Category Archives: Catching Up

How The American Dream Nearly Destroyed Me

Reflections On A Wasted Life, And Why I Don’t Regret It.

They really should have seen it coming, my parents. After 4 years of college, my mother graduated with the ability to speak, read, and write French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Latin. Imagine the opportunities available to a woman with those skills!

Unfortunately, this was 1949. But she did get hired – as a receptionist in an import/export firm that needed someone who could speak both English and Portuguese.

Still, that didn’t keep them from “knowing” that the best path for my life included a college education. So that’s what I was groomed for from the start.

The first crisis came at the end of 7th grade. For the first semester, we had to take a class called “mechanical drawing.” I guess we’d call that class “drafting” or even “CAD/CAM” today. Regardless, we were given a blueprint to copy. I did so and excelled at it.

The second semester included “Wood Shop,” where we had to take the previous semester’s drawing and bring it to life in wood. Again, I excelled at it, despite never having used a tool in my life. The teacher said I had a natural feel for the wood.

Now it was the end of the semester. Time to choose which classes to take the following year. I signed up for every shop class on offer and handed in my choices, which had to be approved by my guidance counselor. If he were alive today, would it be possible to sue him for malpractice?

He called me into his office. “You don’t want to take these classes,” he said. “These classes are for the dummies. You’re going to college. Besides, there’s no future in wood.”

“Really? What about houses?” I thought but didn’t say.

Good advice. The highest-paying job I’ve ever held paid $18 an hour—and that was in a field where I was making electromechanical repairs. A job that didn’t require a college education.

Meanwhile, when I had a plumbing problem last month, I had to call a “dummy” and pay him $65 an hour to fix it.

I lived for a few years in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of my favorite pastimes was visiting some of the shops on Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square, looking at the price tags on the hand-made wooden armoires and jewelry boxes: $850, $1200, $925, $18,000. No future in it, my ass.

I’ve gone to college on 6 separate occasions. Although I have enough credits for a bachelor’s degree, I have yet to remain at one college long enough to graduate. But I’m still saddled with over $100,000 of student loan debt. And at my age (70), I’m afraid that when it’s my turn to go, much like Tennessee Ernie Ford, I’ll have to say, “St. Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store.”

Then there’s the problem of gender identity. At the age of 59, after years of therapy, counseling, failed marriages, suicide attempts, and self-medicating within illicit drugs, I finally discovered the proximate cause of my problems: I had been living a lie, trying to be something I wasn’t.

As soon as I decided to stop pretending I was male, things got better. And worse.

The Better

  • I was able to go off four of my six anti-depressants
  • I was able to be – and live – my authentic self
  • I met a woman who accepted me for who I am. We’ve been married for 11 years
  • I no longer have to hide my tears
  • Younger people accept me as I am

The Worse

  • I’ve lost jobs because of who I am
  • Because of that, I had to take early Social Security
  • I still avoid using public restrooms whenever I can
  • I still get misgendered by people who should know better

But Still, I Persevere

I knew when I stopped pretending, I’d lose friends and possibly family. But the friends I lost weren’t worth having in the first place if they couldn’t accept the authentic me.

There were rifts in my immediate family, but over time, they’ve healed.

Now, as the real me, I have more and closer friends than ever before. The LGBT+ community where I live is vibrant and thriving. Our city – Rochester, NY – has ordinances protecting us. I can, for the most part, use public restrooms safely, although I don’t push it. I rarely used them before my change, anyway.

But I still wish I had been able to take those shop classes.

 

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Filed under Catching Up, Education, family, Gender, Hope, memories

Has It Really Been Six Months?

Six months since I updated this site? Whatever is wrong with me! So now it’s February 9th, 2020. My weather app shows that at this moment, 3:15 pm, it’s “Cold, dark, overcast, and super lame.” Oh, and 35°. Each day around this time, one of my camera apps sends me an encouraging message that it’s time to go outside and take a picture.

As if!

As if I’m going to put on my coat, hat, scarf, gloves, and boots just so I can make some stupid app happy. It’s  so much easier to turn off notifications from that pesky bugger.

Our house is heated with steam heat via radiators, and that means it’s very dry inside. I know the old trick of putting bowls full or water on top or the radiators to increase the humidity, but then the windows (1) fog up with condensation and then (20) freeze over at night. Then on top of everything else, my room is the warmest room in the house—so much so that even in the winter I leave my window open a couple of inches so I don’t roast.

Wintertime Blues, SAD, and Chronic Depression

I’m dealing with all three. So far I’m handling it quite well, but there are occasional days when one or more of them get to me. Interestingly, the worst days are the ones that all but force me to my writing desk. They’re the days when writing ceases to be an activity and instead becomes a necessity, and urgency, a need. And so in order to keep my sanity, I obey.

