Updated: Jan 5, 2020
A new decade has officially begun. If you've been living under a rock, perhaps you managed to miss it. If so, I envy you. With the coming of the new year the annual tradition of making a resolution has seemingly died out to give way to a new ritual-- online boasting about one's accomplishments, and it is well underway. In the age of Throwbacks and Life Comparisons, we've welcomed the concept of posting old selfies (the ones we mock but are still great shots) are put with new ones (if you can even believe we look better now?!) accompanied by long comments on how much we've grown and what we've accomplished. Gone are the days where one simply felt contented with themselves, it only counts if the world knows. I've spent the better part of the past decade trying to avoid revealing myself online, only to accept the fact that (clearly) that will not work if I want to grow any success a business. So I've decided to share. But I'll share the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. No Social Media Glossing, No highlighting only the best. All of it (well mostly all; this is a blog post not a memoir) spilled out before the world. Like oil on a driveway that refuses to fade, it's rainbow colors dulling through years in the sun. According the rampant post notifications, the beginning of this little tale is supposed to begin in 2010. So lets begin.
At the start of 2010 I was a high school senior. I was not the happiest of adolescents and I had always seen college as "the light at the end of the tunnel". That was not to be, but that's skipping ahead. 2010, Second Semester, Senior year. The world was my playground. Highschool had been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, popularity and loneliness, experimentation, rage and self discovery. Similar to every other person my age I was deciphering the realities of the world, the true selves of my friends and family, and the truth of myself. Because school was set up to push kids through to graduation it basically allowed a certain amount of failed classes. As I didn't fail any classes, my course requirements were completed. I arranged to have a modified schedule which allowed me to sleep in, go to school for 9:30, have poetry with my favorite teacher, eat lunch, and then go to pottery before leaving by 1pm. The entire day was scheduled out so that my best friend and I could never leave each others side. We had been living together at her Mom's house after we had both fought with our primary caregivers respectively, and chose to leave. I had recently moved back home so I could work and save for college (my dream school, which my best friend had also been accepted into). I had met my boyfriend, Tom, the summer prior and he worked at BAE down the road from my house. He had also lived down the road from my previous living arrangement as well-- an unplanned but entirely pleasant surprise as even after I moved back home I spent serval nights at either his or my friend's house. I was working at Martha's Exchange in Nashua, NH a resturuant hybrid with its own brewery and candy store that turned into a nightclub after 11pm. My younger sisters (Ashley and Delaney) were finally at an age of cute self sufficiency and beginning school.
Life was finally starting to go the way I had always wanted it to go-- my way. I actually got Tom into Prom despite being 21 (we stayed for a solid hour).
Days passed, I partied too much trying to forget a series of unfortunate events in my past, worked, made money, went to school, made art...and then on one not so special day, I finally graduated. The best was yet to come. I could feel it.
Summer dawned to a new apartment with my two best friends, Kay (that highschool bestie) and Scarlett, a new spot at my dream school, and a new possibility with Tom. There were transitional periods with my roommates as Kay was sleeping around in the aftermath of a failed relationship and Scarlett was dealing with her gender identity. But for the most part it was standard college living. We partied and painted, and the world kept turning. Until the day it seemingly, stopped, in the beginning of
I woke next to Tom with a stabbing pain in my lower abdomen. I tried to get up, but fell to the floor in agony. I shoved Tom awake and told him we needed to go to the emergency room. Kay woke to my screams and wanted to come, but never wanting to be a cause for concern I told her it would be ok and to go back to bed. Looking back on it, if I had not done so perhaps our path would've turned out differently. Or maybe it wouldn't have. Hindsight is a bitch, isn't it? Speaking of hindsight, once I got in the car with Tom I proceeded to make my second unwittingly poor decision the would change the course of my life. As opposed to going to the local ER in Mass, I told him to take me to the Nashua emergency room in NH. It was 40 minutes further, but my family lived in Nashua, and as I felt like I was dying, I wanted my Mom. When we arrived I dealt with intake, unfortunately this was not my first experience with pain and it would be far from my last. Turns out I had a ovarian cyst the size of a grapefruit on my right ovary. They dosed me with morphine, I met a surgeon, and the walls danced before my eyes. As they began to roll me away I told Tom something about marriage and everything faded to black. I awoke to being roughly handled by unseen hands and a murmur of voices. I was released from the hospital, and was halfway to my Moms house before the worst pain I'd ever experienced kicked in. For those of you who have never experienced gas within your body due to surgery, count your blessings, for those who have, I feel your pain. But I was 19 years old. The world was my oyster and I had a life to get back to. So I walked it off and within a week was back home in Dorchester. Unfortunately, my body didn't accept my state of mind. Within a month and a half I resigned myself to the fact that even with the 2 Vicodin a day my surgeon had prescribed, I wasn't hacking it. The quarter mile walk to the T station was a marathon I hadn't trained for, the ride a series of stab wounds, arriving to school was nearly impossible. Making it through a class was impossible. I found a mutual friend who was willing to move into my room and take over my lease. And, with the light at the end of the tunnel extinguished, I moved back home. The following months were a blur of doctors, specialists, surgeries and more. The first surgeon I had seen had screwed up and there had been internal bleeding along with a new cyst growing. That required another surgery. Followed by another one. But I refused to lie in bed doing nothing. I still had hope that things would turn around. I began taking classes at the local community college online that I could transfer back to MassArt when I returned. I began volunteering down the road at my sister's elementary school for a few hours once a week to set "a goal" for myself; but mostly I was in bed. It was there, in my bed, when the year turned to
