Do you ever forget where you are? What you’re doing? Your body becomes warm for no reason and your cheeks flush. I do occasionally. Usually when I’m having an epiphany. When I realize that something I thought was, really wasn’t at all. Or something that wasn’t really was.
I feel that way today, as I am flooded with memories of my past. Reasons why I made the decisions I did which brought me to where I am. Seven years ago, I became pissed off at my high school for not loving me as much as my mother loved me and for not accepting me despite the fact that she had. That triggered in me the desire to push back. Instead of confronting them head on, I began planning my ten-year reunion. I would go far. Further than anyone expected. I would become something so great that everyone would have no choice, but to apologize and acknowledge that they had been wrong. This queer had a future.
Little did I know that the battle I was preparing myself for didn’t exist. I would never please them, or prove them wrong. In fact it wasn’t about that at all. It was about proving myself right. It was about loving myself and being the best person that I could be so when I laid my head down at night, I rested peacefully.
After school each evening I spent countless hours online filling out college applications and requesting information about colleges anywhere outside of the state of Tennessee. I researched everywhere from Mississippi to California, Philadelphia to Washington. When I chose Stephens College it was for a number of reasons. I loved the campus, the admissions counselor called me every week, and they offered me the most scholarships. It wasn’t until I got there that I realized how much of an impact that decision would make on my life. A child with no direction and a five-gallon bucket full of dreams, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. All I knew was that I loved the thought of living it.
I switched my major because I began crushing on a girl in the editing lab, and when I stopped talking to her I found words in the production of my student films. I was so busy trying to push out the message that was trapped in my soul that I forgot to learn the basics of how to convey that message. I’m not saying that I didn’t learn anything, but I am saying that if I had to do it all again I would have thought less and listened more.
I love words. I use them for everything. Work. Personal life. Pleasure.
It was a pattern I didn’t understand until recently. While in school I fell for another girl. One who believed in me. One I wanted to impress. So, I searched all of Hollywood for an internship. As fate would have it I met a woman who knew another woman who had an intern position open that I was perfect for. I went with blind eyes and an open heart. When I returned my eyes were open, but my heart had closed. We broke up.
I thought at that point that I knew everything. I had been from Tennessee to Maine. Missouri to California. I had traveled further than my mother, spoke more eloquently than my father and don’t get me started on my siblings. The bar wasn’t set very high. I was a success. No one could stop me, no one could tell me any differently, and they certainly couldn’t change me. I was a walking disaster with a chip on my shoulder and my heart in a small plastic bag somewhere around the heel of my shoe. I walked on it every day just to toughen it up.
So there I was walking across the stage at my College graduation. My family sat politely in the crowd. My father even put on khaki’s. I’ve seen that twice before. For a wedding, and for a funeral. He’s a blue jean kind of man, and those mean don’t wear slacks. He joked with me for the longest time he was going to walk in wearing overalls. Looking back now I should have let him. It was a day like any other day marking no real significance in our lives. We’re not measured by those big moments in life. Not really. We’re measured by the little ones. Like the first time you heard your favorite song, or read your favorite poem. I’m measured by the those first time feelings I get every time I stand on the beach and the way that I can still remember that summer in Maine just by smelling a burning log.
My family followed me afterward to the bar I worked at. There was a frat party happening, but my boss was a cool guy and let them sit with us at the bar. I poured my parents a drink for the first time that night. They had never drank in front of me until I was 20 years old, and even then they did it at their own hand and sparsely.
We laughed together. All of us for a few hours. It was beautiful.
I swung through Tennessee and then I was off to California. I was going to be somebody. That was the first time I came out here. It took a whole other list of decisions to get me to where I am now. Two years later and I'm on my second California “wave”.
What I've realized is that I am somebody. I’m Tennessee, Tenn, Tenny, Casey, Cassandra, Hollywood, and “Hey You, PA.” I’m a 24 year-old graduate of Stephens College. I’m the daughter of a farmer and nurse, and sibling to 9 kids with various histories, backgrounds, and families. I am a girlfriend, and friend, and worker. I am me.