Banner Elk, North Carolina USA
I was born on August the 13th, somewhere in between six o'clock and seven o'clock in the evening. From what I am told, my mother literally held off birth until my father could return from his job about an hour or so away from the hospital.
My memories of childhood are very much a blur up until a certain age, but some moments stick out.
Like the first dream I ever had...
In this dream, when I become aware, everything is dark. But I notice a light in the distance and so, I go toward it. The closer I get, the more massive this light becomes.
And once I am actually there, I can see the ocean. Given the bird's eye view of where I am, I realize I am floating in the ocean in a Sunkist can. It is the happiest dream I have ever had.
Other moments, strictly of the waking world, are there in my head as well. Christmas with my family or my sister breaking her leg or the ghosts that lived in our house.
But for my life, there are but swatches of remembrance. I know I loved playing outside the most, talking with my dogs and cats, pretending I was a boy instead of a girl. I would 'force' my family to re-enact scenes from all my favorite television shows, especially Dukes of Hazzard. I was always Luke.
I would record myself onto audio tapes, making up shows along the way.
I wrote plays about my family, changed my name and took photos of myself looking serious.
I was an introverted child. I was painfully shy and, yet, thought very highly of myself.
I had very few friends and they were much like me.
I start having more memories of being young as my parents marriage fell apart. They would fight and I would stay in my room, turning up the radio or the television. I'd create alternate worlds in which I could run away.
But the closest world I had was the woods outside my home.
I would go to the creek and be an archeologist, digging up the dirt and searching for bones.
Or I would be a spy, sneaking around my neighbor's trailer. I was convinced that the man living there had killed someone.
I would run with my dogs, slip on apples and find snakes. I set fire to the garden once.
As I got older, I would day-dream of my future. I had no idea what I wanted to be or what I wanted to do. I disliked school and preferred my time on the bus ride home. It was like I was two different people: the one in class, quiet and removed ... and the one on the way home, loud and brash.
I wondered about the lives my three sisters forged.
One married and with children, one in college and the other soon to follow into higher learning.
And I knew I didn't want any of that.
I just wanted to be independently wealthy. I wanted to run a radio station. I wanted to be a director of films. I wanted to be a novelist. I wanted to fly planes. I wanted to be a psychologist.
I made good grades, if I tried. But I rarely cared enough to do so. Whenever I did well it was to satisfy my parents, not myself.
I didn't date anyone, which didn't surprise me. I realized at thirteen that I liked girls much better than boys and in a small town, that didn't go over well.
I had crushes and, in true young girl style, they loved me back. Just not in the way I wanted.
I would revisit my oldest wish of turning into a guy. I thought the universe was laughing at me.
At sixteen, my life changed course.
I fell in love with my best friend and I quit high school.
My mother agreed to let me leave school as long as I got my GED. And so, I did.
My first relationship took off and Kelly became more than friend. We dated and I worked for my father's business in landscaping. Not the job of my dreams, but I had no drive for anything else.
Before I knew it, in the middle of emotional growth or lack thereof... in the middle of the end of my parent's marriage... in the middle of my girlfriend's crazy family dramas... Six whole years had passed and not much was changing. Or happening.
If I had been paying attention, I would have known that being stagnant breeds discontent.
But I was so driven to stay as is, so determined to be in a relationship that was better as a friendship, so hell-bent on not moving forward... that when it all ended, I thought the world was ending with it all.
In 2003, I wrecked my truck and two weeks later, my girlfriend broke up with me. It sounds like a country song, but it was my life shattering. Or at least a part of it. I didn't see it that way at the time.
The end of the relationship forced me to see that I did not have a life outside of Kelly.
And I got depressed, I worked out my suicide, I hated holidays. She and I did not talk after the end, it was too painful.
But somewhere along the way, I picked myself up and dusted myself off. I started all over again.
I reconnected with my family for the first time in ten years. It was nice. It was welcoming.
A year down the line and I was flirting again, smiling again and living... really living for the first time.
Kelly and I resumed our friendship without much hassle. We talked out what had happened.
She is still my best friend. Sometimes, things just work out.
I finally found my ambition, deciding to go to massage therapy school. It is something I've always enjoyed and been interested in, I like to help others. So while still working for my father, I went to school. I met the most amazing people and learned so much about myself. I even gathered the courage to go to a radio station and finally realize my dream of being on the radio.
My shyness slowly went away. My ability to make friends became simpler.
I felt a part of something and, in turn, felt in-tune with myself.
I developed a crush on a teacher, who seemed to return my affections some of the time and then ignore me the other times. I lost sense of myself in this game.
I stopped eating; creating a fear out of something I never was afraid of before. I fixated on this woman and felt a kinship with her, but I didn't understand her. And I didn't know what she wanted.
I didn't know what I wanted anymore.
I didn't even know myself fully. I was like being a kid again and figuring stuff out again.
Then I met Tonya, though I knew her in class. But we didn't talk much. I liked her. She was funny and intelligent. She was a good dancer.
I remember letting her get close during a late-night talk with other students, with her leaning against my back and her hands rubbing my shoulders.
I knew at some point that she was interested in me and I knew I didn't want to lead anyone on.
She shares my last name already, Hughes. I thought that was a very funny coincidence.
I told a friend about my predicament and she advised me to give it a go, to date, to see what might happen. And I agreed.
Tonya and I went out. She learned of my eating issue, of my life, of my thoughts. And I learned about her. We were intimate quickly and in that realm, we clicked very well.
She was older than me by eleven years, but that did not seem to matter.
After school, I tried to find work.
But I was scared of doing something new, something that did not have my family attached to in order to make things easy. I stumbled a lot.
Tonya asked me to move in with her and, in love, I wanted to.
I had doubts, though. But I ignored them.
In December of 2006, I moved in with her and settled into the city.
I would apply for jobs and cook us some meals. I played with her cats and cleaned the house.
We made agreements and we broke them.
I loved her so much, but I was insecure in so many ways still. We would talk about breaking up and then make up again.
I found work at a spa, but it didn't pay well. I kept thinking that this life of struggle should be over now, I should be making it all work now... I couldn't figure out what was wrong.
Was it me? Was it Tonya? Was it this profession?
One month after our second anniversary, we broke up. I was there two weeks longer and that was agony. I would talk endlessly of it all to friends and family.
Tonya and I said a lot to each other. And yet, I don't know if we've ever said it all.
She and I do not talk anymore.
I moved back to the area of my childhood and the place of most of my family.
I found a good apartment and a good job at a spa. The pieces fell into place.
Not to say that it has been a cake-walk. I still got nervous going in for interviews, but I survived. I got over my eating issue, but sometimes it comes back Ð albeit in a tame way.
I miss Tonya, but that cannot be changed.
The job at the spa brought me new friends and even more confidence. The money is not quite where I want it to be and I am toying with the idea of moving away from NC, possibly going out west.
Kelly lives in this area now and she has a daughter and a boyfriend.
I am the godmother.
I feel good about myself, sure of myself. I still go to the radio station and play music.
And it is December the 10th. Tomorrow I will be seeing Patty Larkin in concert.
It is overcast and rainy outside. I'll be having dinner at Kelly's house.
My clothes smell nice, like cologne. And Human League is singing at me from the computer.
While this is, by no means, my entire life.... It is as close as I could get to the high points and some detours. It took me one hour and two minutes.