There is this joke old people would tell if you said anything about telling yourself something. They would say I am going to take a walk and go find myself. If you happen to find me before I get back hold me until I get back. Big laughs all around. Even though some people saw that as a punchline I saw it as directions for life. You will not find you in the same place you have always looked. Sure there are things we learn about ourselves while being at home reading books or being emotionally moved by what we see on tv but there is nothing like getting out into the world and tasting a milkshake for the first time rather than reading about someone’s reaction to one in a book or seeing it on TV.
In 2012 I was diagnosed as agoraphobic. For those that don’t know it is a mental disorder for people who do not like to leave the house. The world was unsafe in my eyes and I was always terrified to leave my house. I had well intentioned friends who knew I loved music and invited me to concerts and would drag me out the house. I would enjoy the music but silently be crying about all the people around me feeling like they knew how scared I was and were laughing at me. I was suffering while that friend was patting themselves on the back for helping me. The occasion would provide days of mental torture. Whenever the friend would ask “aren’t you glad you went”. I would always say “oh yes” because it was hard to break their hearts when they tried so hard to be helpful and easier than explaining it is my worst nightmare. I think about it this way: me telling someone I am black and they say how sorry they feel for me because of what we have to endure with racism, and then hands me some white colored makeup so I can fit in with the white people and be comfortable. Your make-up does not change who I am nor does it mask what I go through.
Back when I was married and going through a separation/divorce I would go pick my sister up from her job. She was a bartender at a pool hall. I often had to wait for her so I would get on a pool table and play by myself and feed the jukebox and found it so cathartic. Playing pool was the only thing I could do that was public. It was a way I could be alone around other people. I would be in my own little world singing and dancing like no one else was there.
One day I met my friend Ty. She approached me because she was shocked to see a woman playing and playing alone. Eventually we became best friends and she convinced me to join a pool team and that is where my life changed and I began to find out so much about myself. I found out I was stronger than I thought I was and I found out I did like people. I just had to meet the right ones. This lady changed my life. She gave me a spark of what life could be and pushed me in the direction of living. She passed away last year in a kayak accident but to this day I still remember how she believed in me and wanted the best for me.
People still make me nervous but I have a better control over things these days. Now I look forward to getting back to being on a team. The story in the beginning about finding yourself was a guide for me. A reminder that I won’t find myself in the same old places because there is nothing new to find. If I venture into new places, I find out something new about myself. Sometimes it takes the spark of someone believing in you and gently nudging you towards finding new parts of you. I miss my friend Ty La Strap but so grateful she came to change my world. Friends are people we should cherish every moment with because some people don’t have the luxury of friends.