“We’re going to have to close down,” he said.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think the attractive Lebanese man that had been my employer for the past two and a half years was going to cry.
“I’m sorry, Danny. I feel terrible.”
“It’s OK Fadi,” I replied, looking up from my desk in a moment of perfumed silence. “You shouldn’t feel bad. You’ve been great to me and our clients.” I fought to keep eye contact as the pain of this inevitable information sliced at me.
“I don’t regret losing money that would have come in if we were less honest,” I mumbled as I picked at a piece of tape stuck to my desk, “and there’s nothing you could do about the bubble bursting in this god-forsaken industry. It’s been coming for years.” I forced a smile for him, but as soon as he walked out, the tears took their place.
We spent the next few heart-wrenching weeks wrapping up what we could with the existing loans before shutting down the office. After that, I spent a couple months working for another mortgage broker Fadi had helped to hook me up with, but it wasn’t long before the doors closed there as well.
Out of loyalty and admiration, I had chosen to go down with a sinking ship and all of my treasures with it. When the second office shut down, I had no financial padding left and the industry was dying. Mortgage workers of every type flooded the work market with desperation to get into another industry as their livelihood crumbled to the ground. We were blacklisted as crooks and, even if we could find a job, there was no way it could pay for our lifestyle.
There I was — left with no choice but to do the thing that scared me more the most. I had to leave that sunny beach paradise that had brought me so much happiness and go back to a dreary, rainy place that symbolized nothing but misery. I had to move back to the place I had grown up.
“Thanks for letting me stay here while I figure it out Mom and Dad.” I avoided looking at them as I let down my Jack Russell and lugged my overstuffed Betsey Johnson luggage through the door.
“We’re just glad you’re OK hon,” Mom said with her eternally worried look.
“Who says I’m OK?” I mumbled as I dragged past them and up the stairs.
After unpacking, I drew a bath and looked in the mirror at the expensive blond hair, expensive red lipstick and expensive Cashmere sweater.
“It will be OK,” I told myself. “It will be OK.”
Dad had been sick for a while, but I hardly ever came back to this place to realize just how bad he had been. Over the next couple months, my heart twisted as I began to really see his illness for the first time and soon began to help. Our parents had been on their own and neither I nor my sister or brother had helped. For the chance to be able to do that, I finally found a reason to be glad I was there.
Every day was a foggy struggle, but eventually I started to sweep myself off the floor and slowly started to remember who I was. I wanted to write and travel. I wanted to be involved with photography, fashion and the arts. Volunteering had become a big part of my life and doing good was something I didn’t want to let go of. I might not be able to do it all at once, but I could start with something. A whisper inside my heart told me that I was finally being given the chance.
I started writing. I wrote and wrote until I wasn’t sure what I was writing about. When an opportunity came up to travel, any opportunity, I said yes. Without thinking about it, I would say yes and do what I had to do to make it happen. I didn’t know where it was going, but I was writing and traveling. Texas, Arizona, Florida, Tahoe, Mexico – whatever. As long as I was on the move and writing, it didn’t matter.
“Must be nice,” my sister saidas we sipped on vanilla lattes at the neighborhood coffee shop. “Some of us have responsibilities.”
“We all have responsibilities,” I said defensively. “Do you really think this is easy for me? Do you think life is easy for anyone? Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Besides – if Mom and Dad support me going after this, you don’t need to worry about it.”
Many people felt the same way she did. They lived in their suburban track housing with their nine to five jobs and two point five kids. In their eyes, anything outside of that box was wrong.
I had lived that life. I had the career, money and social status that they approved of. It was a miserable jail sentence with terrible things on the inside, but as long as everything on the outside looked pretty, it hadn’t mattered. I couldn’t live like that anymore. It may not have been my choice to break free, but now that I was, I was determined never to go back.
I kept writing. I kept writing and traveling and helping with my father. Life was hard, but I started to love myself in a way I never had before.
“My book’s done,” I whispered at the end of a big family dinner at Maggiano’s a year after I had first arrived.
“What!” Proclaimed our little brother who was temporarily in town. “That’s awesome Danny-Doo!”
The whole family surprised me with how excited they were. I was scared it would disappear at any moment, but it didn’t. Friends threw a party of congratulations and I floated through their long-needed approval in disbelief.
“Does that mean you’re moving home,” my brother asked before leaving to report back to the military in our beautiful beach paradise.
“Not yet Kid.” I hugged him with internal strength I thought had been lost long ago. “I’m well on my way, but there’s more I have to do before I can get back home.”
It was true – I was well on my way. I didn’t know when this new life was going to solidify, but the ingredients had been mixed and were growing firm. For the first time, I realized that I had the foundation of a new life that would make me really happy. All I had to do was be patient and keep stirring the pot.
I’ve always known who I am. I write, I love the arts, I love people and I love travel. I’m passionate and need to fight for what I believe in. I never had a problem knowing who I am. My battle has been fighting the outside forces that would tell me I am wrong.
There’s only so long we can run from ourselves before surrendering and that’s where I am now. I’ve given into who I am and what I love. That is what you see here.