Atticus, Part I: Origins of a Nomad
This is an origin story about me and has less to do about motorbikes.
I was born and raised in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington DC, to Laotian parents (my mother is technically Vietnamese but was raised in Laos). Laotian was my first language with English being my second. My folks split when I was six, leaving me to be the only child until my dad remarried when I was ten. However, my mom had custody of me, therefore I grew up an only child. My parents worked all the time, we were not poor but neither wealthy too.
I struggled with English as a second language and attended ESL (English as a Second Language) schooling at public school until I was eight. My mom went through a couple of jobs, so we moved. A lot. I had moved every year to two years to different apartments and homes. Sometimes it was just us, or maybe my mom's boyfriend too and sometimes it was with other family. To this day, I still move that frequently with the exception of two periods of my life in Philadelphia where I currently reside.
I often stayed within the same school, maybe went to a few different elementary schools, but all within the same county, Fairfax county. It was difficult for me to maintain friendships and subsequently I do not have any childhood friends outside of maybe from my later more independent years in middle and high school. But even then, I was and still am a shy and introverted person who spent a lot of my childhood reading, drawing, and watching cartoons. Socializing skills did not really develop until freshman year in high school when I said, Fuck it.
I was a good student except my parents did not have time to have me get involved with sports or extra curricular classes.
I often daydreamed. I spent a lot of time alone. I worked on school and developing my own cognitive thoughts and ideas through reading, television, movies, music, and my own imagination. Things were tough when you start to become a teen and your parents aren't around too much. I often wished I had an older sibling to help with my emotional growth and life guidance.
I do not like being told what to do. I did everything myself. I felt that I have survived by myself. By my early adolescence, my father has two young daughters and his wife--a new family. My mother had remarried, and to a Thai night club singer. She was great at singing and became a singer too and traveled a lot with her second husband. I was often left with my dad and his family or living with my mom's eldest sister. She was forced to give up that lifestyle when confronted by both my aunt and my dad that she was a mother and had to choose to be one for me.
It was strange. I felt bad that she had to give up a lifestyle she loved with the man she loved. She stayed to be a mom and worked loveless jobs, and their relationship did not last. Although, I felt like both of my parents weren't really parents. They were gone too much and I had to figure out things on my own. I felt that my problems weren't important enough so I never shared them, I dealt with them.
Sometime around this period, I suffered a terrible trauma. I am not brave enough to share it and hope I will have the strength to voice it one day so other people can too. Because I know it is a major problem for many women--and men--especially as children. It is the kind that kills the thing in your eyes. We recognize each other.
I was a good student for most of my life until sophomore year in high school. My mom remarried a third time, to her current husband now. They bought a house in the township that I went to school in, I felt like it was the first home I had and my mom was being a mom and settling down. I was always a good kid and did well in school and always worked hard. Summer and odd jobs. So it was no surprise that I had gotten a car and a job when I could. Out of being a hassle or hassled, I started to pay for everything I needed or wanted myself in short of car insurance and rent. Although I did eat a lot of food from home, because Laos cooking...
My mom had my little sister. I didn't like it at first but I guess I started to like the little thing. But after my mom had my sister, we found out that she had a benign tumor under her brain. At the same time, 9-11 had happened and with the traveling economy plummeting, my step dad lost his major paying job as a sous chef at the Embassy Suite in Washington, DC. I remembered the day that 9-11 happened, we were outside having lunch in the courtyard of my school. Some of us knew people who were lost at the Pentagon. It was a somber day.
My aunt, my mom's eldest sister whom I spent some of my childhood with, demanded money back during this time that she had helped with to put a down payment on our house. Everything that I thought was going well went very badly. We lost the house and were forced to live with her. She was a miserable person by this time and age. We butted heads and I never wanted to be home. My mom had surgery for her tumor, it was traumatizing for me. I know this is terrible but I did not want to visit her in the hospital. I didn't want to see my mother, the origin of my soul, look defeated and mortal. My aunt, her eldest sister, made me go see my mom. The image still haunts me. Black, blue, and purple swollen face, with stitches across her head--I am tearing up writing this right now.
I never wanted to be home. It wasn't my home. I guess I didn't have one anymore. I started to friend people who smoked, drank, and partied. I partied and drank a lot. Was late every morning to school, slept through first period or during first period. Went from an A-B honor roll student with AP classes to almost failing and not graduating. Through the mercy and grace of my grade school principal (our school was so big that each grade also had its own principal) and many teachers who cared, I barely graduated.
I continued working retail and fucked off a lot. Continued drinking, partying, raving, drugs--whatever it was I did. Made some life long friends, made some not so much friends, and learned many many lessons.
My parents got on my back about going to college, relentlessly. Did I mention I hate being told what to do? So after a year, I picked a random city, a random art school, and the statistically highest paying major.
I moved to Philadelphia. Without anyone else, without knowing anyone, without a plan. I was nineteen.
When I find another brave moment, I will write:
Atticus, Part II: Bought Their Dream and Sold it All