There they were, heavy stock paper, beautiful foil stamping, and my name followed by Assistant Vice President. I rubbed them between my fingers, I smelled them, I placed them in my card holder on my desk, I put them in my purse.
I may have been born poor white trash, but AVP followed my name. Fancy.
Yep, I had made it. Did you hear me? I made it - so, fuck you all!
Smug. Smug. Smug.
I was so totally full of myself. I was all puffed up with self-inflated pride, constantly patting myself on the back for being just so goddamn incredible. Everyone needed to know that despite it all; their drugs, their prison time, their abuse, the poverty, I had made it.
I. I. I. made it.
I may have made it in the professional sense, but that is about all I did. I didn't actually do anything with my own life. I didn't pursue what I loved, I didn't take a stand for what I believed in, I didn't help anyone. I was so afraid of failing or being seen as uncool that I refused to put myself out there. I thought of myself as James Dean, over in the corner with a jacket and a smoke, not saying anything, just content in the knowledge that I was the coolest cat in the room.
Furthermore, rather than owning my past, I desperately wanted to distance myself from it. In many ways, I was living a lie.
As many of you know, I have been fortunate to establish a relationship and gain the support of an incredible woman, Sheri Lynch. I joke about her being my BFF, but all joking aside I feel complete gratitude for all that she has done for me and for so many others. She was a trailblazer for all the poor-white-trash-done-good. Through presenting herself in an open, raw, and real way, all the while keeping a delicious sense of humor in tact, she helped me realize that I needed to not only own who I was, but that by sharing who I was I may actually help others.
I asked her if she had ever been ashamed of who she was, and this was her fist-pump inducing answer, Not so much ashamed as exhausted. I was weary of secrets and excuses and manipulations. I was weary of feeling powerless. Owning where and what I came from was a way of taking charge, of finally having the power over my own life. I’d rather be honest, authentic and white-trash-made-good, than some manufactured creation always looking over my shoulder in fear of the past sneaking up on me.
When I started writing about my life, the completely fucked-up parts and the unbelievably beautiful parts, I realized that I finally had the power over my own life, that I no longer had the fear of my past sneaking up on me.
I didn't care if I seemed cool because I realized that I have never been nor will I ever be anything remotely resembling James Dean. I am just a quirky nerd that loves books, and uses the f-word too much and that is cool with me. Therefore, when I saw all of the fire and brimstone hate-mongering taking place over Amendment One and the President's announcement of his support of gay marriage I decided that I was not going to stand in the corner anymore. I didn't want others to feel that they had to live a lie in order to be happy.
Although, I was not especially surprised that Amendment One passed, I was pretty heartbroken that it did. When you grow up as poor white trash, when you don't come from a Utopian household made up of mom, dad, Wally and the Beav, and when you finally get the fuck over yourself you begin to understand that much of the hate in the world is from people being unwilling to accept differences in beliefs, and insisting that there is only one way - their way.
I believe that much of the vileness in the world stems from fear of the unknown, differences, and even fear of forming unique thoughts and beliefs.
I believe in true, unending love.
I believe in Conley's special brand of magic.
I believe in good hugs and great manners.
I believe that my husband is one helluva guy.
I believe that no one should get a tramp stamp...they're just wrong.
I believe that there is a higher power than us.
I believe in good friends.
I believe in loyalty.
I believe in moving forward.
I believe in heartbreak and grief.
I believe that we have spiritual guiding forces.
I believe in laughing until you cry and crying until you laugh.
I believe in hard work.
I believe in acceptance.
I believe in miracles.
I believe that looking the other way makes you guilty.
I believe that many of the principles and lessons of the Bible are extremely worthwhile.
I believe that a good book can take you anywhere.
I believe that sometimes you need to accept help.
I believe in coffee, in red wine.
I believe in tolerance.
I believe in science, and reason, and logic, and evolution.
I believe that domestic abuse victims should always be protected.
I believe in forgiveness.
I believe that my way is not aways the only way, and maybe not even the right way.
I believe in telling people that you love them - in words and actions.
I believe that there is abuse of the system, but the system is still necessary.
I believe in the right to choose.
I believe in saying excuse me, please, thank you, and you're welcome.
I believe in giving my seat to an elder.
I believe in a cold beer on a nice summer night, of steaks on the grill.
I believe in fighting the good fight.
I believe that oceans and mountains are good for your soul.
I believe that rain on a tin roof is one of the most soothing sounds in the world.
I believe in peace by way of movie theater.
I believe in being comfortable at a keg party and at a cocktail party.
I believe that in the end, family, the ones that you are born into and the ones you choose, are all that matter.
I believe in a good cry.
I believe that I will always stock pile paper products and light bulbs.
I believe in The Muppets.
I believe that poor white-trash kids of drug addicts can find happiness by owning who they are.
I believe that being gay is no more a choice than being left-handed or having green eyes.
I believe that committed couples that choose not to have a piece of paper stating their love should be afforded the same rights as those with that paper.
I believe it gets better.
And, I believe that everyone should have the right to marry the person they love.
After all, the greatest of these is love.