When Devon and I spoke about myself writing a piece for “Coffee and a Question,” first and foremost, I was of course honored, but also, in a really good place mentally. Quarantine had served me well. Existing in a place of peace and momentum I, of course jumped at the opportunity. Let me get honest though, that place of peace and momentum has been really hard to find as of late. It felt like almost immediately after that conversation, the state of the world took a sharp turn. The heaviness in the air, that energy has weighed on me. So heavy that honestly until this past Friday when Devon wrote and said “ hope you’re ready for your story to come out! The world is ready, my friend.” I was debating actually following through and actually writing the piece. Which is so ironic being that what I am about to write correlates so well to my own present feelings of wallowing in my own shit, attempting to carry the weight of the world around me and being fearful it won’t turn out how I anticipate but also continue to push through, show up and continue my pursuit of the destiny I feel called to, even when I don’t feel like I’m “ready”.
Growing up (for myself anyway), I had a general idea of what I wanted later in life; it wasn’t a typical little girl’s dream. It wasn’t dreams of wedding dresses and a prince to carry me off into the abyss. Instead, I had this deep desire from such a young age to rebel against what was being taught around me.
Growing up in a pretty extreme religious household, I was taught that if you are anointed and a true child of Christ, you would grow up, marry a man who was going to pastor a church, have lots of babies and be serving to that man, your children, the people of the church and of course, the big man upstairs.
Still to this day I’m unsure of what sparked the part of me that made me want to do the opposite of everything I was being taught… maybe it was partly due to traumas that took place throughout my childhood, maybe it was being raised in a tumultuous home when the rest of the world thought we were perfect, maybe it was seeing how so many of the people who were “anointed” acted when they thought nobody was looking… or maybe, I was just given a different gift. A different kind of anointing. Or perhaps a bit of all it.
My plan looked a little like this… get through highschool, buy a one way ticket to Europe, NEVER have children, NEVER get married, travel the world, snag a few modeling jobs, help children in need and well, do whatever the hell I wanted. I knew I loved people, I knew I wanted to help people and I knew I didn’t want to follow any rules or fit into any box. What’s funny about that last statement though, is that I desperately actually did want to fit in to a box. I wanted to be loved, to be accepted for all of my quirks and flaws, I wanted to feel secure. I wanted a box of security. I just didn’t realize it until much later.
Because of my deep desire to go against the grain in any and every way, I actually ended up standing in my own way almost all of the time. I ended up so insecure… actually, insecure doesn’t really begin to describe how I felt growing up – it was something much more severe. Oh, and when I say “growing up” I mean until about 6 years ago.
All of this, led to fear. Fear of existing.
Fear of doing really anything outside of what became the “me” born out of insecurity and a will to be left unboxed. I stopped reading, I stopped writing. I stopped creating. I was so afraid of not being accepted that I caved into a shell of a person who thrived on chaos. I attracted chaos in so many ways. I couldn’t live without it. This story followed me through my tweens, teens and into adulthood. I had no idea who I was. The narrative in my head told me nobody wanted me around, I was the third wheel, the friend people hung out with, out of convenience when the “cooler” friends were busy. The girl who would “give it up easy” so I got to tag along with the good looking guys. Now, whether that narrative was true or not… who knows. Where it took me to was an incredibly lonely place despite the fact that I was surrounded by others.
I struggled with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and feeble attempts. I coped with an over abundance of alcohol and drugs, sex and compromising, just to feel quiet inside. I sold drugs, my grades continued to drop and eventually my parents kicked me out of the house my senior year.
In true chaotic Carmella fashion, I moved into a house with 5 guys. The cocaine, mushrooms, weed and alcohol were endless. The party was endless. The only reason I ended up graduating was because a good friend at the time would show up in our driveway and blare the horn until I woke up and ran out of the house to make it school. I’m still so grateful for that. Needless to say, I never bought that ticket to Europe. Even if I had the money and means to do so, I was too afraid to leave my comfort zone. Too afraid to be left alone with myself.
So I stayed. In the little town I grew up in, where I am today. Good ol’ Prescott, AZ.
Eventually the party house came to an end, though. When the authorities started following me around town, the valid paranoia grew and I knew if I didn’t get out soon I’d end up in prison. Well, you can’t do coke in prison so that just wasn’t going to work for me. Ha. That was seriously my thought process at the time. Once I moved out, my drug habit did slow, distancing myself and moving in with a couple girls helped that part. But oh did the party life continue. It’s just who I became, who I was.
The years that followed would come with more fear, more chaos, more hurt…self inflicted and inflicted by others that at the end of the day for the most part, I allowed. About a year and half after highschool, I was still partying semi hard when I lived through a night that would, in hindsight, change the trajectory of my life.
I went to a woods party and ended up getting beaten to pulp by a guy and his girlfriend. Somebody I had known for years.
There was a misunderstanding and the last thing I remember was the girl sitting on my chest with her legs wrapped around my neck while her boyfriend stomped on my head. The next thing I remember was seeing myself in a mirror at the hospital covered in blood; blonde hair stained pink, face unrecognizable….screaming and crying. I thought I was going to die. The doctors thought my neck had been broken. I was throwing up blood. I was a mess.
