Pondering the Past

There are a few things that have been on my mind lately. For one, I occasionally think how grateful I am to have two particularly toxic people out of my life. When I’m starting to feel down because school is pissing me off or I’m frustrated with customers who’ve treated me like a complete idiot, not only do I then think about how lucky I am to be in school and have this job, I remember what life was like just a couple of years ago. How frustrating it was to constantly walk on eggshells around the house. I don’t know if I ever relaxed the last year you-know-who lived with us.
Now, it’s my house. Period. I do what I want, when I want, and both Cavan and Charlie are respectful of me and my space. No one’s screaming or crying or throwing tantrums around here. And if they are, it’ll be me doing it, thank you very much.

Second, my former housemate Jennifer has moved back to Indiana after almost nine years living in Florida. Not only that, but she’s going to start working with Julie again. For those of you not familiar, Julie was my housemate/job for the first eight or so years of my young adult life. She’s moderately to severely mentally retarded, suffers from epilepsy and autism, and I believe she was recently diagnosed with diabetes.

Without going in to a novel of a post about all of those eight years (we’ll save that for later when the everything really starts to bubble up), suffice it to say that my emotions were all over the place when I found out Jennifer would return to work with her. I was happy to know that someone I trusted would be in her life again, but I was frustrated to learn that Julie’s guardian/mom constantly asks about me and why I don’t like her.

We had an argument in 2001 that was a culmination of all those years being treated with zero respect and, not like her daughter’s friend and roommate, but like I was her family’s personal gopher. Not only did she expect Julie’s staff members to cart her biological children to doctors’ appointments and soccer games, but we also painted her house, did her grocery shopping, and had to deal with the consequences when she didn’t feel like seeing Julie for whatever reason. By the way, one common aspect of autism is obsessive-compulsive behaviors. When you tell Julie something is going to happen (like visiting “mom”), and then tell her she’s not going, there is hell to pay.

Her reasoning for treating us like slaves was always “If Julie were able, she would do [this ridiculous thing you’re being asked to do].” There were massive amounts of guilt from her and a number of other difficulties that just came out of me all at once one night on the phone with her. I’m not proud of what I said or how I said it, but at least I was honest and I told the woman off.

My main frustration with Julie’s mom was that, coincidentally, when I was in high school my folks lived right down the street from her. Though I knew neither her nor Julie at that time, she saw me walking to school all the time. If you didn’t know, I was a major goth/punk in high school. White face, jet black hair, black lipstick and clothes. I had my nose pierced, too. Although I was definitely not alone in the United States in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I was especially alone at my high school. My personal sense of style seemed to unsettle a lot of people. I don’t care to recount all the things people assumed about me since they’re all stupid.
So, from day one, Julie’s mom remembered me as “that little girl from ‘Beetlejuice’,” and never let me forget what a freak she thought I was. During that phone call in ’01 when I screamed at her, I brought that up and asked why, if she thought I was such a psycho, did she allow me to live with her daughter for FIVE YEARS.

It’s been fourteen years since I graduated from high school, but I would bet you any amount of money that she would hassle me about my clothes in 1990 today.

That’s just one example of her annoying the shit out of me. I once got frustrated enough with her going on about something to say “Please, just let it go.” Ironically, she kept saying that to me for years and years afterwards. “Oh, I’m sorry! I should let it go, shouldn’t I?” Hi-larious.

I have also experienced a certain amount of guilt and regret when I think about “what I did wrong” when I worked with Julie all those years ago. But then I remember I was barely 18 years old when we met and things were a lot different for both of us back then. We grew and learned together and she had an amazing impact on my life. Through all the ups and downs, the weird moments, the scary moments, I know that if I had not met, worked, and lived with Julie, I would not be the person I am today. And I think that’s good. I like to think I made a big difference in her life, as well. The idea of having a relationship with her again makes me both nervous and happy. I’ll probably start crying if I keep thinking about it.


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