If someone had told me ten years ago that today I would be meditating on the impermanence of life while picking up dog poop for a housesitting job, I would have believed them. I would have believed them if they told me I would be living in a house with a pack of black labs and a sweet English family I had just met. If they said I had moved again because my apartment had mold and a lot of dead people trying to get my attention, I would have said, “Sounds about right.”
Ten years ago, I lived in Boise, Idaho selling tickets in a tinfoil booth for the Western Idaho State Fair. I briefly dated a refugee from Iraq who told me I was like a butterfly, something about not being able to catch me. I slept in my car in campgrounds in Northern California. I drove east to west, and west to east. I lived in Portland, Oregon with eight girls also in their 20’s and a couple from Las Vegas. I found random jobs on Craigslist, like the promotional gig for Tylenol PM, where I wore pajamas and handed out samples outside a movie theatre or the one where I dressed as an astronaut for a week to promote a space museum.
I worked on Vans Warped Tour.
I worked as a Camel Girl at night to pay for yoga teacher training.
I fell in love with musicians, bartenders, and artists.
I had panic attacks.
My eating disorder stuck around like an old friend who knew how to help.
I went back to school and began to write.
I lived in New York City for a year. I lived on a farm in Vermont in the middle of winter for two weeks with no heat and a couple on the brink of divorce.
If someone had told me that in ten years I would be working a job in healthcare, one I had not quit or been fired from I would not have believed them, because back then I had the uncanny ability to get hired on the spot for almost any job but the lacked the commitment to show up.
If they told me that while I was in graduate school, death would march through my life in threes, taking my grandparents and best friend, I would have denied the prediction, unable to fathom the grief of those losses.
When I look at pictures of my 24–year-old self, I see a girl who was trying to become whole. I see a girl who didn’t know how to use her voice, how to put down roots, how to forgive, set boundaries, or feed herself. I see a girl who did not believe in her own worth. I see a girl who relied on the advice of everyone around her instead of the voice within her.
I still don’t know a lot of things, but I know this: I am not that girl anymore.
Megan Okkerse is a candidate for an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is trained in the Amherst Writers & Artists writing workshop method and has taught both on her own and for Charlotte Center for Literary Arts, Kindred: Charlotte, Noda Yoga, and Open Heart Searchery.
Due to widespread, catastrophic flooding and damage in Texas and along the Gulf Coast, Megan encourages others to give to any number of hurricane disaster relief efforts like this one...here.