My parents came to the hospital that night. I felt so defeated. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened to me but being 19 years old and seeing the sadness and worry on my parents’ faces had an impact. When I was discharged from the hospital, I felt the loneliest I’d ever felt. All of my “friends,” the people who I hung out with all the time were really nowhere to be found.
The detectives kept questioning me. No witnesses would come forward (there were at least 50 people who watched what happened), the one person who did try to pull me out from underneath the guy beating me got his face smashed with a rock and flown to Phoenix for intensive care… and still nobody would say anything. We were in court for over a year and a half before the case would close.
It was an eye opener to say the least. The me I knew for so long couldn’t survive much longer. I had to make a change.
So, I decided to try my hand at cosmetology. Still in my comfort zone of a town, and hey…I was creative, enough… so, might as well.
There is so much more to the story in the years between cosmetology school to about 6 years ago, but it would be novel (that yes, I do plan on writing) by the end. So, I’m going to paraphrase the rest to my true breakthrough point. Ready?
Immediately after cosmetology school, I moved to the Valley (yes I finished, barely) and ended up in an extremely abusive mental and physical relationship for about a year and a half. I lived, dreamt and breathed ultimate fear… I couldn’t keep a job and eventually ended up at a new rock bottom. One I had to literally run away from. And somehow, I did.
Within a year after that, I found myself pregnant (remember that never having kids thing?) with a baby girl, with a man I really, hardly knew but he was nice to me. I kept her, even when so many people told me I had no business raising a child. She was a reason to live. A reason to keep showing up. Maybe I would find peace and who I was meant to be, right? I married the nice guy and played housewife for a year before I left.
There wasn’t enough chaos.
And really we weren’t the best fit. Back to partying on my days off of being “mommy” and when I did have her, drowning myself in a few bottles of wine a night. A couple months later, a lot of men I loved, knew, and grew up with died in the Yarnell Fire. Just another reason for me to stay in my hole and self medicate. This time, with a woman I started dating and wanted to “save”. She was more broken than me, her addictions were worse than mine. Maybe this was my purpose…? To help and save her. I was wrong. In that relationship, I will tell you what I did find though. Myself. Finally, me.
About a month before I broke off our engagement, I was having a really hard time; I was still trying to make things work with her and yet was so miserable. I was crying on our bed, begging her not to go out that night. I’ll never forget the moment and the words she said.
“You’re so pathetic, you make me want to puke.”
Then she walked out. It was in that moment, as harsh as it sounds, she spoke exactly what I needed to hear. She was right. I was pathetic. I had let fear and insecurity run my entire life. So much so that I would beg another human to just sit with me, somebody who was hardly nice to me or my daughter. It hit me in my chest like a ton of bricks. I had to change. I had to find Carmella. The little girl who somewhere along the path had gotten lost. The little girl who was silly and fun. The little girl who loved making people smile. The little girl who was happy.
As cliche as it sounds, that night I literally decided to make that change in myself and I have not looked back. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had hard days and still do, but not days where I am begging somebody who treats me like garbage to stay with me. You see, all my life I was waiting for the “right” moment to become who I had thought up in my head, when all along she was already there.
In the last 6 years, I have made it my ultimate purpose to show up. Not for anybody else but for myself. To forgive myself. To forgive all those around me. To allow myself grace for my process. To accept that the plans I had for myself took a much different turn than I had planned. (Yes, I am happily married and now have 4 children.) The work is truly endless, hard things are always going to come up. Traumatic events will continue to happen. What I have learned is that we each ultimately have all the power in how we allow things to affect us. You. Me. WE get to decide what we are going to do with the chips that fall, we play the cards we are dealt.
It’s easy to fall into a place of complacency, to get comfortable even while knowing we aren’t truly living to our potential. To say, “tommorrow, I will”, we tell ourselves we aren’t educated enough to go after the dream job, we don’t start the podcast because we need more knowledge or we might sound stupid, don’t start the workout because we need to diet first, don’t write the book because we don’t know where to start. We stay in unhealthy lifestyles and relationships because we aren’t worthy of better yet. Here’s the thing, above all the other things I’ve learned –
JUST START and YES, YOU FUCKING ARE.
You don’t have to have it all figured out. You’re probably going to look silly the first time you try. You may have to go back and rewrite it. You will have growing pains. You will mourn the loss of the you from yesterday. But that life you dream of? It’s already yours. You just have to know it, work for it and grab it. Not everyday is going to feel great. Sometimes the weight of the world will attempt to hold you down. Get back up, every time. The right time? It’s literally right now. As I write these words, I say them to myself. The beauty in the flaws is, ultimately, what makes the big picture so breathtaking. Without the flaws, the times we fall down… we simply cannot appreciate the moment we get better at whatever our feat is. Big or small.
Oh and if you’re worried about looking or sounding silly? Just remember that every single human has that same fear. It’s okay. Your role models? The people you look up to? They worked hard to get to where they are and I promise you, they feared the same things and fell down more times than they themselves can count.
I was once afraid of going to a physical prison. Sitting here writing this, I realize my own fear and insecurities were my prison. I did my time and I believe you’ve done yours.