When I was 15, a sophomore in high school; a group of boys stole my diary, stayed up all night, and read the entries out loud to each other.
Fuck You Kevin
I was on a church youth group ski trip. The first morning, after arriving at the mountain, one of my girlfriends (who’s father was a chaperone) approached me. “Uuumm, sooooo….just so you know….uuummmm, Kevin stole your journal and read it out loud to the entire boys division. On the plus side, my Dad got it back for you…sooooo…What do you feel like starting on? You up for a black diamond or you wanna practice on the bunny slopes before lunch?”
OMG. Processing. Processing. DO NOT CRY. Do NOT let the ski school see you cry.
And KEVIN?? (Yes, that was his real name. No ambiguity for Kevin…he’s lucky I won’t post his last name too 😡) Kevin and I went to the same high school, and although not the best of friends, we certainly exchanged hellos in the hallways, and pleasantly conversed when in the same social setting. Kevin seemed sweet, had a kind face, and who doesn’t trust a “Kevin”? If I was a boy, my parents were going to name me “Kevin”…I was so confused…did that really happen?
When the diary was returned to me, although nothing had changed in it’s appearance, it just looked dirty. I still remember it’s white cloth covering, with red roses on a vine…they looked tainted and thorny now. I felt such shame I could barely hold it in my hands. I had written things in there that I hadn’t told anybody. Things an awkward 15 year old girl didn’t know how else to process. Things I didn’t mean…scenarios that would never happen, bursts of lust and anger. Family secrets that weren’t my stories to tell. WEIRD STUFF. That book contained the darkest and most personal cracks in my developing brain…I wouldn’t have read most of my own entries out loud while alone…and a group of teenage boys had gone through my bag, stolen it, read each and every personal entry while mocking it relentlessly. It felt like emotional rape.
I don’t remember anything else that happened on that trip, everything post journal jacking is blocked from my memory. Well, except for listening to Bette Midler’s Grammy winning album, “Some People’s Lives”, on repeat for four hours straight, while driving back from the mountains. It seemed our chaperone, Sister Mary Francis, believed God preferred Bette over most of our high school recommendations…and apparently, he also wanted us to memorize the entire album.
What Doesn’t Kill You…
Although I no longer kept a personal journal, it didn’t stop me from scripting stories. I’ve wanted to write since I was a kid. I had so many tales trapped in my tiny child brain, I could barely wait to learn how to hold a pencil. When I first started; they were remedial fusions of Greek and Roman lore, conversations from my Reagan Era parents, Disney movies/obscure fairy tales and whatever grammar school adventure I’d just survived. I’d bind the pages with wallpapered cardboard, squeeze them in between Tom Clancy and Agatha Christie on my parent’s bookshelf and expect them to blend in seamlessly. So to be clear, NO ONE, literary rapist Kevin or otherwise, was going to derail my dream.
Chinks VS. Chairs
I got my undergrad degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and majored in theatre and creative writing. I can’t say I was the best student at anything other than english and partying. You’ve heard the rumors, and they are true. Boulder offers tremendous beauty; from the Flatirons, the classic brick campus, and all season weather runs. If you get your vibrational energy from the mountains, and can keep your focus no matter what the social circumstance, this is a perfect collegiate choice. I did not fall into either one of those categories. I literally chose my school based on what I thought sounded coolest with my name. “Hi, I’m Stacy and I go to Southern Oregon State”….too long. “I’m Stacy and I go to Humboldt”. Too stony. “I’m Stacy, and I attend CU Boulder”. Winner, winner!
Before the next part of the story, I would like to insert this picture of myself as a baby.
Awwwww! This baby would never intentionally do anything to hurt anyone! She’s holding a fuzzy pink cat!
So I’m enrolled in Boulder and it’s another ill-fated sophomore year. (Seriously, what the fuck is up with sophomore year?) I had a creative writing paper due that I had put off for days. (Too busy smoking pot, loitering in front of the earth sciences department, fishing for dudes) The story was about a time I had twisted my ankle and been confined to a wheelchair for a week. My friends used this as an opportunity to tease me relentlessly, un-creatively using any derivative of the word gimp they could think of. When re-counting these phrases and memories, I wasn’t really thinking about how to use them in my story. I placed a random sentence in the paper and considered it done. I wasn’t going for comedy, truth or drama…just completion of the assignment, and my 1600 word essay needed filler. By this time, it was 2 in the morning and I still had to make it to Kinko’s to make 30 copies. It was 3 by the time I had finished, and all I wanted to do was smoke a joint and crawl into bed. The next morning, I got to 9am class not thinking about much of anything. I passed out the story to every student and the professor, still not thinking about anything at all. I sat down at the large, rectangular conference room style table where I was seated at one end, and most of the students were in chairs on the outskirts of the table. I read the story out loud to the room, word for word, still un-concerned with anything…until it tumbled out of my mouth. That fucking sentence. “…stuck in a chair like an immobilized gimp”. And then I thought about it. I sat there, and pardon the phrase, paralyzed. I’d totally forgotten about the girl in the wheelchair who was now sitting directly across from me at the other end of the conference table. I paused, and felt every inch of the uncomfortable silence settle across the room. It was so quiet, the Hertz Scale would have measured negative sound waves. The entire class, professor and all, looked at her and then turned to glare at me. No one, least of all me, knew what to do. Bravely, (or stupidly, I’m still not sure which), I continued until the story finished and the room went back to that horrifying silence. Then my professor asked for questions or critiques.
