Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Books, Boarding School, and Boyfriends

I miss the excitement that was always present when I was still getting high. Even on shitty days when it was hard to cop or if I got hassled by cops or ripped off or whatever I was still occupied by something outrageous at all times. It makes the average existence seem so bland.
I just finished reading 'Girlbomb' by Janice Erlbaum; it was entertaining enough. It's a good book to read for anyone who ever thinks about writing about their using experiences. There are many blog authors out there in the world of addiction/recovery who express interest in writing their own memoir. I like reading about what other people have been through. I guess I'm no different than most every American in that we are all obsessed over the lives of celebrities, neighbors, friends, and family as can be attested by all the tabloids and newspapers lining the shelves in grocery stores. Maybe it's simply that our own lives don't seem so bad once we realize other people live life the same way. Anyway, Erlbaum did not have a really fascinating or traumatic life. It was rather ordinary, unfortunately, in that so many kids these days live in single parent homes or in state custody. But that is partially what makes it so interesting; it's shocking that it is so representative of so many kids' lives. She hates her parents because they are unstable and unable to provide the security that she craves, she moves to a shelter at fifteen, does a smattering of drugs and drinks for several years until she grows up a little and reconciles with her mother.
While reading this book, I was thinking about all the crazy shit I've been through and I know so many people who have done way crazier shit then me; so that makes me think it might not be such a bad idea to turn a million insane journal entries into a short book. It can be daunting living in a time when so much has already been discovered before our time; it makes it difficult to come up with an original thought. However, I think people are such junkies for a juicy tale of misadventure that there could never be an excess of books written about the human condition. So, I only brought this up as suggested reading material for would-be writers. I want to encourage those people to keep on chronicling their lives and hoping to publish one day because I bet they have way more insane things to write about than this lady and she sold a ton of books.
Until I read this book, strangely enough, I always considered myself to have been on my own since I was seventeen. Because this is when I actually took all my stuff and moved out to live with my twenty year old boyfriend on an apple orchard in Ipswich, Massachusetts. But in reading her account of living in a group home, I realized I was on my own way before seventeen. I'm sure some people will balk at my next few sentences but anyone who has been through the same will probably agree with me. See, I went to a boarding school from my freshman to junior years in high school. So I was fourteen going on fifteen when I went to live in a dorm room for eight months a year. Granted, it was an upscale version, but in many ways it resembled a group home.
The food was probably better, but either way you slice it, it was institutional living. Our days were structured but it was essentially up to us to get it done or not, if you didn't get it together you were out. We didn't have anyone holding our hands to get to breakfast, classes, and required athletic practices. We had to be responsible for doing our homework and getting up on time and going to bed at a reasonable hour. And in our rare moments of free time we were largely unsupervised. Sure, we had to tell someone where we were going but we didn't tell the truth. Once our butts hit the seat of the cab we could go wherever we pleased. There are teachers who live in small apartments in each of the dorm buildings but they played a limited role in our upbringing. They were there for emergencies or to make sure we were all in our rooms by our curfew, but other than that we didn't see them often. In many ways it was like a premature college experience.
I suppose the main similarity is that we both lost touch with our parents, our families. I felt like an outsider. My youngest brother didn't know who I was until we both got much older and I grew apart from the brother and sister I had lived with until then. I'm now relatively close to them all but it took a lot of time. Also, even though the state home Erlbaum lived at and my boarding school were quite strict with their expectations regarding expected behavior, they didn't really care how we arrived at the final result as long as we got there. As long as we got an A in chemistry and arrived at Chapel on time and didn't flaunt our exploits nobody really asked about the sex and drugs we did along the way. There is never a shortage of drugs at a preparatory boarding school. First, we have all the prescription shit like xanax, klonipin, aderol, ritalin, et cetera. Then, it being the tail end of the Dead years entering the era of Phish, we always had good weed. And because nearly everyone was rich, there was occasionally cocaine. Heroin didn't come until later for me....oh, don't forget alcohol the good old standby. After my class graduated, they amended the dress code to prohibit dread locks.
Of course I began my stay as a rather naive fourteen year old and probably left more tame than many, I had a long way yet to go before arriving here as an underachieving, sober junkie.
Although many people consider boarding school part of a privileged upbringing, I would personally never subject my children (if I ever have any) to such a fate. I did receive a really thorough education and had some unforgettable experiences, however, I don't think any of it can replace what I lost.
My parents ended up divorcing when I was a junior. My dad wouldn't pay for my senior year at boarding school and my mom couldn't get the school to work with her until she could get the money out of him and pay it. I was probably considered poor to most of the kids at that school and my mom didn't have the money herself. So that was pretty much when I rebelled against that whole boarding school, privileged lifestyle stuff because I blamed the school more than my dad for not being able to graduate with my class. That summer between junior and senior year was my first trip across country and then when I got back I moved in with the boy and finished my senior year at public school. I had doubled up on some required classes at my old school and I had mad credits so I was able to graduate early in January. And that was the beginning of a really long journey from there to here. Where did all the time go?
Writing about this time in my life makes me think about that first boy I lived with...more than I usually think about him anyway. I have a serious boyfriend now who I've been with about five years now, and I had boyfriends before him, but he was, like, my biggest love. He's off and married and has a pack of kids so I've moved on but will always remember back when.

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