This post is in response to a writing prompt given during a Social Role Valorization Training in West Virginia this May. The prompt was: “write about someone else’s life from his or her perspective.” Below is my own personal account of a friend’s life who I met in 2009. Part two will delve deeper into the metaphor of the white horse, and my first experience meeting my friend.
My name is Abigail, and I want to tell you the story of my life.
I was born the youngest of 8 kids. My father remarried after his first wife died. My 7 older siblings are my “half” siblings. He married a much younger woman than he. Together they had
Since I was born when my dad was in his 60s, my older siblings are all much older than me, and had moved out of the house, so it was like I was an only child growing up. The times when it was most apparent that I in fact had a rather large family was during holidays, like during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, when the house would fill up with the sweet smell of cheese blintzes and butter crackling, and my half-siblings and their kids were all in from out of town.
Apart from holidays, childhood was spent a lot with mom. It was because of her that I discovered how much I LOVE musicals. My ma and I could sit inside on a Saturday, she with her pack of cigarettes and me with a plate of snacks, and we would watch Singin’ in the Rain, My Fair Lady, and Mary Poppins back to back. I loved the dancing, the merriment, it made me feel like I could almost escape into that other world where everything was art.
After graduating from high school, I moved out on my own. I didn’t have many friends from high school. To be honest, not many kids in my class ever talked to me. I went to a large public school, but took often classes in a separate part of the school apart from most of my classmates. During lunch I usually sat with ten other students who also had class in the separate classroom. One of my classmates and I would talk about our favorite Yiddish plays, and come time for Christmas when all the green and red would spring up everywhere, we’d give each other the knowing eye. With this exception, the most I truly shared in common with people in that separate classroom was how much time we had to spend together, so I kept mostly to myself or talked to the teacher.
Now in my later twenties, I still watch musicals from time to time. They are sort of like old friends, who I’ve known since way back. I laugh when they laugh, I know their secrets, I can finish their sentences. Still, it hasn’t been the same watching them since my mom passed on. When I got the call from my dad, even though I was expecting the call for some time, the shock took me over. I was shaking, and as I begged him for more details, hoping to find out something different, some other truth, I could hear my voice getting louder. My chest tightened. Tears bloomed in my eyes.
I was alone. (Well, I am never really alone, one Staff person is always with me in my tiny one bedroom apartment).
When I hung up the phone, and my gut felt punched out, I told the Staff person on duty that night I lost my mom and she gave me a hug. I cried. I didn’t call my siblings. I didn’t call any friends. It was right around 8pm, the time when I always take a bath, so I got undressed and grabbed a towel, and cried some more in the bathtub until the water got cold. When I got out I called the Boss of my Staff so I could take off work the next day. I was told I better go, that it wasn’t going to do me any good to take off, and going to work in the morning was better than sitting at home and feeling bad. Plus, who was going to be my Staff all day tomorrow, on that short of notice?
If you ask me, I like a routine. I like to know what I’ll be doing for the month ahead of time. That’s one of my characteristics. When you have Staff people coming in and out of your life, and each new staff has a different way of doing things, or a different idea for the way I should do things, you’d probably start to understand where I’m coming from. This way, even if you think I’m uber schedule-oriented, I have to keep somewhat of a routine in my life just to feel sane. It helps me be sure that the Staff people, who take me grocery shopping, help me do my laundry, and cook my meals, are getting everything done in a timely manner.
You see, I can’t just run out to the store if Staff forget to pick up my groceries or take me to the Laundromat, I don’t have a car, and it would be unheard of for me to walk there by myself. So even if a Staff thinks all this scheduling of mine is too much, I’ve found they don’t stick around for too long either way, and sometimes having a schedule makes for less arguing in the long run. It’s sort of like married couples, I guess, only they call me Consumer, and I call them Staff.
Recently I decided to quit my job. The place I have been working at for 9 years. I know what you must be thinking. In this economy, you might think I’ve gone off the deep end to give up possibility for stability, for reaching the 10 year mark, maybe getting a raise. But you see, I was earning a sub-minimum wage for doing the same tasks over and over for 9 years. I learned a few things, but to be honest the work never did much for me. I didn’t make any friends while I was there, and at times I got really frustrated with the people.
Although for a good while, even though the money was minimal, I still liked getting a paycheck. I liked having that extra cash to do with it what I’d like. Wednesdays and Sundays are my nights to eat out, so I needed my own money for that at least. At home I eat mostly frozen foods and hotdogs, partly because it’s the only thing I know just about anyone can cook and partly because my Staff and I have used the same grocery list for years. But a girl needs a little excitement in her life, and dinner nights are that for me.
Fortunately, times do change, for better or for worse. When my dad died a year after ma, I was torn apart. But he did leave me a good stash of money. And just like that, voila, I didn’t need a shitty job anymore. I could afford my dinner nights on my own. I got a new apartment, with curtains and a clean carpet and a swimming pool. The new furniture didn’t need a plastic cover to protect from bed bugs any more. And my closet got filled with clothes that fit me (and fit into the 21st century).
So I quit my job of 9 years.
And for what it’s worth, things are better. But it wasn’t super easy, all of this transition. A former teacher, my brother Jim, Staff and Bosses areall weighing in on what’s best for me, and they are helping make positive changes in my life. But as far as my job, no one really thought it was best for me to quit. Was my only way out to fight my way? Well, I did. I kicked and shouted my way out. Literally. I’m not proud of it, but I am happy it got me somewhere different on a schedule that seemed right for me.
So I say I quit. My Staff says I was asked to leave and “can never go back.” Good riddance. I think whatever I do instead of that will be more worth my time. Even if it’s sitting at home for a while until Staff figure out some other Program I can fit into. Which is what I’ve been doing lately, and I don’t miss that place one bit.