It has been a quiet month since the Kickstarter was successfully funded, and I feel as if I’ve been in a period of hibernation. I have to admit that the attention I was receiving made me uncomfortable at times. Airing out my “personal life” wasn’t exactly what I thought I would be doing to help the homeless. I had always thought that I could just focus my lens on others, share their stories, and hope that their voices wouldn’t get drowned out by the media storm.
And so here I am. My father is still doing great given his circumstances, and I have been reminding myself to not place any unrealistic expectations on either of us. The relationship will be whatever the relationship will be. I think that on my part, it will always require an exercise in establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries. Nothing changes over night.
The project itself has been evolving on many personal levels. I have been spending a lot of time flipping through old journals and a handful of photographs from my childhood. Reliving the past has become such a crucial piece in this process, and I recognize that there are many elements of my past that I would like to share. For now, I am allowing myself the time and freedom to go through these experiences and capture them on paper.
It is not easy. It is ugly and messy. It is complicated and fragile. But it is also painfully precious because it is who I am today.
I am still learning how to be comfortable with all of this. I know that there are many others who still struggle with the feelings woven into a loved one who is/was homeless, mentally ill, and/or abusive. I have felt guilty… helpless, vulnerable, heartbroken. There were times when I wished that I could just walk away from my father. All of my childhood feelings of being abandoned would swell up, almost as if it were challenging who I had become. The little girl in me wanted to kick and scream — she wanted to run away and hide and forget my father the way he forgot about me. But I knew deep down inside that my heart would never be the same if I left him there. It would never be the same if I didn’t do something… do anything.
I had been so afraid of sharing this story because of the unknown. What would people think of me? What if people judged me because I don’t “look” like the type of person who would have a homeless dad? Wait a minute, what would that “look” like anyway? The hardest part has been getting over my own self-created fears in discussing homelessness with the public. I have been emotionally and physically hurt at so many levels by my parents that I feel instinctively on-guard having to discuss homelessness. Why? Because homelessness, as a social circumstance, represents the bottom of the barrel that my father, mother, and I have all experienced at different points in our lives. So, when I see statistical figures or categorical subheadings in a policy brief compartmentalizing the homeless issue based on mental illness, substance abuse, or youth runaways — I think about my father, my mother, and myself as a 16 year-old… in that order.
There is so much beneath the surface. There always is. I hope to continue sharing as the project progresses. In the meantime, I’m still waiting for those darn bracelets to come in. That’s what I get for making a pre-Christmas order of 100 medium-sized bracelets thinking that it would fit the average male. The good news is the large-sized bracelets are in production and should be here by the end of the month. It’s a bit of set-back time wise, but I’m sure it’s all happening this way for a reason. I have learned that patience goes a long way… and I’m sure this project will continue to require a lot of thoughtful periods of reflection, and moments of patience before charging forward.