I’ve already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be. ~Joan Didion
A lifetime ago I was an EMT, I was a young one at that. 17 years old, spending my nights in the back of an ambulance while, near as I can tell, most of my peers were out participating in actives that may very well result in needing that ambulance I enjoyed sleeping in the back off. (I used to like sleeping on my back on the floor, and that’s basically what a stretcher is like.) At least I tell myself they were having a good time, though deep down I know high school is hell for everyone, but I lucked out and I got to spend my last two years of high school largely full of nerds. I got into an IT program simply by being a girl and it was good. I had it pretty good, I was and still am far to introverted to get into any form of social trouble, if I was gonna ever need an ambulance it would have been my lone stupidity. I’ve never been one for groups.
Then 9-11 happened, and for the better part of the next ten years I tried to be everyone but myself. I was unofficially diagnosed with depression following 9-11, though I know now that I have likely suffered for the better part of my life.
Oh, I was a happy child…near as I can tell from photos and the words of my family, but I’ll never really know for sure. I just know that about the time I hit my teen years I stopped fitting in….anywhere, until I found that ambulance. For better or for worse my family is who they are, and I know now as an adult, everyone involved did the best they could. It has been far easier for me to come that peace than other family members, but everyone finds their way in their own time. I do know now that accepting your childhood, baring any serious abuse, and your parents as flawed humans is one of the biggest steps we take into maturity. It takes a long time to forgive them for bringing you into this world, but eventually you come to terms with it…and a lot of things that used to really bother you…stop.
Tomorrow I go to take a test for ADD and I finally saw a psychiatrist and in the end, what I always knew to be a part of me is really there.
I won’t lie to you though, I am only this well adjusted despite the depression because of what I learned in the back of that ambulance. I still think of that little kid, scared out of her mind, still strapped into her car-seat on the way to the hospital who really wanted band-aids like her momma had on her. I learned young enough that sometimes, shit happens to the best of people and all you can really do is cope. I’m still struggling with that “coping” part of lesson and I think I will struggle for the rest of my life. But it’s something a lot of people don’t grasp until it’s far too late.
I’m “well adjusted” because in the face of chaos…you have two choices…you either work to calm it or your fear will fuel it. On the side of the road at an auto accident 4 cars deep, I ran into that girl I once knew again. That girl I used to know, who could command The Atlantic Fleet if she had to. Pride was never really something I developed through all those experiences….sure I was “proud” and still am “proud” of putting a bandaid on that child’s head and keeping her mother alive until we got to the hospital, but it is not pride.
For years I longed to have her back, but I’ve finally realized she never really left…much like a broken mirror, I had put the pieces back together, and those “cracks” always drove the light away from who I once was, into something new. I still don’t know who this new person is, all I know is she’s pretty lucky to have been in the back of that ambulance with that terrified child to learn what really matters in life.
We are all the same on the inside, if you strip away the pride and the arrogance…everyone is the same. We are not entitled to anything, our next breath is not a given, seeing your child’s 4th birthday is not promised, jobs, money, cars…none of it. We have all been that terrified little girl at least once in our life. The question is, will you lose yourself to self-loathing and pity or will you learn to hit the curve-balls life throws your way?