On "Damsel and Distress"-ing

(Uh oh, here comes the long posts about all the profound ways this experience is showing me things about myself that I didn’t know)

I’m more than a little bit disaster prone. This is probably not a new thing if you’ve known me for more than like, 3 minutes. And it’s also not something that is showing any signs of changing, which is fine or whatever. The point is that my Dad was absolutely scared out of his mind for me to come here. At first, this confused me. I spend a lot of time alone and have traveled by myself more than most of my siblings, yet I’m sure they wouldn’t be this worried about any of them going across the country for a week. Finally I got tired of my Dad’s questions and said “DAD! I’ve done this before, I can handle it!” To which he looked deep down into my soul and responded, “Tab. You got your head stuck in your bike.” (which is, unfortunately but unsurprisingly, not untrue…)

How does one refute that? Daaaad, it was ONE TIME! That was like four years ago. And that bike is really heavy. And technically it wasn’t my head, it was my weave and I don’t even have one of those anymore. There will be no bikes involved, pinkie promise. Somehow I sensed that none of these would make him feel better.

What really struck me about this is that that is the Tab that Dad still sees. The one who called freaking out about every tragic thing that keeps happening. The thing is that you call your Dad when you don’t know what to do next. You don’t always call him to brag that you can now ride that bike across campus in high heels with a pizza box in the basket after formal meeting. When you give people an impression, you can’t be surprised that they keep it. But can’t he see how much better I’m doing now?

And then came the existential realization that yes, I am better. But does that mean that my life is organized and neat? HELL NO. When your life is a constant stream of weird, awkward, unfortunate moments, you don’t learn how to avoid those moments. You learn how to work with them and you learn how to laugh with them. My choice to leave Sac State wasn’t me giving up, it was my first step toward being able to acknowledge that I know what is right for me better than anyone else, and I am entitled to acting on that and lucky that I have the support to do so. Per usual, this revelation did not come to me unprovoked. Allow me to elaborate:

We flew all night. I got basically no sleep, primarily because I was seated next to an extremely adorable ginger boy and I was weirdly aware whenever I did unattractive sleep things or we accidentally leaned against each other, and the one time I did sleep I woke up about 3 inches away from his sleeping face because apparently those headrests designed to keep you from creepily facing each other while you sleep do nothing. (Side note: Cute ginger kid is actually here, in the Juniper program, and now it’s just weird. Such is my life.) Anyway, I got off the plane and sat in a cute rocking chair that overlooked the rainy Boston terminals, coffee in hand. Boston does cute stuff like that. As the caffeine kicked in, I took a quick inventory: I am alone. I am in a city that I know nearly nothing about. I don’t know where my luggage is, how I’m getting to UMass, or where I’m sleeping tonight. And then I did the craziest thing.

I continued to drink coffee and sit in the rocking chair. Then I continued not freaking out. I got up, tracked down my luggage, compared rates and distances of hotels and transportation that I had already looked into, and made arrangements for two Greyhound bus rides and a cheap motel a town over called Knights Inn. I found the complimentary shuttle service to the South Station. While waiting, I met Easy E. He was the self-proclaimed “Gay Liason of Boston,” dressed head to toe in neon pink. Within a few minutes, I learned that he had been living on the streets for the month and slept in one of the airport rocking chairs. He alternated between talking about being in the police force and being the one locked up. He was very smart (and had impressively well groomed eyebrows) and told me lots of fun facts on the way, and when I told him I didn’t really know where to go at South Station he showed me the way. I thought of what my Dad would say about me trusting this man to take me where I need to go. I’m not completely naive, and had anything seemed suspicious I would have reacted accordingly. Still, it’s so easy to make a situation mutually beneficial. I needed direction. He needed someone to talk to him like a person, to ask him questions and return his fistbumps. I bought him breakfast and he advised me to stay “Calm, cool, and collected.” Given the choice between trying to find my own way and accepting help, I let Easy E take me under his fabulous pink wing.

Long story made slightly longer, I eventually got to Amherst. I spent most of the bus ride writing and thinking about where I am at in my life. And you know what? I am proud of myself. I am doing things I care about and finally rolling with the punches. And finally, underneath it all, I think my family is proud of me too. I got to my motel to drop off my things, feeling all warm and fuzzy, where I promptly fell asleep and slept through the registration and dinner and opening reading. I still didn’t freak out (that much). I accepted that I definitely needed the sleep. I called the program directer and arranged to register the next day. See how much Chill Tab is capable of handling?! Then I noticed two tiny bugs and itchy bumps on my chest and back, googled bedbugs and fleas to see what their bites look like, demanded that the front desk switch my rooms, and basically had a small scale total freak out. The bugs turned out to be baby fruit flies. The bumps on my back spread into a rash I recognized as another allergic reaction to God knows what, but this happens pretty much all the time and I’m alright. They didn’t switch my room, but I made them change my sheets. I was shamelessly proud that I only had one meltdown the entire first day. Baby steps, my friends.

I was later informed that my Dad brought up the head-in-bike story again and my sister defended me, saying that it only happened once, years ago. My step-mom said “Yeah, but she’s shut her own head in the refrigerator twice.” To which there is no response except you win some, you lose some.

Anyway, that’s plenty for now. I’ll share more about how amazing this place is and how I’m never coming home later (just kidding Dad!… Mostly)

xx, Tab

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