I'm not sure when I started making all these changes. I think I'll start from the pandemic and our first initial lockdown. At first, I took the pandemic seriously, given that back in March most people thought it was only going to last two weeks or so; two weeks of staying at home and catching up on my sleep, easy. It was spring break, so I flew home instead of Vegas, and I took this as a much needed time to quarantine with my family. It wasn't until I stayed in Florida and witnessed the culture shock of how poorly COVID was handled in my state that I realized how horrible things were. Being in Chicago, where COVID is taken seriously, and coming back to Florida where bars are open, and people are refusing to wear face masks made me feel like I was in a twilight zone.
Let's bring it back to March 23, 2020. I was Company Commander at my ROTC program. I loved the responsibility, but it was the bullshit instructions from Loyola that were stressful to handle. There were many instances where I was instructed to do things last minute, and since DePaul is a city school, it was impossible to get everyone together.
Not only are we a city school, but every person at DePaul had a job outside of ROTC--and a life. On top of making sure my kids (I called the freshman-juniors my kids) were taken care of mentally, academically, and socially. Around the same time, I had a phone call with one of my cadre members that made me lose respect for the adults in charge of us. I couldn't stop crying and I finally realized that these grown-ass men that have been deployed thought so poorly of me, and I realized they talked about it amongst themselves. It was a lot to deal with emotionally. This is what happened: I brought up someone's lack of leadership, then I was accused of having it out for them, and then I was asked if I had hooked up with him…!
You don't think it was hard for me to bring this up? I just remember sobbing to my then-boyfriend, because it's ridiculous that I had two options: do I let this guy do whatever the fuck he wants and try to hide it from everyone, or bring it up? I was told by multiple people to just, "let it go", "don't fight this"; and now I realized why. Most times, when you try to do "the right thing", you get shitted on. This was the first time that I started seeing how broken our program was, and if this is just ROTC what should I expect in the real Army? This whole time, I thought I was being prepared for the real Army; when actually I was just being bullied by men twice my senior. I didn't know how to protect the juniors, and thankfully we had a new wave of cadre coming. I just had to shield everyone else from the bullshit until I graduated.
Fast forward to the riots, I felt helpless. I felt like I had to be doing more than I was. I was back in Florida where I was starting to see how racism plays into our lives and how different it is from Chicago, call it culture shock if you will. It was the first time I realized how racist my hometown is. No one would come out and say it, but the subtle ways were clear. The kids I never felt comfortable around in high school were now at Trump boat rallies, and it clicked. I felt disgusted once I realized how I played into the narrative, how I never corrected my friends when I felt uncomfortable or when they were being racist. And growing up in Naples, you know how difficult it is to stand up for yourself because you're getting hit from all directions and the microaggression is so subtle.
Everyone in Florida throws around the n-word in conversation; it's considered "normal". White people think it's OK to say it because they date people of color. They think it's okay to say it when it's on a song. It took me leaving Naples and going to school in Chicago to learn that it's not okay, and this is why I get so annoyed with "liberals." Because I feel like they don't understand how difficult it is when you come from a place that normalizes racism. Stop blaming people for not knowing any better, just because you were lucky enough to grow up in a place where right and wrong are clear. The lines of right and wrong in Florida, aren't drawn, and if they are, they're mislabeled.
I started realizing that everything I was, it wasn't actually me. Once I realized how much of myself was the pressure to assimilate to white culture, I realized I was no one I was proud to be.
The friends I had in high school, my best friends' parents, everything was making sense; and I realized how hard I was trying to ignore it. Ignore that I grew up with people that are subconsciously racist because I realized how they were hiding how they truly feel. Trump being president allowed all this "hidden racism" to come out of hiding; and now more than ever we need to acknowledge it.
I started seeing how even if you are white and in a relationship with a person of color; you can still be racist and only date people of color for "clout." And to make it all worse, being in Florida, you know I was drinking heavily instead of dealing with these issues. So there I was, struggling internally, my mind traveling at 1,000 miles an hour and numbing myself to all of it.
The past three months have been the best alone time I've had. I feel guilty because I know my hometown friends want to see me and want to hang and I keep blowing them off. I'm sorry, I just don't know how to say no. I feel pressured to be nice and say yes; because if I say no it means that I'm not chill; and if I'm not chill it means I'm uptight, but I'm not I swear I'm chill, but I don't actually want to go out, I just want to chill; AND every time I say let's chill someone wants to hang out and, "we can just stop by at this place and say hi", but you know damn well we're going to start drinking and before you know it we're drunk asf on a Monday night and my entire Tuesday is now ruined, AND I DON'T WANT THAT!
Stop fucking gaslighting me. Stop telling me, "yeah I feel that, I don't want to drink either", when we know you do. Our drinking guilt runs so deep, it's honestly affecting us in our sleep. My friends feel so guilty for drinking, that they literally have to signal and convince people that they don't drink as often because we are trying to prove that we are not low lives who drink. I'm so tired of this Catholic guilt telling us that we are low lives if we drink, why can't we just enjoy drinking? Why does everything have to be a goddamn competition? Why are we always trying to be superior? Why do we think we are better than others? We drink to feel something, I mean look at us. There's a specific group of us that are so fucked up, not just Naples, SOME OF US ARE NOT OK!!! Half of my friends are either prescribed medication to numb themselves or take matters into their own hands. Then there are others that in serious relationships and having babies just to be divorced in five years. We're all trying to fill a void by creating a fake sense of reality, but until we deal with it head-on; there's no Xanax in the world that can keep us numb for that long.
So now, trying to navigate through all that; I am changing from how I used to be. I know I used to go out and be the first to want to go on a boat, drink, or be at whatever gathering; but I'm no longer happy doing those things. The moment I sip alcohol I gravitate towards the saddest person in the room other than myself and start crying; it's been this way since Grace died. I get drained so easily around people and I only feel recharged when I'm by myself. If those things make you happy, go for it, and if that's all our friendship has to offer, then it's okay if we're just "going out friends". It's okay if we don't see each other for a while. We need to stop forcing friendships that are past their expiration date, and just because we're not on the same page right now, doesn't mean that we can't in the future.
If you don't want to try a new place, paint, get coffee, dinner, go to the gym, or watch a movie and do face masks, then stop reaching out; I'll say no.
And to my friends that I suck replying to: I'm sorry I suck. I never realized how much time I was spending with the wrong friends, and now that I know who's not just my friend during my "fun moments", I'm starting to feel less drained. I'm not good at keeping in touch with people I don't see every day, and I'm working on that. I get caught up in my things, and if I'm not responding it's not because I'm ignoring you, so please don't take it personally. I'm just making a lot of internal changes right now and my focus is on fixing my family, and some health concerns that have arisen.
The way I've coped with my messed up family was by having friends and giving them all my time. Now that I'm trying to deal with my family and be there, it's taking a lot out of me, and I don't have much leftover to give to my friends. That doesn't mean that if you call or tell me you're in a bad place that I won't be there; it just means that I won't check up on you as often as I used to. Since my friends have always been the family I wished I had, I will always love and appreciate those friendships, even if we are not close anymore. I know I suck at showing my emotions but know that I'm trying to let you guys in, I just have a lot of work to do.