When I was 19, two of my best friends from high school had asked me to move to Daytona Florida with them. We had gone there for Spring Break a year prior, and they ended up moving there. At the time of their contact, I had just moved back to Long Island, NY with my parents. It was a very complicated time for me. My dad retired at 62, the same year I graduated high school at 18. He was set on selling my childhood home and moving to Florida. I did not want to go, but didn’t really have a choice. None of my older brothers would let me live with them, and I couldn’t afford to live on my own and go to school full-time, which is what I wanted to do. I must include how expensive it is to live on Long Island. If I had an option to stay, I would have. In fact, my girlfriend at the time offered to take money out of her dad’s safe to supplement my ability to pay rent. It was a sweet gesture, but clearly wrong in so many ways. So, I moved with my parents. My eldest brother was going through a separation with his now ex-wife, and came down to Florida with us.
Now it gets a bit more complicated. I rode in my brother’s car, and he was not in a good state of mind. Understandably, he was sad and confused about his marital situation. I rode with him until we stopped to rest in Delaware. In the hotel that night, he decided he was turning around and going back to NY. So, I was in the middle of all of this chaos with my mom, dad, dog, and my brother. The next day, I rode down to Florida with my parents, after my brother turned around to make his way back to NY. The plan was to stay in Tampa, Florida for six months with a friend of the family’s home. They didn’t use it during the summer months, and we could stay there while our permanent home was being built across the state in West Palm Beach. What was I to do in Tampa? I didn’t know anyone, and knew that it would be a temporary stay. I couldn’t go to school, because of the timing and temporary status. So, I looked for a job, and ended up getting one with a major hotel. The position was to help out with their major events. I would work as a vendor, and the first and only event I worked for them was pretty bizarre. Before I talk about the position, I must express that I am open-minded, and one of my brothers is gay. However, the event was still a bit overwhelming to me. It turned out that the event I was slated to work at, was an expo for homosexual men. That doesn’t bother me, and I happily worked the event. The thing that was jolting to me was getting hit on by men. I don’t hate them for doing that, and I don’t think it is wrong. I just felt very uncomfortable because it had never happened to me before. The only thing I could think about was how a woman feels who gets unwanted attention. I had never been hit on by a woman before when it was unwanted. So, this was my first experience with that unwanted, awkward attention which felt like I was being violated. So, yes, #metoo. I do not write that hashtag as a mockery of people who have experienced physical, emotional, and mental trauma. At the same time, I don’t want to lessen the feelings I felt then and still remember to this day. If anything, it made me more aware of how unwanted flirting and advances must feel for women(which I had never thought about before). It didn’t feel good, and later on in my shift, I took a break to go to the bathroom. I ended up leaving and never coming back.
For the rest of the six months in Tampa, I played tennis, basketball, and learned how it rains extremely hard everyday at 2pm, and then stops at 2:15. I had no sense of why I was there, and felt like an accessory that my parents were stuck with. Six months passed by, and we finally moved to West Palm, waiting for the home to be finished, which was in a 55 and over community. We lived in an apartment complex for another three months, and I completed a session of classes at Palm Beach Community College. If you are thinking that all of this would be easier if I had just gone away to school, you would be right. However, due to my behavior in high school, and my choice to cut class and hang out with my friends-rather than live up to my potential-my parents had every right in the world not to help me pay for college. I didn’t have the grades to get into the schools I wanted to attend, and didn’t believe taking a loan to live on campus for four years was worth it. So, there I was, an add on to my parents’ life. I didn’t know this, but my mom was so unhappy about moving away from the rest of my family(my three older brothers were still in NY), that she was having a breakdown. Right when our home was going to be finished, she cried to my father that we had to move back to NY. My father was a good man, and agreed to drop his own vision and plan that he worked his whole life for. He lost $20,000 on breaking the contract to the home, and we drove back to NY. Oh, and we had no place to go, no home waiting for us in NY. One of my brothers took us into his one bedroom apartment on the lower level of someone's house. My mom, dad, dog, brother, AND my other brother who went halfway with us to Florida all lived in that space. It got so bad that I would sleep in the bathtub. Also, I went to community college and used their library as an escape as well as my job delivering pizzas. It turned out to be a blessing, because I made the dean’s list and threw myself into being productive.
However, I was still not happy and felt I had no control over my life.
After four months of living at my brother’s apartment, my parents’ located a 55 and over community to move into. We had to interview with the board before we could live there. Family members over age 18 could live there, but had to interview with the board as well. So, we met with the board, and I couldn’t believe what happened next. One man on the board whose first name was Dick, ended up being a real jerk to my parents until he got sick and died. During that meeting, he asked me, “Are you a drug dealer?” Seriously, I couldn’t believe he asked me that, and I just looked at him and said, “No.” My parents didn’t say anything to him, or tell him he was off base for asking that. I think they were more concerned about just keeping the peace and getting settled into a home. However, again, I was in this situation being dragged along and without any real say. That’s when I got the call from my friends in Daytona.
All I knew when they called was that they were living there and one of them was working as a framer. The other one was living off of money he got from a settlement. I didn’t really care, and saw a way to build my own life. I decided to go, and drove down there alone. When I got there, I realized exactly what I was getting into. My “friends” were doing meth and just needed someone to help with the rent. It was a two bedroom apartment, and I shared a bedroom with one of them. I remained focused and determined to make my life happen. I got a job at a shoe store, and looked into enrolling in school. It was working, and my life was starting to blossom. After three months, my “friends” told me they were going to move back to NY. Oh, and they got a truck for themselves and I’d have to decide to either find a place to stay that I can afford alone, or go home alone. They didn’t include me in their moving plans. So, I thought about everything, and decided to go back to NY. I was embarrassed, and felt defeated. I had to inform my parents that I would be moving back home. I would be going back to the place where I was asked if I was a drug dealer. I knew it wouldn’t be a welcoming environment, nor one where I fit in. However, I was about to leave the same thing.