A tumblr text post from user “strawberryspoons” reads:
Interviewer: where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Me: I used escapist fantasies as a coping mechanism to get through years of trauma and therefore never learned how to plan for a real life future
I think about this post so much.
I have never had “a plan”. In the last few years, I have been in a position to make contingencies, but I have no overarching “this is my design” thing going on. I’m often accused of having my shit together. I look like I know what’s going on. That’s only because I carry around a notebook and an iPad and wear nice shoes.
To say that I use escapist fantasies like this post wouldn’t be completely accurate. Like anyone else I do get lost in daydreams from time to time but usually I get lost in work. I need to be doing something, I need to have my hands busy. I need to have a to-do list. What I do not do well (or have not done well) is setting long-term goals.
I just assumed I’d end up somewhere, somehow. This may surprise people who see me as driven and goal-oriented. I don’t think it qualifies if my plans are less plans proper than methods of staving off the Disaster I Am Quite Sure is Around The Corner.
But just as I don’t think I was using escapist fantasies, I also don’t think of myself as having had trauma. I genuinely see my life, my past as normal: deep money issues in my family, the ghost of addiction, a decade-plus intense caregiving experience for my parents, loosing my mother at 21. These are real things, things people deal with and don’t talk about. Trauma is living in a war zone, trauma is a bomb falling, trauma is no food in the house, trauma is rape, trauma is a needle – I don’t have trauma, I tell myself. I have it better.
I went to school because it was the thing to do and I just assumed work would happen. I didn’t plan a career (I still have not, despite apparently having one). I never planned on a marriage. Sometimes I look at him, like he is now, back turned to me, intent on artwork, and wonder why he threw his lot in with me. I never planned on a nice place to live, but here I am watching the sun slip over the wood tiles on the floor. I can sleep at night in safety then get up and have a boring morning, driving to work, dealing with it, then returning in peace and comfort. This is amazing and I never thought it would be for me.
However, part of me has never left the hospital room. Part of me still smells the antiseptic and the intimate, obscene odors of decay. Part of me has never left the courtroom where I heard him tell the judge he had no money to pay for my support. Part of me has never left the kitchen table as my mother raged, not knowing where the rent was going to come from that month. Part of me has never left the pew where my grandmother bowed and offered it up. Part of me still jumps at the phone and part of me feels a stab in my gut when I open the mail. Part of me watches my bank balance like a hawk, waiting for the money to disappear into a black hole of fees. Part of me counts the servings, the gas in the tank, and does the estimates of how to make it to pay day, what I can stretch, what I can do without. Part of me waits.
It’s that part of me that plans, or at least fills sandbags. It’s not the outside, the blazers and flats, the jewelry, the “teaching for over 7 years”, the spiels in the classroom, the advice given, the motherly concern I give to others because I cannot get it for myself. It’s not the “honey”, it’s not the hugs, it’s not the middle class white lady drag I love. I don’t plan for the future – I prepare for disaster.