That’s why I’m writing this entry. Well, that and my guilt about not having done sooner.  And you know what? It works! I’m smiling, and the fact that we’ve been inundated by a snowstorm doesn’t bother me.

For the first time in days I’ve accomplished something other than doing laundry, shopping for groceries, and cleaning the bathroom.

And I’m actually looking forward to tomorrow, knowing that this mood will hold at least until then, and I know that I’ll be writing here again tomorrow as well—even if its just to prove to myself that I can do it!

See you then!

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Filed under Catching Up, depression, Despair, Hope, Writing

Some Shockin’ Good!

St. Paul's Anglican Church, Harbour Grace

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Harbour Grace, Newfoundland

The Internet is a Strange and Wondrous Thing

Especially for people with Attention Deficit Disorder, like me. I woke up this morning wanting to text my daughter, to share a memory. Some background is in order:

My family’s ancestral home is in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Several years ago—decades, really—my father, his mother, a sister and a brother, visited the town. One of the souvenirs he brought back was a vinyl recording of Newfoundland songs.

One of our favorites was Dick Nolan singing “Aunt Martha’s Sheep.” It was that song I wanted to share with my daughter. So I fired up Google and entered the song title.

One of the hits was the link above, which will take you to YouTube so you can watch it. Another one takes you to Wikipedia, and I hope you’ll read the entry there, especially the part under “The Rest Of The Story,” where you’ll learn of the song’s connection to Harbour Grace.

Anyway, after the “Aunt Martha” video finished, it went on to the next song, “Some Shockin’ Good.”

Naturally, I Googled that phrase as well, which took me to the newest blog I’m following, Some Shockin’ Good.

And that, in a nutshell, is how the Internet works to bring the world together.

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Filed under Catching Up, Communication, family, History, memories

The 999 Market and Super Deli

The Best Chicken in Town?

Chicken Wings & Drumsticks

I reluctantly left the house for a doctor’s appointment this afternoon. Reluctantly, because my depression has kept me housebound for most of the past two months. But I couldn’t put it off any longer, and Ed was kind enough to drive me to the clinic. I’d catch a bus home afterward.

The appointment resulted in my antidepressant prescription being increased, and I had an hour to kill before the next bus. The bus stop was across the street from the 999 Market and Super Deli, and their sign proclaimed “The Best Chicken in Town!”

I had curiosity, hunger, and time to kill. $7.50 got me 6 wings, 4 drumsticks, and a cold drink. Sitting down on the curb, I started eating.

First, everything had just come from the fryer, so it was nice and hot. Second, everything was crispy and perfectly seasoned. Third, even though I had asked for 3 drumsticks, I got 4 for the same price. This has always been the case each time I’ve eaten there.

Yes, I confess: this was not my first time eating their chicken. But it was the first time since I quit smoking, and it tasted even better.

I’ve written of the joys of dark meat when it comes to poultry; the same is true today. If anything, this afternoon’s repast has only strengthened my beliefs.

And their claim to the best chicken in town? Let me put it this way: KFC could learn something from these folks!

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Filed under Catching Up, Chicken, Eating, Food

Coffee, Tea, or …

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

“I like to look at ‘em, but I wouldn’t want to own one.” W. C. Fields, comparing women to elephants.

That’s how I feel about coffee: I love the aroma when it’s brewing, but I rarely drink it. To be sure, I never say no to a Starbucks when someone else is buying, but I don’t go out of my way for one. Especially when it would entail a 2-hour bus ride there and back.

No, just give me my tea, a decent book, and I’m good to go. Bring me constant refills and I’ll follow you to the gates of hell itself.

But coffee? Meh. I can take it or leave it.

This morning was different. I enjoyed a nice breakfast and had just sat down to peruse Medium when our house guest started brewing a pot of Sumatra Mandheling on our Mr. Coffee knock-off.

Remember what I said about the aroma of coffee when it’s brewing? Yeah. It got me up out of my chair and into the kitchen so I could smell it better.

Constant Reader, I confess: I yielded to temptation—which by the way is how Oscar Wilde said is the best way to avoid it—and am now enjoying a cup of strong coffee, tempered by the addition of real cream(!), sweetener, and a hint of flavoring (just a tiny splash of genuine New York State pure maple syrup).

It was the best cup of coffee I’ve had in a long time.

“How long, Robyn?”

Long enough that I can’t remember the last time I drank one.

And I find it interesting that each and every time I drink a cup of coffee, Gordon Lightfoot starts singing in my mind:

“I’m on my second cup of coffee and I still can’t face the day
I’m thinking of the lady who got lost along the way
And if I don’t stop this trembling hand from reaching for the phone
I’ll be reachin’ for the bottle, Lord, before this day is done.”

Thanks for taking a few precious minutes out of your day to read this.

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Filed under Catching Up, Eating, Ramblings, Tea