So the reason I’ve never done illegal drugs is I’d spent about 13 years on prescription phenobarbital since I’d had three mild seizures by the time I was 4. That was back in the 70s, when all patients were over-medicated. My parents emphasized to me how I could die if I mixed other drugs with my meds.
And then, I made a plan to celebrate my 100th birthday, buying a one-way ticket to Amsterdam or somewhere exotic-sounding to smoke opium in a small, outdoor café on a sunny day and sip green tea.
For now, I’ll just stick to alcohol. But I don’t use it as a drug to help me sleep or to ease my stress. I use daily moderate to strenuous exercise for that. Plus, there are serious consequences associated with alcohol if consumed excessively. My drunk uncles taught me that one.
Christmas Day 1992 was the first time I’d ever been drunk. I was fresh out of college and a Peace Corps Volunteer and homesick and that changed my world…and my hair…and my need to voraciously write everything down.
And then, I discovered food could be used as a drug. Shoveling it down for the temporary feeling of fullness euphoria, which had nothing to do with actual hunger.
And then I returned to the States, bigger than I’d ever been at 158 lbs—yes, I still remember that number—which wasn’t all that big, but for people who had known me before, I looked “stout” as one cousin gently informed me.
And then someone asked me if I was pregnant.
And then, I learned that people had the preconceived notion of life in an African country being one famine and war after another. Why, they marveled at how I could gain weight in “Africa” the first place.
And then, I learned how to swim. Enrolled in a couple of classes at the Y, started swimming four miles a week and stopped engorging myself. I noticed how leisurely one of my sisters, who I lived with at the time, chewed and savored her food.
And then, after having three jobs in six months, I applied for another job. This time to teach ESL in Seoul, South Korea. Another country, another adventure, another learning curve.
I’d read about the xenophobia of Korean culture, but had to laugh out loud when two white guys told my Black roommate and I about how racist Koreans were. My roommate and I bonded in that ironic moment. Imagine, two white guys telling two Black women from the South about racism. I’m sure they meant well. Bless their hearts.
And then in the process of adjusting to yet another new culture, I recreated myself once again. I went from avid swimmer to dedicated hapkido student and beginning rock climber. Even fell madly in love with a Cuban American, who of course was a Gemini, and apparently a drug dealer. Didn’t see that last bit coming.
And then again, I had this biased idea of drug dealers being urban kids who’d dropped out of school and were hanging out on street corners in poor neighborhoods. Not some charismatic, college-educated, ESL tutor who even corrected my grammar, loved to salsa, enjoyed theatre and recited poetry.
And then, the relationship declined from there. I was not exactly sure how stiff the penalty was for possession of illegal drugs in South Korea, but let’s face it, with my hairstyle, people already expected me to do illegal drugs.
And then, I remembered some of Mom’s advice, even half way around the world: you don’t have to be with man even though you love him.
Of course, she’d never said that directly to me, just in general, as a conclusion to a story about someone else’s doomed love life, but I was paying attention. If nothing else, Mom’s a riveting storyteller.
And then, I moved to Denver, CO to officially become a teacher after three years of not being licensed. The Mile-High City with its thin air had me sleeping about ten hours a night just to stockpile enough oxygen for the next day.
And then, I stopped training martial arts and picked up swimming again and added hiking since fourteeners surrounded me. I also took bellydancing and West African dance classes.
And then I started taking guitar lessons for some crazy reason I can’t remember why. All I remember is how tone death I was, never hearing that my guitar was out of tune, but the best moment for me was the first two weeks when I could feel my brain being rewired since my non-dominant left hand was being trained to do something technical. Up until that point, the only technical thing my left hand could do was type.
And then we all prepared ourselves for the technological wrath of the millennium bug. I even spent the night at a friend’s house just so I wouldn’t be by myself at midnight, January 1st, 2000. The only glitch we discovered was the battery-operated clock had stopped working.
And then the real calamity came later that same year when Al Gore lost the presidential election even though he had more votes. Chalk that up to political math. I scrambled to get an overseas teaching job.
And then I moved to Egypt, where I felt my personality shrink although I never veiled. The only country, so far, where I’ve ever been groped. Promised myself to never live in another country where the local men couldn’t freely fornicate with their own women since that made me too much of a target. Yet, I enjoyed teaching math, traveling around to see the pyramids and temples, and my usual joy, eating the local food.
And then I moved to Mexico, which was the perfect cure! Compared to the attention I’d received in Egypt, I actually felt normal, walking around Monterrey since Mexican men openly frolicked with Mexican women. Ah, what a relief! The person I became, outside of being a math and science teacher, was a drummer and a capoeirista—not that I excelled at either one of those things, but the stress relief was fantastic!
And then I moved to Honduras. That was truly a country where my mother-infused paranoia worked for me as a survival skill. I upped the ante on my paranoia: tinting the windows of my car, fast walking from my car to buildings and vice versa, rinsing produce in bleach water.
Let me explain that last one. Back in late 2003 in the US, bags of prewashed spinach were implicated in an E. coli outbreak. A few days later, bags of prewashed spinach inundated Honduran grocery stores.
And then Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States in 2008, effectively ending my 8-year self-imposed exile.
And then I moved to the center of the creative universe in 2009 and have been living happily ever after in Austin, TX.