Over the past few days, I’ve been watching Holes (2003) with my kids. We’ve been watching it in 30-40 minute spurts because, well, toddlers—need I really say more? Anyway, in listening to the score, I remembered something from my childhood. I was seven years old when Holes was released, and I remember listening to the CD on the giant stereo in the living room. There were a few songs I favored, and listening to the lyrics now as an adult (and I remember almost every word, despite not having listened to the songs in nearly 15 years), I’ve come to believe I was drawn to these songs for a reason. We can call it divine intervention, or the Fortune’s Wheel, or my soul “knowing” something my adolescent mind had yet to fathom. It doesn’t really matter what we call it, but I know it’s something.
The songs I favored largely address themes of survival.
“I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday” by Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps
“I Will Survive” by Stephanie Bentley
“Don’t Give Up” by Eagle Eye Cherry
I don’t think it’s a coincidence I loved these songs as a child, and it makes sense that each of these made me cry as I watched the movie over the past few days. I’m twenty-five now, and my life has included a battle with leukemia, emotional neglect, food insecurity, sexual abuse by a trusted adult, repeated sexual assault by peers, homelessness, bankruptcy, two complicated and dangerous pregnancies, a chronic illness, gun violence, narcissistic abuse, and now a global pandemic for which I have little-to-no support system to help with my kids or the financial insecurity caused by the pandemic.
I’ll say it again: I’m twenty-five. That’s a lot to survive in a quarter of a century.
Yet, no where in any of that have I wanted to quit. There have been many times when I was tired, when I cried on the phone to a friend or my husband about how damn tired I am of fighting for even the basics—which seems to be the theme of my life—but after I feel my feelings, I stand a little taller and remind myself, I can overcome this too.
The fact is, I know I’m breaking the patterns of abuse that span generations, and I’m choosing to do things the “hard” way because I know it’ll benefit my kids. Like I said in my post about reputation, I don’t care what’s “proper” or “traditional.” It doesn’t matter to me that there are technically people—and people with money—I could ask for help. The sacrifice of my sanity isn’t worth that phone call. We have what we need, even if we have to fight for it every day. We keep winning the fight. We keep surviving. The fight is long, and exhausting, but the prize—my kids growing up happy, and safe, and sure of the love of those in their life—is priceless. No amount of money or good physical health could ever be worth more.
That’s why I’m loving “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday” the most today. There have been more than a few people who have said things like “Sorry you’ll be alone forever” to us because we choose our sanity over their company. Surprise: we aren’t alone, we just don’t have them in our life. And speaking for myself, I am making damn impressive strides without them. I have a career I love working with people who push me to never quit shooting for the moon and who inspire me every single day. I spend my days editing books and blogs that address all kinds of abuse and sexual assault—I’ve found a way to use my past pain to help others heal in their future. And it’s okay to be excited about that milestone.
Society would probably say its rude—or at the least, impolite—to think about those folks in a “I bite my thumb at you”-way (shoutout to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for that line!). I disagree. There’s a certain level of excitement that I find in these lyrics:
Everything’s gonna go my way
I won’t need nobody
I’m gonna be a real gone cat
Then I won’t want you
You can cry
While you were high high high
If you were wondering why I don’t look at you
When I go rolling by“I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday” by Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps
It’s that hope that—someday—all this fighting I’m doing now, that I’ve always done, will be worth it. And that, although folks have certainly hurt me, and I haven’t exactly forgotten what they said or did, it’s true that they aren’t on my mind when I envision that day. Right now, I’m still close to the incidents; they’re fresh in my memory. But every day, I get further away from those incidents and closer to the prize—more success in my career, my kids living their adult lives with self-confidence and the security that they’ll always be welcome to come “home” to us, and being able to look back and see that every fight was breaking another chain of generational abuse.
And until that day, I can draw strength from those songs I memorized nearly twenty years ago.
I will survive
I will endure
When the goin’s rough
You can be sure
I’ll tough it out
I won’t give in
If I’m knocked down I’ll get up again
As long as my dream’s alive
I will survive“I Will Survive” by Stephanie Bentley
Life certainly hasn’t gone the way I thought it would when I was seven. I had no idea that the cancer wasn’t, in fact, the worst thing that could happen to me. Once, when asked how I felt about having had leukemia as a child, I responded, “It’s nice to know all the bad days are behind me now.” How naïve I was, and how justified I was in believing that! When my body was done trying to kill me, life started—and for now, life seems to keep trying, yet I say:
We must believe
That if we give we will receive
Yes we must believe
That it’s going to get better
Don’t give up
Never give up
We won’t stop
Giving all we got
Don’t give up
Never give up
We won’t stop
Giving all we got
Now we’re breaking away
From what holds us down
This could be the day
That brings out the light
Now we’re marching on
With the will of never giving up
This time we’ll have won
Without a fight“Don’t Give Up” by Eagle Eye Cherry
I can’t honestly say these lyrics in these exact words have always been playing in my mind, but the message they gave me in my youth certainly stuck. I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not a train. I believe that, one day, the days will be easier—even if that day is twenty years from now and the “easier” is simply not worrying in the same ways about my kids. Instead of worrying if I’m giving them enough, I’ll look at them and see they’re better for the sweat shed now. Maybe I’ll have to fight every single day for the rest of my life, and if my kids, my grandkids, are better because of it—if they’re protected because of the ways in which I shield them and work sixty-hour weeks—then it’s worth it.