Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Homeland that She Is

Jasmine/Jazzy/Jase/Jane (from here on I will call her 'J') not only carried her own homeland within her from each place she leaves and to each place she goes; she also creates her homeland in the process. I can identify with this, in some significant ways (significant to me, at least).
Here's my own 'Jasmine' story, the short version. I left a pretty angry home to go to University of Maryland on a full scholarship in 1998. By the end of September, I realized I was pregnant. My high school boyfriend and I had ended our relationship on friendly terms at the end of the summer, since I was going to college. After I called to tell him, I never heard from him again. In the meantime, I had met a guy in grad school that was pursuing me pretty strongly and needless to say, with everything else going on, I wasn't very interested. However, when I confided in him, he jumped at the oppertunity to be my knight in shining armour. I realized later, too late, that he was actually very manipulative and liked having such a vulnerable young girl to take advantage of...
When I went home at Christmas, I told my parents. They pulled me out of College Park, and tried their best to keep me away from the older guy. They even went so far as to call the car in stolen when I was going to spend the night with my best friend because they believed that I was actually going to spend the night with older guy. They left me in jail for a week (6 months pregnant), telling me they wouldn't get me out until I promised not to see the older guy. I was able to get a friend to contact him, and older guy came and bailed me out. I called an ad in the paper for adoptions and within 24 hours we were on a plane to Baton Rouge, LA. For two years, my parents never knew where I had gone or what happened to me.
I gave my daughter up for adoption but was overcome with depression. It may sound totally contrary and futile, but the birth of my son, Gregory, a year later (2000) was what saved me and brought me back to life. I had a purpose, and I came back so much stronger. I began to cause problems with the older guy, Gregory's father, because once he had me alone and isolated he had become very controlling and emotionally abusive and was beginning to be physically abusive. He also drank more than I thought was possible.
Soon after Gregory's birth, we came back to Maryland but moved to Baltimore. I eventually called my parents and we started to heal our relationship. Less than a month after 9/11, I filed for a protective order and custody and had older guy removed from our apartment, our lease, my life. In January, I went back to school, community college. I lived on my own, then with my sister. I made friends, I went out every now and then. I was returning to life, normal life. Two years later, I rec'd grants from Loyola and started there as a full time student. I was a part time nanny for 2 families and my son and I were able to get by, and we were happy. In August 2004, just before my senior year was to start, I was diagnosed with diabetes. I had been very sick all summer, I'd had to quit my job and could hardly take care of Gregory. So, I had no money saved up for the semester and I was struggling with this huge life change and trying to get my health back and my blood sugar under control. I tried to make it through the last year by striking a deal with Gregory's dad: he could move in with me if he would pay the bills and let me finish school. Needless to say, I had to withdraw from Loyola pretty early in the semester, and I applied for a FT position with the college in order to be able to take a class a semester for free during my lunch break. Which I did for 3 1/2 years. I rarely dated, my sister had moved to Florida for her college, and I had 1 or 2 good friends. My parents had gotten divorced and were still pretty distant. In 2006, I met an incredible man, Dave; a man that treated me mostly as an equal, sometimes as a goddess. And he is the complement to me, we are a better team that I ever imagined I'd be part of, having formed my whole identity around being independent and single and self-sufficient. He provided gentle incentives and then stood back and let me dismantle that identity myself, at my own pace. In January 2008, I applied for grants to go FT and graduate because I only had 4 classes left and my capstone paper. I also applied to go to Montpellier for a one month study abroad (something I had wanted to do every year at Loyola and was finally able to). Then, in February I found out I was pregnant.
What to do? I loved this man, and I wanted this baby; but should I refuse the grants and cancel the Montpellier trip, lose the deposit. No, Dave said, we can make this work, you can do this. And so I am.

But I understand her journey. How she allowed other people to define her, sometimes for good sometimes for bad. I understand how she used other people to shape her identity. I recognized the people who helped her in similar people I have encountered who, along the way, added little pieces to who I have become and who have enabled me to make it as far as I have. I couldn't have done it without them (excuse the cliche). But despite all the help, all the coincidences and fortuitous chances, and despite all the times my life seemed out of my control; the course has always been set by me. My will has always been leading me, forcing me, toward my dreams, my goals. Even when the choices were hard; heartbreaking, even.
I think, if I ever write a book about my life (narcissistic, I know ;-), I will use Jasmine as a source. I think I understand why she didn't go in chronological order, as I just did - it would really be too much at once. You need to soften the horrible with the happy times, and put the desperate moments in perspective with happy memories. Life should be remembered that, and it should have a happy ended, created by you, as Jasmine creates hers.

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