Post Date: March 13, 2012

Title: I Have A Voice Too

Address: ihaveavoicetoo.com

Author: Matthew Melao

From: Santee

Blogging since: March 2012

My life is coming together, because I’m coming together. Even though I’m job hunting and living with three roommates —

one never showers, another is a Jehovah’s Witness, and the third a conspiracy theorist — in a small, three-bedroom condo, I’m doing pretty well.

Let’s start off with what I don’t have, or what I’m not having to deal with. I’m not in jail or prison. I’m not sleeping on a sidewalk or under a bridge, nor am I in a shelter. (The estimate for homeless in this country is approximately 750,000, and I’ve come to know and love many of them.) I have no incurable disease that I am aware of. No gout, gonorrhea, AIDS, scurvy, leprosy, or elephantiasis. I have no serious mental illness. I’m not broke yet, nor am I in debt. I don’t have a teenage son or daughter, mutants from another planet.

I do have a bed to sleep in and a roof over my head. I’m in decent health. I have caring, supportive family and friends. For once in my life, I’m feeling comfortable in my skin; for once I don’t feel so broken. I can look at myself in the mirror. The wall I had built many years ago to protect myself is coming down, one brick at a time.

I never felt really good about myself. Subconsciously, I was continuously comparing myself with others. I assumed everyone else was smarter, better looking, luckier, more trustworthy, just better. I was walking around with a guilt complex and a deep sense of shame, as if I’d murdered a litter of puppies or run over grandma walking her stroller across the street. What I find amazing now is how little I understood any of this, and how much I was a stranger to myself. My demons were always there, lurking in the shadows, and I did everything I could to shove them down just so I could look you in the eye and answer, “I’m good. Doing well, thank you.”

But demons have a way of surfacing and making themselves known. Some people develop addictions or end up homeless. Me, I found myself behind bars. I really fucked up. I’d gotten involved in an internet pharmacy and had the DEA and FBI knocking on my door at 6:30 on a chilly April morning. They were the winds of change ahead of a devastating hurricane, harbingers of destruction and rebirth.

Two and a half years later, I walked out of prison. The shame that was there before I went in? It had doubled in size and was now impossible to suppress, because now I was a felon who’d been in prison, because I was on probation, because I had to periodically pee in a cup, because the expectations I had subconsciously carried with me over the years had been dashed.

But it was all wrong! I was mistaken and had been for years!

Shortly after my release, I found myself working as an instructor at a homeless shelter. I found it ironic that I was there, because I was employed to teach them, to help them, to empower them, and what I needed myself was to be empowered. In prison, I had prayed to be released to a place like this. Now, here I was at a shelter, finding people who were no different than me. So many of them also felt like castaways, worthless, less than, broken, fucked up, and when I looked at them I saw the parts of me that I had disowned and shoved down. They were me, and I was them! It was startling, nourishing, and eye-opening. They began to teach me that I did have something to offer and that maybe I wasn’t as shattered as I thought.

If I’d been to prison, so what? It was only a big deal because I made it that way. These “homeless” people, stigmatized and looked down upon by society, were the first step in my recovery. Unbeknownst to them, they had much to offer me; unbeknownst to me, they were my kin. They were teaching me real humility and that the more you give the more you get. I will continue to be in debt to them for years to come.

More from SDReader

More from the web

Comments

Sign in to comment

Join our
newsletter list

Enter to win $25 at Broken Yolk Cafe

Each newsletter subscription
means another chance to win!

Close