On Vulnerability

When I knew I was finally being allowed to transfer from the shitty high school I had attended in Gresham, Oregon for two years to have the privilege of riding transit an hour everyday to my new high school in Portland, I started writing stuff on my arms. With a solid five years of bullying thrown at me for literally every reason possible, I started writing messages on my arms in black gel writers and walking through the halls at school.

You created this.

You hate me because I AM you.

The one that did not go over very well in my conservative high school was, Your God is a lie.

I was fourteen and middle class in the suburbs. Honestly, what do you expect?

Unfortunately, those five years helped shape a portion of myself that honestly, I really don’t like and that in one very specific way doesn’t serve me anymore.

Amber Dawn wrote a passage in “How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir” I deeply relate to on a much smaller and insignificant way. She talked about workshopping her writing about the years that she worked as a sex worker in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and how every time she read her work for writers and readers invariably someone would remark “you’re so brave” or “you’re so vulnerable on the page” and all she could think was I’m just telling my experience.

I hate the word brave and I wish I even knew what vulnerable looks for me. For me, and no one else, being vulnerable means getting walked all over and bravery leads to an unbelievable well of loneliness.

Real talk: the reason I started writing about my struggles with mental health was because I was unceremoniously outed by someone I trusted. I had to tell someone about my health and less than twenty-four hours after I summoned the courage to have that discussion with them, they got blitzed in a bar and made an off-hand comment to a bunch of my friends. They said something along the lines of I could totally see her killing herself one day. With that little snarky line, everyone knew and after wrestling with what I should do for a few weeks, I decided to resort back to what I knew.

Let me showcase my weakness and make it mine.

Perpetually fourteen and from the suburbs.

That is not being brave or being vulnerable; it’s called being strategic.

Some college professor told our Psychology 100 class about this study where they discovered that girls who had an absent father were less likely to take risks.

I wouldn’t climb to the top of the jungle gym, go across the monkey bars, or jump into a pool. At yoga yesterday, I got asked if I wanted to try some acroyoga, where a guy basically balances my body with his hands and feet while I twist myself upside into pretzel shapes.

“I can do it,” he said. “Promise, I won’t drop you.”

My yoga friends have tried to convince me of this before—my size won’t be a problem. They try to convince me to step out of my comfort zone constantly.

My answer was “fuck no”.

I’m writing in circles because I can’t say things like this straight.

While riding the bus late through the streets on the Vancouver Downtown Eastside last night, a woman got on at Main and Hastings, the home to Canada’s most infamous intersection and home to “the open-air drug market”. I shouldn’t assume, but based upon her looks this woman was dying. Her drug addiction had left her as nothing more than skin and bones and she wheezed as she struggled to walk down the aisle of the bus to the handicap area. She wasn’t just an addict; she was sick because of some of the choices she had to make thanks to her addiction.

I’m already writing about her in the past tense.

People openly gasped and stared when they saw her struggle onto the bus. Her tank top straps rolled down her arms and she didn’t even bother to pull them up, revealing what was left of one of her breasts.

An elderly woman in a walker sat in the handicapped section very close to the woman. She reached across, rested her hand on her knee gently and said “young lady, you need to take care of yourself, okay? Do you need me to call someone?”

The woman sat up straight and stared down the elderly woman. “You don’t know me. You don’t know shit. I don’t need anybody. I don’t need your help,” she snarled.

When I got off the bus I thought about this interaction, I pulled my hood up on my sweatshirt, let a single tear escape, wiped it away and kept walking. It felt familiar.

I want so desperately to be vulnerable for you– for some many of you. I have to believe it’s a spectrum, not a finish line or a destination. Don’t give up on me in the meantime.

3 thoughts on “On Vulnerability

  1. It’s an interesting condition (to sort of shoot in the foot the over-glorified words ¨world¨, ¨reality¨, and ¨state of mind¨ on purpose), living inside oneself. I noticed that you didn’t actually address what the vulnerability of your flesh equated with in your Inside World. What do you think it equated with?

    I have some medical background, so I’m actually really interested in the flesh component of psychointernal regression or whatever you would call it. Because that’s where the problem comes from, right? All bullying and hazing is harm to the flesh, one way or another. And if you live in a world inside yourself where no such thing is recognized, and that harm to the flesh equates with an invisible hand twisting your invisible thumbs… I don’t know. It seems you’ve missed a lot and I would be eager to hear more.

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