Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

You Never Leave the Places You've Been

I'm haunted by the memories of places I've been, choices I've made, sufferings and pleasures. I'm still thirteen years old, joining a cult that promised love and acceptance, emotional treasures I, an awkward, bookish boy, had never elsewhere found. I'm still seven, watching a spider wrap a fly as my parents shouted out the end of their marriage. I'm still seventeen, wandering through the Perris night in my first doomed bid for freedom.

I still live in my car, years after founding a family and renting more permanent digs. All the police, and criminals, and false friends linger. It's still my wedding day, the days of the births of my children, the day we got the autism diagnosis. It's the day my wife left me, and the day I left my wife. It's today, my kids and wife in the ocean, me on the shore, scribbling this essay in the front leaves of a book. It's all those times, together with thousands more. Time doesn't exist in chronological order.

When you make truly significant life choices, remember this. Before you join the military, or commit a crime, use drugs, or get married, or choose to try homelessness, remember this. Some of these choices are a crossroad, and the direction you choose will change you forever, for good or bad. If you choose to be homeless, you will never be as committed to your social place as you once were. You will know you can leave. The traumas and terrors, and time and freedom, will be in your dreams and on your mind in the middle of work days, on social occasions, and in quiet moments. You'll know things others don't.

Treat your mind as a museum you must curate. Choose carefully the exhibits. Once they enter the collection, they aren't going anywhere.