I had the perfect opportunity to reinvent myself at 15 when I moved far away to Texas where not only was I not known but everything about me was completely different from everything down here. I could have been anything, anyone, I wanted. Despite my amazing and mind blowing ability to be the best slacker at an early age, I was actually pretty smart…if I paid attention. Most times I didn’t have to pay attention, though. I could do something, 100% distracted from the lesson, and still get an A. Personally, I think it’s because there’s no real challenge in school, even for my generation (class of ’01) but when I think back to my classmates, some paid attention and failed miserably so maybe in reality I was somewhere in between average and above.
I was fit and athletic. Even though I was already smoking just shy of a pack of cigarettes and who knows how many joints and bowls of pot a day by 15, I walked my dog every afternoon, ran every night around the block three times and played hacky sack literally morning, noon, and night.
But my head was never in the right place and my emotions were too out of control to focus on reinventing myself. And it was more than just being a teen:
- at 14 mom found out about Krank Ficken being a perv. I was forced into therapy while also working full time because Krank Ficken was in jail and mom needed Stilla and I to help with bills and food.
- at 15 mom moved us to Texas to meet dad whom I knew little about except he used to be an alcoholic, a junkie and beat mom several times. He was a born again Christian.
- I was now stuck in a place unfamiliar to me, in a life I learned is what people think of when they hear “white trash” and I was 1 of maybe 15 white people in a school of hundreds of students. It was a culture shock, for sure.
- Within a year, mom convinced me it wasn’t worth going back to give a deposition on record to put Krank Ficken away; he served only 3 of 10.
So I let the opportunity slip by and I remained my cynical, whirling cloud of angst and confusion as I tried to sift through the continually developing parts of me. I continued slacking, became promiscuous, experimented with drugs and did all the normal things kids who hate what they feel they are meant to become do. I felt there was this added pressure to be someone I was not because of the things I already experienced. I didn’t really know where I fit in or where it was safe to try and fit in because of this. It was easier to just be and that meant standing on the sidelines with my fellow rejects because I couldn’t find the other hidden options.
Right now I’m 32 and I’m going through this process that’s actually quite frightening and terrible because people are usually teenagers when they feel this way and not in their thirties. I survived a massive stroke; technically I survived both an acquired brain injury (the stroke) and a traumatic brain injury (craniotomy). Defining the two separately based on residual effects and life changes is pointless but it goes to show how complex one brain injury can be. My life was thrown way out of whack for many reasons both obvious and ones that make you go…
I’m 5 years into recovery and I’m trying to use this as a second chance to reinvent myself and you know what? It’s really hard. I have no choice but to reinvent myself because I am a different person due to new limitations and such but it’s also a choice I’m doing my best to make consciously. I think learning to be the person I want to be is turning out to be more difficult than accepting the changes I can’t dodge or deny.
I don’t want to say I’m hyper aware because it sounds too extreme but I’m definitely more aware of my thoughts which is weird because I was pretty aware of my thoughts before. But I remember wondering every time I was told to think before I speak what exactly that meant and how did people remember to think before words came out? I often say the stroke corroded my brain-mouth filter because verbal emotional outbursts can’t be helped but I’ve come to believe the stroke may have planted seeds for a proper, durable biogenic filter to grow. I’m also getting older so there’s some awareness that comes with that, too.
I am tired of being negative and judgmental and I’ve had an awakening to the effects of both not only to me but to those around me. It’s true what they say about walking in other people’s shoes and how it adds perspective but I feel I’m going through a little more than that. Like instead of trying on someone else’s shoes to learn about compassion and empathy, I’ve decided to wear my own shoes down a path I felt wasn’t mine to walk the first time I passed it. Only now it’s rougher because my shoes are shittier than they were almost two decades ago.
My eyes are wider and my mind more accepting; but is my brain able to process it all properly? I guess that’s really my biggest fear. I want to be a nice person, one free from the chains of pessimism and skepticism of life and people but at the same time my eyes are wide enough to see reality around the eyes of the person I want to view the world through. It’s a big life challenge, reinventing yourself, especially if it’s about changing the way you think from the moment you wake up until you wake up the next day because working towards true change is a never-sleeping beast to battle.