So, I pick back up where I left off… Living in Hampstead with my new baby brother. He was about five months old when my step-sister Lisa, who was fifteen at the time, moved out. She also didn’t jive too well with having to do so much around the house and help care for a baby. It was sad to see her go, but she really wasn’t getting along very well with my Dad, and she just wanted to be happy. So, she moved in with her Dad who lived in a suburb of Atlanta.
Once my brother Christopher became a toddler, my home life took a different turn. I felt as if all of my evenings and weekends were filled with cleaning, babysitting, homework and a laundry list of “to-do’s”. I didn’t have time for extra curricular activities. I never played a sport, got involved in music (either played an instrument or otherwise), did girls scouts, or dance. Rennie and Dad were so busy and they just simply wouldn’t have the time to pick me up from school and cart me around town to anything extra. My Dad was back in school, perusing his master’s degree in nursing at UNC Chapel Hill. This required him to be gone quite a bit, and Rennie was working as a nurse still doing 12hr shifts on the weekends as well as trying to pick up extra shifts during the week.
The house we lived in was a really beautiful home, but I to me, it was much more of a hassle since we had so many chores to do. I think I would’ve been fine with something smaller, and less chores. I was frequently exhausted after dinner and cleaning the kitchen, which was accompanied with our daily school homework. Rennie and Dad were pretty frugal during these years. Christopher wore cloth diapers (accompanied with makeshift wipes out of paper towels), Rennie and Dad both had older model used cars, Rennie shopped in bulk and used coupons to save money and she shopped the local sewing stores for patterns for clothes that she could make for the family. We weren’t poor by any stretch, but maybe a little “house poor”.
Gradually, things began to change with me. I wanted some independence. I craved love, acceptance, and ultimately I wanted to find myself. The relationship was pretty shaky with Dad and Rennie at this time. I just felt like there were too many rules and that they were way too strict. They believed that spanking and corporal punishment as a justified, biblical way to discipline us (even into our teen years). I feel like this only put up a wall between us. I was unable to connect to them, and I felt alone.
Right around that same time, in November of 1997, my Mom gave birth to my younger sister, Amanda. What a sweet, happy and beautiful baby girl she was. It was SO nice to have a little baby sister. I just loved on her so much. I smothered her all the time with tons of love and kisses. I had fun helping my Mom pick out outfits, playing dress-up and even rocking her and feeding her. I loved it! It was always nice to see my Mom during summer and winter breaks. She always gave me love and attention. Even to the point where I thought she was annoying! I’m grateful for that though, it really showed she cared.
Well, my Dad eventually graduated college with his Master’s degree and began to peruse his career as a Nurse Practitioner. I was glad to have him home more often and not having to work so hard pulling double duty at school and work. It wasn’t too long after, that I started a job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. I felt like I needed an outlet from my home life, and I wanted to start making my own money to save for a car. The restaurant was close enough for me to walk to, and my brother had a truck at the time, and he could also take me to work when he could. I worked weekend nights at first, and then I started picking up a few shifts at night during the week. The work was tough…and gross (we had to scale and de-gut fish every Tuesday…Yuck!). But, at least I was getting paid for it. I still felt disconnected from Rennie and Dad, so I sought out attention elsewhere. I met my first real boyfriend at work, and we started seeing each other.
The restaurant atmosphere lend me to pick up some bad habits. I started smoking from an early age (tried it at a church camp for the first time at 15) but then it slowly became a bad daily habit. My boyfriend at the time was sweet, and a charmer, but he had a really dark past. His older sister worked at the restaurant too, and she had a nice family and seemed to have her stuff together, so I tried to look beyond his past. We were inseparable.
In the meantime, things at home were challenging. Demands for childcare and chores along with my busy school schedule, work and new boyfriend had taken its toll. It was spring of 1999 and I had just gotten back from spring break with my Mom. My Dad had gone through my room and found some empty cigarette boxes, lighters and THE EVER DREADED birth control pills. Ugh. Every part of me ached. I felt so exposed and so ashamed that all my secrets were there…laying on the floor in my room. After a big fight with my Dad, I called a friend of mine, and gathered a few things (I still had my packed bags from the trip to Atlanta) and just left.