Twenty years old and living at home. There was a hell, and I was in it. This was not the light at the end of the tunnel I had yearned for. This was nothingness. I felt like a ghost living in limbo while everyone from in my life moved on. Kay was a sophomore now at MassArt and had made new friends. She visited once, and came to Christmas Eve. Scarlett had moved to a no where town, but was at least living her own life. I was in my mothers basement. Luckily my friend Meghan was around m to visit, and of course Dutiful Tom was still by my side, but he worked and I was growing bored of online classes. I turned 21 and had a blowout party. I mean a blow out. I was gifted so much alcohol that I had to give it away. Seriously, when we moved, I had to throw away frozen jelloshots that were still stock piled from my party. And that's saying something, because at the time I was relying on alcohol a bit too much to dull that fact I was still at home by
The year began at the club my uncles girlfriend at the time worked at. Always one to speed through classes, I was over the halfway point of graduating from MCC. But I was no where near closer to getting back to the life I wanted to be living. Doctors couldn't figure out how to fix me. I at least had been accepted into treatment by an amazing primary care doctor (Plus 1 for being a medical anomaly). She at least prescribed me the medication necessary for me to go to a few classes before my body succumbed to the pain. So with prescriptions out the nose I started taking a few in person classes at MCC. The socialization filled my days with a bit of cheeriness, and I began to remember my plan of returning to "my real life" at MassArt once my health was figured out. Scarlett had moved back home, and we had long art dates where we would spend hours upon hours creating. They were my lifelines to remembering who I was. Kay, never one to be held down, was in the wind with her new life. She'd respond to a Facebook message or a text now and then, but other then when I forced Tom to take me to her parties, she had vanished. I contented myself in knowing that once I was healthy and back at MassArt, we would reconnect. My life long friend's brother passed away. He had been a good man, and he was too young. At my core, I wished it was me in his place. Meanwhile my younger sisters father pushed my Mom to sell the house (bought for a steal from my grandparents) as the timeframe set forth during a seemingly long ago divorce negotiations grew due. With the lingering reminder about the source of my adolescence angst dwindling around me I hit a wall in
I graduated MCC without acknowledging it. I didn't care about my associates degree. I was going for my Masters in Art Education. I had always been going for my Master's in Art Education inside my head, these were simply credits to be transferred towards that degree during my temporary health issues. The problem was, my health issues weren't going away. They were getting worse. After the last surgery where my ovary and fallopian tube were removed, I was immediately given a depo shot to keep my hormones induced in a state of artificial menopause. I was getting fat. Every few months I went in and saw picture perfect pregnant women and newborns, and I died a little inside. I was still with Tom and while I wasn't even sure if I wanted kids, when being faced with the possibility of never being able to have them, I took the best option the specialists gave. The hormones making me fat made my leg issues worse. Turns out I had arthritis, tendinitis, scoliosis, raynaud's and more. The surgeries caused such significant scar tissue that the surgeon removed my appendix in the last surgery. It increased the pain of the scar tissue the first surgeon had left behind. The pain killers upset my IBS and caused my migraines to increase to multiple times a week. I would say I was a hot mess, but I was an ugly fat one. Meanwhile, the house had sold. I said goodbye to the house I had known since infancy and hello to a stranger. My room in the new house was stunning. Easily the size of almost my entire Dorchester apartment with it's two walk in closets and private terrace. Because the house was a split level, it was decided that I would have the Master Suite so I wouldn't have to go up and down as many stairs. Despite the stunning nature of my room, my headspace was not a pleasant one. I couldn't leave my doctors. I resigned myself to going to NHIA, the "state school" as K put it. Looking back on it, it's a shame I saw it that way, but that "hindsight is 20/20" saying is really the overarching theme of this little narrative. Perhaps it was waking up to Frozen's "Let It Go" every morning at 7am for the year prior. I digress-- Going into NHIA a Junior was like going to freshman orientation without any of the wonder of actually being a freshman. I was stripped of any preconceived notions about how school was going to be great, how I'd make life long friends, make my fame and fortune and so on. I was 23 going on 79. I hurt. My body ached. I wanted to be done. Done with school, done with life. And as I questioned my existence, K's father (and my father figure since the 5th grade) died and my questioning the point of life became darker.
