flowers were beginning to bloom and just like Texas weather does best, the sun was shining. I was about a month away from my college graduation and had never felt more on top of the world and petrified at the same time. My options were wide open and I could choose to go whichever way my heart desired, couldn’t I?

Lately, my mind had been fixated on the concept of a wishbone. I felt as if the two of us had a lot in common, both being torn in two separate directions. Someone always won the wishbone tug-of-war, but what about the bone? It still ends up broken. I was concerned that my outcome might be similar. One side of me was being pulled by my family into becoming a teacher. It was what I had gone to school for and was the career path bestowed upon me. And the other side of me was being pulled in an unknown direction. Was there a way, through all the pulling, for Sarah to remain intact?

We had a weekend off with no tennis matches, so I took the opportunity to spend a weekend away from Longview. My weekend home consisted of my typical back-from-college weekend escapades. Spending time with my parents and siblings, loving on my dogs and just hanging around the house mostly. But with all these monumental life decisions looming over my head and future, I had a difficult time relaxing. Not to mention missing my hunk of a boyfriend terribly. Being around him always put me at ease; big decisions seemed much smaller and less scary when I was around Kendrae.

I could tell I wasn’t quite as talkative, but I had too much going on in my head to care. As mothers tend do, my mom picked up on my lackluster spirit during my visit home. We started talking about school and how my classes were finishing up. Then the conversation turned to Kendrae. As usual, I morphed into an eyelash batting, day-dreaming school girl talking about her perfect crush. And after babbling on for what was probably ten minutes, my mother’s response caught me off guard.

She said that her and my father had both been praying a lot about who I was going to marry. In fact, they had for some time. She went on to tell me that she was having some difficulty imagining me marrying Kendrae. And the next few sentences that spewed out of her mouth, will forever leave a bad taste in mine.

My mother said she couldn’t understand how Kendrae was “the best guy” God had picked for me. And how it was hard for her to believe that there was no “white guy” good enough. So, God had chosen someone deserving of me, but Kendrae was it?  “God wants you to be with him over all the other white guys?” she said so prosaically, “I could see if he was going to be a doctor or a professional athlete, but he’s just going to be a teacher.”

Her words rang in the air and made it hard for me to swallow. Time stood at a standstill and my heart dropped into my stomach.

What? Were we speaking the same language? Because what was coming out of her mouth seemed foreign; I couldn’t understand it.

I blinked and let out my breath simultaneously. I looked my mother in the face and didn’t recognize who I saw. I opened my mouth to speak, but my response was stuck in the back of my throat. What could I say? I was rendered speechless.

Later that night, I was sitting on my bed with my knees tight against my chest. I hadn’t been able to think of much else since my one-sided conversation with my mother from earlier. My mind continued to reel with all the things I might have said rather than nothing at all. Why was it that I could never find the words to speak my peace?

After what seemed like an eternity of allowing my thoughts to run wild, I steeled myself and acknowledged the question I had been trying to avoid. It was beginning to seem as if I had not known my family as well as I thought. If my relationship with Kendrae continued to grow more serious, how would things work with my family? I wouldn’t have to choose between having a relationship with my family and continuing my relationship with Kendrae…right?

No. 2 – The Long Road Home

No. 2 – The Long Road Home

A most anticipated weekend. I had been watching this scene in my head since I was little. My personal favorite. Only, the leading role playing opposite to me was never cast. Sure, in my imaginative screen play, there was a stand in, but I had yet to find the real deal. Let me set up the scene. Girl goes to college. Meets boy. They fall in love. She brings him home to meet her family. They all get along and live happily ever after. Of course, in my director’s cut there are much more elaborate scenes, but you get the picture.

Truth is, I would have been reaching with this outline if I was the one whom had gotten along well with my family. That would have been a fairy tale ending all on its own. Maybe I was hopeful that once I had met this wonderful person, he would help catapult me to reach my parent’s high expectations. Maybe I enjoyed living in the scene I concocted in my head. Maybe, deep down, I knew my fantasy bubble was reaching the end of its shelf life, and I chose to savor it for as long as I could. Or maybe I was just so ridiculously happy with my new boyfriend that I truly was living in my own fantasy.

