Every time I introduce myself to a new person, I feel this unstoppable need to describe to them my entire life story. I can’t help it. I feel this horrible anxiety like I’m not being my True Authentic Self if this person doesn’t know everything about me from the get go. I know, annoying right? Most of the time people are thrilled to learn that I was raised on a tour bus with 8 adults and 6 kids in an evangelical southern gospel band. They love to hit me with tons of questions, which only fuels my word vomit.
“Did you meet anyone famous?” Define fame…? In the southern gospel music industry, yes, I met a lot of famous people. But most folks wouldn’t know them from a stranger in Wal-Mart.
“Have you been to every state?” Nope. We mostly stayed around the Bible Belt (shocking) and ventured a bit North and a bit West. I remember going to a lot of the same churches several times over the years so I know we kind of stuck to the same areas.
“What was it like living on a bus?” I don’t know how to answer that… Normal? I had a different view outside of my window most weeks. We all did have homes in Arkansas that we lived in during the week. For the first 7 (I think?) years of the group we only went out on the weekends to churches that were local in Arkansas. Once we got some radio hits going, we went national and that was when all the adults quit their jobs so we could travel full-time. All of us kids started home school (stick around for those stories because it’ll be a doozy) and we’d stay gone for weeks at a time on the road. In general, I liked it.
That’s the thing about trying to sift through these memories and feelings. I genuinely enjoyed being on the bus and going to the next place. I loved packing up and getting to the bus before the sun rose. I loved spending time alone in my bunk with my Jaci Velasquez and Selena CD’s. I read a lot and I cherished the moments I got to sit in the front lounge of the bus with the adults and just watch the highway unfold before us. I love traveling even to this day and when I’ve been still for too long, I tend to get antsy.
Back to my word vomiting. There always comes a point when the introduction takes a turn. It’s like when you’re on the highway and you start feeling a little hungry. Your belly starts growling and you know if you wait just another hour there’ll probably be a nice little town with a Chili’s or Cracker Barrel. Or, alternatively, you could stop in at the truck stop 9 miles down the road. You keep driving but then your stomach literally starts trying to digest you from the inside out. You know that truck stop smells like a smoker’s lounge and the bathrooms look like some white person just came out of an authentic mexican restaurant. But for some reason, you’re feeling light-headed and no matter how good Chili’s queso sounds right now, you need to pull over and get some empty calories in your body THIS INSTANT.
That’s how I feel when my introduction turns into a literal road map of the lies, poverty, religious abuse, brainwashing, sexual abuse, and general fuckery I suffered in my life up until this point as a result of the lifestyle I was raised in. I know I can just try to ignore the anxiety and let my built-in charm make a good impression, but when I’m even able to do it I basically feel like I’m the world’s biggest liar. It’s something I have been struggling with my entire life. I can’t just accept that I experienced a wild and fucked up childhood. I have to dissect it. I need to know why every negative aspect about myself can be traced back to the way I was raised. I want to figure out how to accept it and hopefully disassemble the walls of bitterness I hold towards it all so I won’t feel the need to shovel it onto my friends and close family. I’d like to connect with people who experienced something similar. I remember a lot of children of evangelists and singers we met up with while traveling….where are you? I just want to know I’m not completely alone and that this doesn’t have to weigh me down for the rest of my life.