Busted Not Broken
It was bound to happen. I was bound to encounter some kind of ghost someday soon.
Earlier today, as I drove to the gym, I caught myself thinking of how it’s becoming more normal to feel like I’m part of the larger world again, away from the microscopic universe that is The Salvation Army. It feels like so much less pressure. More air. That feeling you get in the spring when you can finally have the windows open and you realize just how closed in you have been for months.
I had my head in the safe at work a few hours later, when I heard him. I knew his voice before I looked up; he was in IT when I was in Training and he has a distinctive voice. I stood and answered his questions about his car wash receipt, and at first, I didn’t say anything. Should I? It has been years since we knew each other. A few lifetimes ago for me. Then his eyebrows furrowed and he said my legal name.
I was busted. I am prideful enough to hope that I never see people I know when I’m at work. So far, I’d been successful, but it turns out his parents live just up the street from my work, and he was stopping in on his way home from a visit.
He didn’t know I’d resigned, and after a few bits of conversation, I remembered that he also hasn’t seen me since I’ve lost weight. So while I was staring at someone who hasn’t seemed to change, I was something both familiar and foreign to him.
It’s the first time I’ve talked with someone who didn’t already know. Someone who wasn’t a part of my world for the years that changed everything, that changed me. I wasn’t sure what all to say, standing there on the other side of the counter, trying to sum up everything and not sound like I am crazy. I’m not so sure I was successful.
We talked for maybe five minutes and he left.
I don’t know why it matters to me what he, or anyone else, thinks. I know why I left, my tribe knows why I left, and I am OK with it. But I also remember how people in The Salvation Army can speak of those who leave. A prevailing assumption is that the person/people who leave are somehow broken. Morally, ethically, spiritually, financially, emotionally… No matter what the assumption is they are somehow broken.
Maybe I cared because I don’t want people to think I’m broken. I was, for a time, when I was still in, begging for help while I was drowning in the appointment from hell. I’m not now. I’m scarred, and vastly different from the woman he knew five years ago, but I’m not broken. I’m a far better person than I was then.
I know that. My tribe knows that. And I guess that’s all that matters.