Although, I did enjoy my new found freedom…I continued to work, save money and go to school. A few of my friends would help with driving, and I would help with household chores and gas money. I continued to date my then boyfriend and we went to my junior prom together. For the first time in a while, I felt love and acceptance. BUT… it didn’t last. My boyfriend’s felony past caught up with him, and he was back to doing shady things, and ended up being incarcerated.
After a few months had passed of me living with friends, hopping from house to house (courtesy of Jess, Malissa, Jaymi, and Amy). My Dad and I had contact and I agreed to come home. We talked through some things, and agreed to make some changes on both of our parts. My brother had already moved out at the time, so it was just my little brother Christopher and I left. They agreed to help c0-sign a loan on my first car. It was an ugly car, but it was MY car. I had been saving my money from the restaurant job for a while, and I was so happy to be able to afford to put some money down on a car.
Things were going good for a little bit. I had a little bit more freedom, but I wasn’t exactly the most responsible seventeen year old. I ended up getting a different job at Perkins family restaurant, and that is where I met another love interest. He paid me a lot of attention, had a sweet and likable personality (life of the party) and no criminal past, and super fun to be around. He did, however, have a bit of a drug problem.
One night in Spring of 2000, my senior year of High School, I came home from working one night, and my Dad and I got in a big fight about prom. I really wanted to go with my then “Perkins” boyfriend, but my Dad didn’t think I should go, and thought I was too irresponsible to be trusted (which was pretty correct at the time). I of course thought this was extremely unjust, and decided to pack my bags, and move out for good.
I moved back in with my friend Malissa graduated highschool, and continued to work. I didn’t really care about my future at that point, I just wanted some freedom. My “Perkins” boyfriend was one who loved to party, and it wasn’t too long after living with Malissa in Hampstead, that I decided that I should move in with my then boyfriend. Of course, the partying started to influence me quite a bit, and I was in such a vulnerable place in my life… looking for love and acceptance where ever I could get it, and in all of the wrong places. I began to experiment with drugs to fill that void.
It was just one bad decision after another. I have no one to blame but me for how my life was going. I was stubborn, selfish, and immature. Eventually, my bad decisions caught up with me, and I was caught at a party with misdemeanor amount of marijuana and paraphernalia. After a citation, fleeing, an APB… I faced a judge, was placed in a “holding cell”, and did the usual mug shots and finger prints. Only by the grace of God, I got out within a few hours because someone I didn’t even know, offered to pay my court fees so I could walk. Un…Freakin’…Real.
My “Perkins” boyfriend and I of course didn’t last and I was left holding the bag, with nowhere to go. Fortunately, the manager of Perkins took me in, but she and her husband were pregnant expecting in only a few short months. I was sleeping on the floor of her nursery in a blow up mattress…and time was just a tickin’. I was broke, had expired tags, court costs from driving without insurance, the whole nine. I was up shit’s creek without a paddle. I had no plan, but I knew that I needed a place to live.
One day, as I was driving through downtown Wilmington, listening to Dave Matthews Band, a peaceful calm came over me among everything chaotic and worrisome. God gave me peace about leaving Wilmington and he assured me that he had something bigger and better for me. I needed to just trust in him. Since the holidays were near, I decided to go back to Atlanta, per usual during the holidays. When talking to my Aunt Marie about all that was going on, she decided to take me under her wing. She was a GOD SEND.
What a beautiful new beginning that was, coming into her home. She and her family had all the luxuries life had to offer, and here I was with a baja hoodie and broomstick skirt, hemp necklace, looking like a hippie wreck coming into this classy sophisticated suburban mega home. Can you say “Fresh Princess of Bel-Air” Hippie Edition? That took quite an adjustment! I was used to having NO money and not knowing how I was going to eat unless I worked a double restaurant shift. I got a job as a waitress at a local restaurant, and staked out a little home for myself downstairs in her basement.
However, it wasn’t long before I found myself making some of the same bad decisions I did in Wilmington. I got back into drugs and partying again. I met a few people at the restaurant I was working at, and started dating the lead singer of a local band. I was really intrigued to be apart of this group of people. I began to experiment with other harsher drugs. In the quest to find myself…I lost myself.