17 years ago tomorrow, I arrived in Atlanta, Georgia. I arrived with a carry on back-pack and two duffle bags full of personal goods. I left my job, my car, my crazy husband and almost everything I treasured behind and came to Atlanta to stay with a woman that I met on the Internet. Courtney and her husband Fred opened their home to me when all I had was $600 to my name. I tried to tell her that I didn't know how long it would take me to get a job, to get on my feet, etc. Almost immediately after I got here, I came down with the Beijing flu and was sick for three weeks. She assured me that I was the sister she never had, and not to worry about it, we were family.
Courtney spent 18 hours a day on the Internet flirting with other men. She had a 2-year old son that they locked in his room at night (actually more like all the time... Courtney complained that he 'bothered her' while she was online) because he wasn't yet potty trained, and rather than buy a baby gate, they locked his bedroom door so he couldn't get out at night. Her idea of a nutritious meal for him was canned ravioli.
Because I wanted to repay her kindness, I started actually interacting with her child, cooking, cleaning and generally trying to pitch in any way that I could since I had very little money to contribute. This was my first mistake, because soon the comparisons started. "Courtney, why don't you write down some of Melinda's recipes, I really liked what she made for dinner tonight" or "Courtney, did you know that our son learned to count to five? Melinda's been working with him."
After I got well, I looked for a job, and I found one rather quickly. I started working the week before Christmas at a print shop in Norcross. Fred & Courtney transferred the note to one of their cars to me so that I had transportation. Good thing too, because after I'd been at my job about two weeks, it became my home too.
Courtney threw me out because she said that Fred had fallen in love with me, and didn't want to have sex while I was in the living room. I was 'cramping her style' because she had to get dressed every day, and their son was wailing when they locked him in the room and no one played with him. "He didn't used to do that, you're spoiling him with all the attention."
I came very close to calling DFACS on them. I knew that they rarely had nutritious food in the house, if the state of their house was anything like it was when I arrived. Most of the $600 I had arrived with had gone to stocking their pantry and freezer with nutritious food that didn't come out of a can. However, I decided it was not my place to judge, and I didn't do it. My co-worker Lois thought I should have done it, and in hindsight, I think I probably should have as well, but I didn't.
So, for the second time in my life, I found myself homeless. Luckily, it didn't last too long and I was able to start staying at the Suburban Lodge on Buford Highway for $179/wk. It was tough, but I had a place of my own, it had furniture and a tiny kitchen I could use. I lived on a lot of take-out and gradually things got better.
I've come a long way in seventeen years. I've achieved a level of stability I didn't think was possible for me. I was a rebellious gypsy with bad decision-making skills when I got to Atlanta all those years ago. I guess I have mellowed with age somewhat. I never realized how Fred & Courtney's putting me out on the street destroyed my faith/trust in people. As a result, I still keep people at arm's length.
But I'm a survivor, that's what I do. Survive, overcome the odds, and maintain a sense of peace/calm at my center. I don't know if I'm often happy or joyful, but I am always grateful and peaceful.
That's really not so bad.
Ciao for now.