I was tired of the world and it's melodrama. I was tired of good people dying and bad people living. I was tired of living. And with a never ending sense of doom and exhaustion it became
I wish I could say life got better, but it didn't. I reached an all time high with my weight reaching 280lbs and I finally said "Screw Kids" to myself. With Walter's "May you have kid's just like you." motto in my head, I got off the depo shot. Tom and I had been looking at houses and he decided on a little cape in a suburban corner of Manchester, where I was going to school (incidentally about a mile and a half away from that favorite teacher I had for Poetry at the beginning of this woefully tale). I was not a fan. It had only one bathroom, right off the kitchen, being built in the 1950's the stairs were too narrow for me to use safely, there was no dishwasher, and the two bedrooms on the main floor combined was still smaller than my previous bedroom. Say goodbye to cathedral ceilings and hello to wood paneling and linoleum. I hated it because, like so much in my life, with my health issues I couldn't change it to be how I wanted it to be. I hated it because, again like so many other things, I had no say in it. Tom had taken the advice of others and moved fast. Luckily things have developed both in our communication and in my health and home updating, but that isn't relevant now because it's 2015 and we're deep in woe dammit! So Tom bought a house, we moved in, I was going to a school I hated with kids I didn't like. My body continued to wage war against me. I still hated looking in the mirror.
An accurate portrayal of my life would be this video I made for school: https://youtu.be/up0qpJQWLQ4
It's slow, it's sad, and it drags, but my life dragged. Days blurred into each other and the only constant was pain.
My grandparents took the whole family on a cruise to the Bahamas for their 50th anniversary. Tom and I at this point had been together for 5 years at that point, so naturally he was invited. Ironically my grandmother was quite distraught by the fact I didn't have a handicapped bathroom. I was offended by the concept. I had health issues- I wasn't handicapped. The first day on an island and I got third degree burns on my feet. I spent the remainder of the trip in a wheelchair. My grandmother would have had the last laugh so to speak if there was anything fucking funny about the situation.
**My friend Meghan's nickname of Shamoo was really a prophecy.
To say I was in a dark space would be the understatement of the millennium. I was beyond a dark place and into the deepest crevices of suffering a person in could be. I honestly didn't believe I would endure. Side effects of all the medications continued to plague me as I dealt with sleep paralysis, confusion. nausea, hot flashes, night sweats, dry mouth, fatigue and beyond. As I had continuous nightmares of my rapist, those I'd lost, and Hell at night; my days were similarly filled with a teacher I can really only compare to Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter. I would doze into day dream states where she would smash my fingers with a car door as she smiled at me. During this time in my life I would get moments of insane rage. I stayed up all night and maxed out credit cards and didn't remember the next morning. K decided I wasn't worth being friends with. I can't say I blame her, though since she hadn't spoken to me in so long it seemed a bit asinine to put the entire downfall of our relationship on me. But I've come to realize that sometimes we're not the hero of the story, sometimes we're just a fleeting bad guy. My doctors informed me that symptoms of bi-polar disorder tend to surface in the early to mid twenties. Who knew? And with that diagnosis sprung upon me
began. My final year of college. Kind of. I completed all of my Master level courses, I had passed all the state Praxis 1 and 2 exams, I had done the student teaching required up to that point. And then I was informed that due to the medications I was on, I couldn't complete my final full year of student teaching. I personally chose to blame this on Umbrige and God. But I could be wrong. So I graduated with my bachelors degree. I didn't go to graduation. It wasn't the degree I went to school for, and graduations suck. And then I was back in bed in pain. It was a relapse into 2012. My hernia and scar tissue acted up. It hurt. Not much to note really this year. I made art, my sisters started highschool. My reunification with my father became more secure.
