My Poisonous Town And Its Broken People
I really want to leave my small town, and not just for me, but for the future of anyone else who might come into my life.
I grew up in a very small town. The kind of town you see people coming to when they say they got tired of the “big city crime”. The newcomer who says they were ready to grow up so they moved out of the city or “they had children and they wanted to raise them somewhere that has wholesome values”.
Well, I say everyone who says that is full of crap, and I will not apologize. The town I grew up in is famous because Mark Twain used to live here, and there used to be beautiful Victorian homes on every street corner. My home town is also the site of the most renowned private colleges in all the country. That sounds like an amazing place to start a life, doesn’t it?
This sounds like something out of a 1950’s sitcom, where everyone is able to live a comfortable life. Where all of the children are fed and well-adjusted and adorable, and all of the women of the town have perfect hair and beautiful makeup. But that’s just Fiction. Well so is the myth of the perfect small town that I grew up in.
I believe that growing up in this tiny town leaves me drastically unprepared for real life and real situations in many different ways. I have fond memories of reading books from the Goosebumps series and sitting on the porch on a warm Saturday afternoon. I remember watching The Brady Bunch while I got ready for church on Sunday morning.
I remember one day in class when we were supposed to be learning about Hanukkah, the teacher asked us to raise our hands and asked who was Christian in the room. Most of the children put their hands up, but I was one of the few who did not. Her next question was who is Catholic in the room, and the rest of the kids put their hands up. No, this wasn’t Bible study. It was “team time”, an after class video time that well-behaved kids got to go to. She was trying to prove a point that none of us will ever celebrate another holiday. That almost all of us would believe in Jesus, or some of us would grow up to say that we seriously doubted his existence.
The school that I went to through all of elementary school, middle school, and a fraction of high school was predominantly white. I’ll never forget the day we discussed the slave trade and the one African American boy in my class started crying and told everyone not to look at him anymore. I’m not entirely sure why this was but I’m pretty sure he felt left out and alone, I don’t know where he is now but I really hope he’s happy and he feels like he’s part of a community. The lack of cultural diversity extended far beyond the color of one’s skin, or whether they chose to belong to a church congregation.
The cultural divide extended to being one that could have destroyed my education and my mental health. The one thing I remember about the 7th grade was that my friend and her dad brought me to the dollar store to get a bunch of school supplies. We bought mechanical pencils, gel pens and mirrors for our new lockers. We felt grown up because we were excited that we were going to be able to apply candy flavored lip gloss and then put mirrors inside our lockers. I also remember my mother bought a pair of pants that I absolutely loved. They were standard dark jeans and they had words like, “cool” and “totally” written on them in what looks like pink chalk.
By the time seventh grade was over, I was a totally different kid. I once got straight A’s, I loved to go horseback riding and go to church with my family. All that stopped. My grades plummeted and I barely left my room. My mother was frustrated and didn’t know what to do and at this point in time as my parents were experiencing a rollercoaster of their own when they hit a rough patch in their over a decade-old relationship.
I don’t hold it against my parents that they missed some of the warning signs. My mother was in school and my father was busy trying to keep us fed, and they were considering making drastic life changes for me. None of this was easy.
I blame the medical professionals who made the poor decision to over-medicate a child before doing any research on the drugs they were to prescribe me. I blame a very lackluster school system that I honestly believe hired a mentally ill person with narcissistic and sociopathic tendencies to help children with a host of mental, emotional, physical and social disabilities.
When I started taking my medications, I became a very different person. My parents didn’t think much of it as most children go through a phase wanting to rebel. I traded in my Britney Spears CD’s for musical darker themes. Everything from Hawthorne Heights to Marilyn Manson. My mother thought that it was part of growing up and my Dad would go on to blame my new taste in music for my mental and emotional decline.
While I think this is a very common way to deal with a child’s mental health issues, I don’t think it’s a very good way. They don’t know that a lot of my problems stemmed from being abused at school. I was never physically assaulted and I was never touched inappropriately. I was however, relentlessly made fun of. I would have my homework assignments misplaced, resulting in failing grades. I was constantly being followed to the bathroom, not given sufficient time to urinate. No one knew that I would develop this medical condition and a phobia of public toilets. This was all because of my 8th-grade Resource room teacher. Despite exhibiting signs of mental instability, she is still employed by the school. I’m pretty sure it’s because of Politics, and the fact that she dates a local police officer.
It would be easy enough to cut the head off the snake if they had proper evaluations done in school. I dare to challenge the evaluation that I was given in school because as a college student I was diagnosed as learning disabled due to my traumatic brain injury. This was never diagnosed until after I moved out of that small town. I can’t help but wonder if the schools underfunding was the result of the school being unable to properly screen the teachers and psychiatrists who worked there.
I had opened up to one of my favorite teachers about my suicidal as well as my multiple violent outbursts, which were not taken seriously by any of the staff. My parents and a social worker were the ones responsible for taking me out of this dark place, and I truly believe they are responsible for saving my life or potentially even saving the life of someone else.
Things drastically changed for me when we moved from my small town to the big city of Charlotte, North Carolina. I was eager to experience the bright lights that Charlotte had to offer me. My first day at Ashbrook High School was very different as I got lost the minute I walked in the school. I went from a school of under 400 kids to a school of over 1,400. I became friends with the weird kids; the ones who listen to ICP and where Tripp pants and smoked weed by the bleachers.
When I came back to this little dot on the map I was even more disillusioned with its wholesome wonderful Norman Rockwell painting exterior. We live within walking distance of a prison, which house is people who have committed serious crimes including murder and sexual assault. Our town seems to be overflowing with narcotic use, which often times results in death for its residents. I’m so glad that I met the people I met and I have strong relationships with them to this day.
I remember the first time that I met Courtney. She was over 6 feet tall and outspoken, and was the first black person that I ever became friends with. Like most teenage girls, we like to read romance novels and drink frozen hot chocolate. She was my best friend for two years. None of this sounds very dramatic, but to a shy girl who grew up in a very different type of community, it was. I remember doing a double-take and staring when I saw that one of my teachers for study hall wore a Yamaka, and my math teacher would openly talk about her love of pickup trucks and her Lord Buddha.
If I ever have children, I hope that they’re as fortunate as I am to have experienced this. I will make sure they are because it is a real learning environment for diverse and wonderful people, and the world is worth exploring.
I would rather have a strong independent self-aware child who marches to the beat of their own drum. I don’t want them to be afraid to be themselves, whether or not they are physically or mentally able to do everything. I don’t want them to feel like they’re lesser. I want them to stand up to their teachers, I want them to stand up to their Boy Scout leaders and their preachers. I want them to stand up to their oppressors and I want them to question authority.
I’m so glad that I got to experience life beyond my little bubble. I want to experience new things and try new foods, meet new people and investigate new beliefs, new ideas, and new ways of being. Being in a place where I’m not judged by things I cannot control by the person that I am in my heart.
I ended up being this wonderful combination of the person who I was before I left, but like a lizard, I shed my old, dead skin that was holding me down. I got new, wonderful skin that I could feel comfortable in and became the person that I was meant to be.
I’m going to spread my wings and fly no matter what anyone says. I am getting my degree in May, which will be the first step of my five year plan, which includes getting the hell out of this place full of plastic people. These people would rather maintain image than work on what’s real, and they’re setting their residents up for failure and immense unhappiness in life.
I will not fall prey to my poisonous town and its broken people.