That Time I Risked and Almost Died. Kinda.


I spent the first semester of my sophomore year in Guatemala,  studying abroad and serving in a girls orphanage. Second semester, I moved back home to work and save money before moving to Fresno to finish my last two years. I had a variety of part-time jobs: house cleaning, baby sitting and assisting in the county’s ESL classes. My most interesting job during those months, was working for a fascinating woman named “Deanne Delacruz” (though I’m not convinced that was her real name). Deanne owned a small women’s boutique downtown and I, along with a couple of my besties (small town perks), would take shifts manning the shop. Deanne was eclectic, confident, and British. She was certain her little shop would be a trend setter for our sleepy mountain town. Sadly, but not surprisingly, her business closed after about 12 months.

Working at “Dee’s” wasn’t risky. It was easy and brainless and entertaining. One time a young high school girl came in to buy lingerie to surprise her boyfriend. I told her I needed to see ID to finalize the purchase. “I’m sorry. I can’t sell lingerie to a minor. It’s the law.” She left confused and empty handed.

Rabbit trial. Sorry. Back to my failed risk.

One afternoon, while I was manning the shop, a woman came in and began browsing. She had a young boy with her who looked to be around 3 years old. I said “hello” and offered to help if she had any questions. As I observed her from the back of the store, I quickly realized she was not there to shop but to get out of the cold. She walked around slowly, pretending to shop, and then, after about 5 minutes, said “Thank you” and left. A few other women came in and she went out and I quickly forgot about the young mother.

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The Risk of Being Known

Though I will forever be a “California Girl” at heart, I now embrace my new “Oregonian” identity. Moving to a new state has graciously assigned me a few other new labels as well:

  • Visitor
  • Stranger
  • New Neighbor
  • White lady with an Asian baby
  • Lost and confused
  • Owner of many coats

These are unfamiliar labels. I have not been the “new girl” for a long time. At least not on this level. I have a smart phone but I still manage to get lost at least once a day. Here, there are two options of yellow traffic lights (blinking and nonblinking) and I hate them both. I’ve run through at least 6 red lights as a result of my uncertainty and stress over those stupid yellow traffic lights.

Back to the labels.

I haven’t had too many emotional breakdowns yet. More are coming, for sure, but our rental is super small and my time is spent keeping my kids from killing each other. The tears seem to flow best when I’m driving. In the rain. Probably lost. It’s a perfect storm, really.

When I have a few minutes to really self-examine, I find that a lot of my anxiety and feelings come from the exhaustion of being unknown and recalling the work it takes to be known. It is hard work to let people in. Plus, the last six years of my life have been full of highs and lows and tons of stories that explain why our family looks and functions the way we do. Those who know me don’t think twice about those things. They know. But I am now living a world of people who don’t know. Anything. Not one thing. Not even my name. No one within 500 miles of me knows how long my husband and I have known each other or that I’m allergic to Ibuprofen or that my daughter is named after her grandmas.

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