OMG. DO NOT CRY. Do NOT let the english department see you cry.
The girl in the wheelchair raised her hand without hesitation and said “How about I write a story about some stupid chink?!?”
Ok, fair. What would I do if I had to sit and listen to a story about someone who looked Asian for a week and belittled it? I get it. I had no words at my disposal, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the room who’d felt I’d spoken enough for the day. My professor ended class at that point, excused everyone and pulled me aside. He was incredibly empathetic, saying “when you’re a writer, you can write whatever you want, however you want. It’s your story and not everyone’s going to like your point of view or angle. We’re lucky to live in a country that allows that kind of expression from both sides”. He was incredibly comforting and I’ll never forget him or his advice. That was also my first and most resonant “know your audience” lesson. Not that I’m going to change what I fucking write, that’s my deal…but I’m well aware that whatever you put out in the world will come back to you in one way or another, and you should be prepared to deal with it. Which could be as “simple”…as not letting it affect you.
For years after the incident, and this is mortifying to admit, I had a complete and total fear of the handicapped. It was ALL me, I felt like such a Kevin. My poor choice in words created a monster reaction, where I was going out of my way to either completely avoid or completely smother any wheel bound person with compliments and favors.
I started temping at a telephone data analysis company shortly after graduating from CU. I had paid over two hundred thousand dollars in education, to input random numbers in excel boxes. There was a guy named Doug, who was disabled and in a wheelchair, who worked at the company. Despite my complete and total awkward behavior, we became friends. Doug worked in a different department than I did…I want to say accounting, but I feel like when people tell office stories, the go-to is “Doug from accounting”, so maybe I’m stuck on that.
One night, the fire alarm went off. No one was sure if it was a drill or the real deal, so we went through the motions as if it was an actual emergency. Everyone was instructed to file out peacefully down the stairs and away from the building. As we made our way past the elevators, I noticed a prominent sign that was posted for the disabled. “Go to the nearest stairwell and await assistance.” And sure enough, there was Doug…just sitting there in front of the stairwell “awaiting assistance”. The problem was, no one was paying attention to him. This was a possible state of emergency, and people were weaving around him like he was part of an obstacle course. When I got closer, I noticed some jerk had put their modem in his lap, like he was a human dolly. I can understand not wanting to lose a few important projects, but this just didn’t seem right.
I wanted to do something. Anything. I wanted to be compassionate and strong, single-handedly carrying Doug and the modem down the stairs to safety. Instead all my past insecurities and awful feelings came rushing back and I paced back and forth, like a great white, behind his chair. I was sharking the man…with a panicked, if not slightly predatory look on my face. My manager came up, grabbed my arm and asked me what the hell I was doing. Pointed me down the stairs, grabbed another strong employee and proceeded to help Doug make it out with some dignity. Soon after, I left the company and never saw Doug again.
It has been said and that when you make up your mind to do something, the Universe likes to test you to see if you really want it…eh, maybe. Alternatively, I believe the Universe throws you hard lessons, so you can go on to be stronger at whatever goal you hope to achieve. Universal energy is just that…energy…it doesn’t ask questions. It hears your vibrational desires and shows you how to develop the skills to receive them. Sometimes creating the tools for your goal toolbox feels like a test. It’s always harder in the beginning because it’s so new and raw…and it’s your DREAM, your baby! We’re so sensitive to the way our desires are being shaped, every experience is an emotional elation, from one side of the spectrum to the other. As our goals grow up, and our skin gets thicker…suddenly the criticism, the lessons the “hardships” are easier to take. In fact, I found, when I was ready and more than willing to receive feedback to make my work better…suddenly no one wanted to give it to me and I needed to seek out mentorship.
Whatever your battles are, whatever Kevins you run in to…DO NOT let them derail your dreams. Life is a series of choices and lessons that follow…each as important as the last. Remember, it’s always ok to take time and recognize what happened, realize the kind of self care you need to recover, to move up/on and grow. Just don’t give up…that truly is the poorest choice of all.