Moving right along to 2017:
I was a college graduate and I was fucking bored out of my mind. Beyond being in physical pain, the amount of work I put into making art for so many years at school had taken the fun out of creation for me. I doodled. My hands still needed to be doing something, but I didn't make anything of significance for the first part of the year. I went on family trips. I visited my grandparents in Florida. Then I went out West with my Father's side of the family and went site seeing, went to Vegas.
Somewhere along the way I began feeling something. When I returned home I finally started making things again, and by summer out of boredom more than anything I began doing craft fairs. I remembered that I actually liked art. I actually liked people. It just had to be in limited doses.
Tom's grandmother died right before Thanksgiving. For the first time in a long time, I didn't wish it was me. I simply mourned with him. And life slowly continued. Around Christmas time Tom took me on a trip to Northern NH and proposed, I said yes. It was a big to-do.
I got started on designing my engagement ring from my great grandmothers ring. I worked with my doctor intensively to find medications that offset the side effects of other necessary medications. Finally, in
I was able to begin working part time for the first time in 7 years. It was fantastic. My engagement ring's design finally got completed and was brought to life by a local artisan jeweler around my 27th birthday. Right after Christmas my the friend who had just lost her brother also lost her Father. I was able to be there for her in a way I couldn't for K at Walter's funeral. My friend Scarlett and I began having over the phone art dates. It still fuels me, but not towards any image I have of myself or where I want to be, it simply gives me a sense of purpose to create with a lifelong friend without having ambitions of the the art serving any function beyond creation itself. My Mom graduated law school and passed the MA bar. Something she always wanted.
Tom began working as an Executive Director at The NorthEast Motorsports Musuem. It's his dream job. They made me consider my dream job. Teaching wasn't an option, my immune system couldn't take the germs. I thought of other artistic options. I remembered the craft fairs. We booked our Wedding Venue and Vendors. And before I knew it, it was
My health took a turn for the worse and I lost my job because of it. But my plate is full trying to start my art business and plan the wedding, so I'm not in the pits of despair I was at a different point in my life. I continued taking steps to make our house our home, this year it was refinishing the bathroom pep-bismal colored walls and the hideous living room fan and reorganizing the bedroom and my studio. I am starting to see how people can spend their whole lives simply fixing one house until it's just right-- only to sell it and get a new one for retirement. Went to Florida on a Girls Trip with Mom and my sisters.
I still have extreme lows, but with Tom's help I got through them. Once they pass it goes back to just life. There are even moments when the darkness inside of me seems to be only a faded memory. Something I know to be true, but I can't quite feel it accurately. Like a dream you struggle to remember. We prepare for the upcoming events of 2020: Our 11th anniversary & wedding, Losing health Insurance and Disability, Being Debt Free. Big things are coming.
TLDR (aka the social media post):
2010: Graduated Highschool and Got Accepted Into DreamSchool!
2011: 1st year anniversary with BAE <3 Health issues.
2012: 21 bitches!
2013: Penthouse Suite in the new place, halfway towards the degree.
2014: Walter Died. I reached a new low.
2017: Vegas Baby! #Engaged
2018: New Job, New Ring
2019: Shannon Elizabeth Art
Now, before everyone gets all pissy allow me to say, I don't judge you as any given individual who participated in the social media #decade post thing. To each their own and yay for all your accomplishments. I just also want people who aren't a #bride or #blessed or #makingmydreamscometrue to still feel #worthwhile. Because life is a little more complicated than a #hashtag.
** Note in advance to anyone who feels the need to write me an obligatory message on how they didn't know it was so bad or blah blah-- GTFO. I'm pretty damn satisfied with my existence and you will in no way be make me feel better or worse by your pity nor your judgement. And as always: