Team Taco and Friends™! What a shit week.
Our tiny beach town was run over by Hurricane Grace last week. We’re fine. We didn’t have power or water for two days. We still don’t have internet. Our place is fine – only minor damage. Pancho is eternally displeased, but getting back to normal after being spooked. We were incredibly lucky.
Others weren’t. I’ve been writing about this for the last few days, and I’m wiped out. It’s not ready yet. I’ll send it next week. So here’s an unfinished draft of a different report I’ve been working on instead. I love you.
Anything I Want
When I was nine, my mom blew up my worldview.
She hammered a nail of an idea so firmly into the board of my brain that it’s never moved. Never faltered. It's weathered every storm I’ve ever thrown at it — my shifting world views, my blossoming and ever expanding sexual orientation, my nihilism and optimism. Sitting in the backseat of our family van while running errands, she broke me open.
I was telling her how I wanted to be vet and an ER doctor. That’s when she did it, when she made her move. She glanced back at me via the rearview mirror and spoke.
“Well, love, you can do anything you want to do. But you can’t do everything you want to do.”
Fuck, mom, I’m nine! Let me live.
Growing up poor, the expectations others place on you vary wildly. Grow up, get married, start a family, buy a house. Grind. Find a career. Make sure it’s a good one. You need to take care of your folks in the future, kid. Be creative. An artist. Learn piano, become a star. Start a sport early. Focus. That sport's scholarship is the only way you’ll be able to afford college. Study. Go. Run.
The false stability offered by the American Dream is the siren's song for poor kids everywhere. And I fell for it. I fell hard.
I convinced myself that I could navigate these expectations as my own. That I could use them as a foundation to build a life that I wanted, while also pleasing others. I didn’t have to do everything they wanted me to. If I pretended hard enough, they’d eventually become mine. I could choose which parts to make my own.
The trauma kept piling up from the experiences of being poor. Of being queer in homophobic-as-hell Idaho. Of being talented but unmotivated and punished for it (almost certainly undiagnosed ADHD). I could do anything I wanted, but I couldn’t do everything. But with the trauma I collected, each awful experience 50 pounds on my back, I couldn’t clearly choose. Brick by brick, I was crushed by the weight.
And here’s my mistake: I went with what sounded nice from the list of options presented to me as a kid. Whatever gave a positive little ping of dopamine. I gave up things I shouldn’t have. I left relationships that were safe and full of love.
Full lives that were bright and wonderful sat in front of me, and I walked away from them. Because I thought I needed to solve for a problem from back then. If I could just work hard enough now, if I could just earn enough, if I could just buy a house, if I could just create a safe space for a child of my own, if I could just solve late-stage capitalism.
If I could just comfort my inner child, scared and alone.
Then maybe it wouldn’t have happened. Maybe I wouldn't feel like this anymore, but also I wouldn't have felt it back then either. Maybe I’d just stop feeling so fucking numb, and I’d be able to catch a break, a pause, a moment of joy, something. Anything other than this. Push. Focus. Study. Grind. Go. Run.
I couldn’t stop running. Because anytime I experienced safety, calmness, and love. From any person, or any city, or any community, it would give me that momentary pause I’d been dying for my entire life. But once I had that stability, that break, it meant I’d have to deal with the pain following me. The unfixable, unsolvable pain that was just there. I was suddenly the scared kid again.
I was 12, cleaning up my bloody knuckles and split lip after someone slung homophobic slurs at me. I was 17, heartbroken by the first man I’d ever loved because he was too scared to keep seeing me. I was 7, hearing my aunt and uncle fight drunk. I was 14, absorbing the slurred insults from my drunk of a grandmother. I was 13, watching my church and community excommunicate the kindest man I ever knew because he was gay. I was 11, pushing a kid’s face into the grass because he whispered gays burn in hell in my ear during a football game. I was 15, feeling a nose break against my fist when someone assaulted my friend.
I was 9, sitting in the van realizing I had to pick something. That I had to pick a life.
And I couldn’t handle it. So I ran. Until I couldn’t anymore. The moment comes at a different time for everyone. Mine came right before my 25th birthday.
In a relationship, finally ready to stay, they weren’t. They kept running. They cracked me open and left me by the ocean. I didn’t think I could feel any worse, so I let my feelings, my trauma, my childhood catch me. Moment by moment, I met them, I felt them, I let them go. I wept. I walked through the forest. I swam in the Pacific. I smoked a lot of weed. The thousands of pounds I was carrying on my shoulders slipped off, one by one.
Through therapy, through working through my trauma, through not expecting a child to have the skills to navigate the awful experiences happening to them, through time, through effort, through safety found in others, through love, I set myself free.
People ask us all the time about what we give up to live the way we do. “How do you do it? Don’t you want kids? A house?” It’s hard to help someone understand that we’re not not choosing to do those things.
We’re just choosing to live the life that’s in front of us, instead of the ones we were told to live. That our choices aren't an indictment of the choices they've made. That if they feel they are, it says nothing of us and volumes about them.
I’m nine and I’m free. I’m 32 and I’m not running anymore. All the lives I gave up pale in comparison to the life I’ve built for myself. I can do anything I want.
And I want this.
TACO TOTAL — 1500/2021
This Week’s Taco Total — 37
August Taco Total — 140
Did I eat one less taco at lunch over the weekend so I'd hit 37 tacos on the week and have a nice, even number for the total? Yes. Was it on purpose? No. I just didn't cook enough filling.
After the hurricane in the early morning, my taqueria of choice was one of the only restaurants open the day of the storm. It was between a one to two hour wait for tacos. The line went a block or two down the street at all times. Those tacos hit the spot like a taco never has.