There but for the grace of god
She was sitting, back against the wall.
Under the bridge.
A solitary figure between the tents.
Staring straight ahead.
A different decision 37 years ago, and she would be me.
My heart is pounding as I write this
It’s not a time I speak of
But living on the streets is part of my story
And There but for the grace of god go I.
(And by “god” I mean the whatever deemed it necessary for me to be a part of this world but that’s another essay).
Being 15 years old and homeless is not a choice I would recommend but I’m glad for the experiences. How can I say I’m glad to have been assaulted multiple times and exposed to some very dangerous situations (that my own poor decision making got me in to)? Would I still be grateful for my life if I were still homeless? How differently my life could’ve turned out…at the time I figured I’d be a “Jane Doe” found dead in an alley before the age of 18. Here I sit in a house in Pasadena, California, a college-educated nurse at the age of 52.
I want to share the experiences but am untrusting of social media platforms and people’s reactions. I am a gentle soul and I see no reason to open myself up to the opinions of strangers if there will be negativity and judgement. But I want to speak my truth because my life has value. Her life has value. We each have highly individualized yet group experiences – surely someone will find what I say to be interesting and worthy of their time to read. We all have that “read it on the toilet” time (see how I just gave the reader an example of an individual yet group experience? Insert smiley face icon here). Yes, I write like I speak.
I ran away from home at 15 and lived on the streets until I was 17. I was a closet punk rocker dressed as a cheerleader in my failed attempt to secure my mother’s love and acceptance. I felt a pressure inside to rebel against the Good Girl persona I had, no – I wanted to be seen as Bad by my peers. So one night, I packed up a duffel bag, left a note in my drawer and climbed out my window running through the park to call my friend Maxine from a payphone so her “cool” mom could come pick me up. Later that night my friend Ricky shaved my bleach blonde hair into a mohawk and we dyed it black. (The first of many, many, MANY hair situations I’ve encountered over the years!) The next day, “Zena” and “Jeff” left Long Beach and took the city bus to Hollywood – starting an adventure that I honestly didn’t think I’d survive.
But I did and here we are…My hand is shaking so badly I’ll end this for now.