It was March, and Kendrae and I had been officially dating for about three weeks when he asked if he could come home with me to meet my parents. Swoon. As if I needed another reason to be crazy about this man. I called my parents and made the arrangements. The plan was that Kendrae would follow me back to my parent’s house, stay for two nights, then drive back to Longview while I finished the remainder of Spring Break at home.

Besides Kendrae getting a flat tire somewhere between Longview and my parent’s driveway, the meet up went wonderfully. Kendrae made a great impression, because who couldn’t be impressed by him? The time felt too short as our brief two days came to a summary. We said our goodbyes as he made the journey back to Longview while I remained in Van Alstyne for the last few days of my break. How had my life suddenly gotten so good?

Later that night I was up in my room still floating around somewhere in outer space. My mother came into my room and sat on the edge of my bed.

“I just got off the phone with your grandmother,” she said, “and she asked me ‘how serious is this?’”

I blinked and was caught off guard by the odd question. I responded that we had just started dating, three weeks or so at this point, but that we both really liked each other.

“Sarah, is this something we need to be worried about?” she questioned further.

Again, I was surprised by the context of her question. Worried, I thought. Worried about what? Were they worried that I had a boyfriend? Or did their concern lie elsewhere?

“I’m confused,” I responded, “what is there to be worried about?”

“Interracial couples have a difficult road ahead of them, Sarah. Life is just harder,” my mother explained.

A beat. The silence between us rang loudly in my ears. My face must have been red, because I could feel the heat radiating off my skin.

“So, just because interracial couples may face some problems, means it’s not worth it? Every couple has problems,” I protested.

My mother responded that “of course, every couple faces problems, but we are talking about completely different problems here. Do you know what it’s like to grow up as an interracial child, Sarah? Do you know how hard…”

Was she serious? I couldn’t listen to this racist remark masquerading as a legitimate concern.  I interrupted her mid-sentence.

“Mom, do YOU know what it’s like to grow up as an interracial child? No. And neither do I. What I do know, is that I’m finished having this conversation with you. We’ve been dating for three weeks, and you’re already worried about our interracial children.”

She said a few words about how she cared for me and just wanted what was best for me, but I wasn’t listening. I couldn’t. My own thoughts were swirling around so loudly. Was this my own mother? How could the woman who’d taught me that character came before anything else be the same person pretending not to have an issue with my boyfriend being black?

The bedroom door closed as my mother left my room, jolting me back from the cacophony that was my thoughts. I was still too enraged to cross the threshold of the fact that I had just nearly yelled at my mother while interrupting her mid-sentence. All I could do was I stare at the door and wonder how my perfect weekend had quickly turned into a nagging question mark. Did my parents like Kendrae, but were worried about us having a difficult road ahead? Or were they too fixated on one characteristic that the rest of him never stood a chance?

No. 1 – Secret’s Out

No. 1 – Secret’s Out

Have you ever experienced something in your life, but you’re petrified to share it? There’s a saying- the truth shall set you free. But what if the truth is holding you captive? What if telling the truth is the most frightening and difficult thing you’ve ever had to do? Does that mean you should keep it to yourself?

I’ve battled these questions in my head for a while. And every time I ask myself, I come to the same conclusion. Just because telling the truth, in its entirety, is difficult and may even cause serious repercussions, does not mean you shouldn’t tell it.

I’ve been keeping this thing so close to my chest for several years now. Concerning myself with what others might think. Worrying that those around me might see me differently. Afraid of what might be said. Might. Might. Might. Ever fixated on the elusive might. Rather than use my situation as a catalyst for growth, I’ve done the very thing I should never do – keep quiet and allow my circumstances to consume me. What started off as a secret, has transformed into a weight that continually bears down on my spirit. No more, I tell myself. It’s finally time to speak up.

But, every time I think I’ve gathered enough courage, I can’t find my voice. So, I keep it in and feel ashamed. Ashamed that I don’t have the courage to speak up. Fearful of what may happen if I do, yet even more fearful of what may continue if I don’t. And this vicious cycle continues on repeat. After many conversations with those close to me and bounds of encouragement, I have decided to break my own silence.

As I embark on this journey, I realize that I am not just telling this story for me. This is not about getting something off my chest. This is about telling a story that is not just my own, because I know I am not the only one living it. This is truly about a journey, not a destination.

I would like to say thank you to my close circle for supporting me through this. For loving me when I’ve made it difficult and for incessant encouragement and support. And to those willing to join me on this journey, thank you.