A few days ago I had lunch with several people. During the lunch someone asked me a question and I answered it the way I always try to answer questions...with honesty.
It was a question about the early years of the Boy and Girl's lives. About how I felt when they were born. No post-birth sadness or depression for me. Giving birth was an awakening, a renewal. I was horribly, terribly afraid and depressed for six or seven months (I don't remember, maybe have never really known with accuracy, how long I was pregnant) and then I had a different sense of purpose. I had something, two somethings actually, to live for. I knew that once they were okay, I would be okay. I said something about the Ronald McDonald house, which was right across from the hospital, in the same little parking lot.
I was twenty-two years old. I had to survive. I did what needed to be done.
I'm thirty-four now. I wasn't aware I needed to be ashamed.
Their faces? Told a different story.
I'm still trying to figure out exactly what it was. Pity? Contempt? Disgust? I don't know. All I know is I was answering the question, with honesty, and I looked up to see the faces of people I thought were my friends all convoluted. Uncomfortable. Unkind.
I shut up. Quickly.
These are people who give hundreds of dollars to various charities. These are people who give their time and energy and a whole lot of attention to people who are less fortunate than them. These are people I would have never, ever guessed would feel uncomfortable around someone like me.
Someone like me.
But I'm not poor now. I'm smarter too and sometimes I make better decisions than I did then. I have a college degree and a responsible job. I've taken leadership roles whenever possible. I wrote a freaking book, it got published, and I go around talking about it, because PEOPLE ASK ME TO, for Christ's sake. I'm not like I used to be. Not anything like I used to be.
But I am, I guess. Because I didn't realize that I have anything to be ashamed of.
It's difficult, I guess, for some people, to see other people succeed. It's easier to write a check or serve a meal to someone, to feel sorry for them. It's not easy to see them sitting at your table and realize that they were once just like that person you helped last week. That they are better now. They aren't that person anymore.
I'm on the fringes. I was never homeless. Things were never that bad for me. Maybe a time or two they were, but I don't admit that to anyone, not ever. That only comes to me in the darkest parts of the night, and only every now and then. It goes away as quickly as it comes usually. It's like it was never me at all. That things weren't that dark and scary.
I'm not the same girl as I was at twenty-two, but I still don't fit in. I thought I did, for just a moment, but really? I don't.
It's probably okay though. I can't imagine wanting to hang with people who don't understand that everything that has happened, good and bad, has made me who I am right now. Who can't seem to comprehend that I have a long way to go to get to where I need to be, but who I am right now today is really pretty cool. And most of all, I really don't think I could ever be okay with people who talk and talk about what's right, but don't live it in their hearts.
I'm not who I used to be. They'll never understand, but I do. I'm never going to forget how it feels to be poor. Or scared. Or lonely. I'm never going to forget how hard I had to work to get where I am now, and I'm never going to forget how thankful I am to be here. I'm not ever going to be like them. I'm not ever going to be like I used to be either. They don't know. They'll never know.
But I will.