2013 wasn’t a very good year. 2014 isn’t looking to be any better. As I approach the dwindling candle of my youth (I am in the last few days of my twenties) I’m not sure what to think, or feel.
2013 was hard. Really fucking hard. As I watched former best friends have babies or get married (none of which I was remotely involved in outside of Facebook stalking) I found myself in my hometown which I both adore and despise, doing the very job I hated/hate so much it spurred me back to school, having accomplished nothing. Yes, I graduated from the University of Iowa in 2012 with my BA in Cinema, in itself a feat considering until the age of 24 when I went back to school, I really only had an eighth grade education. I am a former dropout, and because of this my life has taken twists and turns vastly different from what’s expected.
I never had a traditional high school experience. My high school consisted of familial problems and a full time babysitting job that lasted from age 15 until 18. I didn’t have friends (I’d pushed them all away) certainly didn’t have boyfriends (it’s hard to meet boys when you’re not in school, and shy because you’re fat) but I had dreams. Lots of them. But dreams fade.
On any given day, most likely anyway, if you were to ask me how I feel about my life, I would say happy, because most days I am. Most days I’m fairly content, but I’m on the edge, and sometimes all it takes is the smallest thing.
*I started writing this several months ago, about a week before I turned thirty. I don’t remember exactly what spurred it, nor do I recall where I was going with it. I do know, however, I’ve got to make some changes in my life. Six years ago I decided to go back to school. It was a terrifying decision to make, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. But, I don’t know exactly what I have to show for it. I’m great with ideas and grand plans, but less so with the execution of said ideas and plans. Yet, I don’t think that was what this was supposed to be about. I think this is about loss.
Yesterday I stumbled upon a Facebook post by my aunt of her and my cousin (her niece) at Disneyland. So, I clicked on my cousin’s page, whom I am not friends with, and saw her sister, my first cousin, whom I am not Facebook friends with either, had gotten married. And it was the weirdest feeling to know there is a good chunk of my family who wants nothing to do with us. My mother’s niece had gotten married, and none of us even knew.
See, part of the reason I only had an eighth grade education prior to going back to school is because my sister was sexually abused for years by everyone’s favorite uncle, my mother’s little brother. But rather than even pretending to be supportive or just slightly receptive to the idea it could be true, my mother’s siblings basically disowned us and called my sister a crazy liar. First cousins I had spent every summer and Christmas with were suddenly completely gone from my life when I was twelve, as were my two aunts. There was my Grandmother’s eightieth birthday party we were only allowed to attend for a few short hours because the other siblings wouldn’t let us be there at the same time (they had flown in from California for the occasion, and I guess because we lived by Grandma and saw her every Sunday at church, and had dinner, went on drives, changed her lightbulbs, carried heavy bags of water softener salt down the basement, et cetera, we didn’t get the privilege- after all, we were the black sheep, my “crazy” sister the epicenter of us.) But by the time Grandma turned eighty, I was twenty-three, and I had experienced our segregated familial life for over a decade. By extent, because of my sister’s accusations (after several failed suicide attempts, and numerous hospitalizations) our extended family had spurned us as well. I don’t know if they realize this, but they did. They did it through their refusal of discourse, through the unspoken (maybe spoken, I don’t know) alliance with my mother’s siblings who had all but disowned her, and through the unspoken knowledge we were not invited to such and such if so and so (any one of my mother’s siblings) was there. So, I began to dislike my family. How could I like people who treated my mother with such contempt?
Yet, despite this, I occasionally feel a sadness knowing there is a part of me- my flesh and blood, whom I know nothing about. I think it would be different if they were distant relatives- third or fourth cousins, or if there were a reason beyond familial betrayal for our distance. For example, my father is from Mexico, and half of my family is still there. I have aunts, uncles, and cousins who all live in Mexico and with whom I can’t very easily communicate with (my Spanish is questionable, at best. A few years ago, after I had finished my fourth college semester of Spanish I could have, most likely, become semi-fluent, but alas, I didn’t practice.) but because there are a thousand miles and a language barrier between us, I don’t feel the same sadness. If I were to go visit, they would welcome me with open arms, as they have done in the past. We are all Facebook friends, and although I may not understand everything they write, I know we’re still familia and they view me as such. So, seeing a picture of my younger cousin, whom I remember as a small child, as a beautiful bride was heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking because they never even listened to our/my side of the story. They just threw us away. I know they’d disagree with this statement, but it’s the truth.
Now, as I write this, I know I’m hypocritical, because honestly, someday when Cary and I finally get married, I won’t invite them either. But somehow it’s different. It’s different because I didn’t choose to be cast out. It’s different because my sister didn’t choose to be abused. It’s different because they chose how to treat us. It is one thing to believe what one wants to believe, but it’s an entirely different story to disown someone out of anger or disbelief. Many days I look at my beautiful nieces, my sister’s daughters, and I think about how ferociously I love them. I look at them with such gratitude for all the joy they bring to my life, and I’m thrilled to know our relationship is vastly different from the relationship I have with my maternal aunts. There’s an ease, an unspoken ocean of love, which makes our bond stronger than anything. I suppose I should be grateful, in a sense, for the division in my family, for because of it, my immediate family is closer and stronger than anything. I love my siblings very, very much, and my nieces and nephews more than anything. But one of the things I love most of all, is seeing how close my nieces and nephews are- nothing could tear them apart, and I absolutely love that.
So, I may have had a heavy heart yesterday, but I know that I do have family who loves me, and one first cousin in particular who goes out of her way to bridge the gap that’s grown between us over the years, and I am very grateful to her. I know there is a part of my family, lost to me forever, and I am okay with this. Because, after all, why would I want anything to do with someone who has such a closed, judgmental heart?