Every girl has a favorite Disney princess growing up, and mine was Cinderella. Her story was so relatable. She was poor, worked so hard, and faced many misfortunes, but one day she was gifted new life in the form of love with a conveniently rich, handsome prince who swept her off her feet and they rode off into the sunset together.
I wanted this fairy tale ending so much. Growing up my family was so poor. My parents came to the states with very little, a few photo albums, an oriental rug that was hung up in the living room (how my parents fit this in our bags remains a mystery), high hopes, and five growing kids. With all of us and my parents working menial jobs, far below their expertise, my parents struggled to keep us fed and clothed. In 3rd grade I wore the same jeans to school for the whole year because they were the cool ones from K-Mart, instead of all the other ones from goodwill. Being poor leaves you feeling embarrassed of your lack. I dreamed of being able to shop for the coolest clothes, sketchers, and ordering everything I wanted from McDonald’s. Our duplex was so small that my brothers slept on the couches in the living room while my two sisters and I slept in one bed. We finally moved in a house when I was 10 to make room for my new little brother and sister. I remember proudly cleaning the backyard every weekend, even using the leaf blower to make sure everything was in tip-top shape in hopes that some organization would ease my dad’s yelling and keep his fists from my mom’s face. I would cry in my bunk bed asking God to give me a new father when my attempts failed. I dreamed of becoming like Cinderella and being rescued from all neglect, the poverty, my father’s oppressive anger, and seeing my mom’s health fade. Slowly, school became my prince charming; books and studying were safe heavens where I excelled and I was reward for my efforts. In high school, I blossomed into a charismatic and charming woman, and the attention I received filled this void of never feeling wanted. With college looming, it felt like I was so close to my escape from my father and his pain.
At UC Berkeley I could breath like I could never before, no one looming in the background waiting to criticize my every mistake. Failing no longer meant physical pain. College was tough, between working to pay my way through it, and nursing a broken heart, but I thrived. I loved being a part of it all: the rush, the discoveries, and the excitement to be part of something great, even if I was a tiny number at the university.
I graduated in 2014, and outside my small window of happiness in Portland 2016-2017. Life after college has been one disaster to the next, hitting rock bottom, and realizing that wasn’t rock bottom, and falling further down. I’ve come to see so much pain and suffering. Now, back at my parent’s house, I realized that fair tales don’t exist in real life and slowly all my happiness disappeared from my grasp, like Cinderella’s dress and carriage at midnight.
My first love chose someone else, breaking my heart in half. I’ve never known love as passionate as his since. My health has unraveled after a few traumatic job experiences, and now my mind’s been broken by a doctor’s careless prescription. I feel empty and spent. My sisters left in my time of need, and my friends have dwindled down to a handful. Now, I wake up to the realization that life can be a nightmare, and I won’t be Cinderella. Because at 28 I wake up to my father’s yells and I cry like I did when I was 8.