There are still remnants of my past life floating around within my psyche. While my past does not define me in a negative way or dictate my actions – it has helped to shape me and change me in ways I never would or could have imagined. Good events, bad events – they were all pushes and pulls in different directions in my life. I can’t say that I’d change anything, though I maybe would have liked to back then. I feel like if I would have changed anything, then maybe I wouldn’t be the same “me” I am today.

I remember the child I was, living in Lewiston. It’s easy to be happy-go-lucky when you’re a kid, but not really when you’re a child of poverty, of abuse, of alcoholism, of neglect, of many things that take people and crush them down into a fine powder over time. There were so many times when I could have turned down a different path. So many times when life could have given me that extra push or extra pull and maybe now I’d be rich. Or maybe now I’d be dead.

But now, here I am, married to the woman of my dreams. No, I did not forget the bad stuff that has come before. I have not forgotten where I came from. That’s all a part of me. If I were a tree, you’d see the many rings which form my core, but you’d also see the remnants of scars from past mishaps marring my insides.

I have not forgotten that, as a child, I knew what hunger was. We went entire days without eating. I turned to stealing. I ate at homeless shelters and from alleys. I cried sometimes as my stomach twisted and burned from the absence of food. I ate pictures of food I cut from magazines, pretending it was real. We were given candy that rotted our teeth, and bad foods that were cheap and easy and I spent agonizing nights weeping from terrible pain, striking my own face with my fists to stop the ache though the redirected pain dulled it only a moment at a time.

I have not forgotten that, as a child, I was filthy. My clothing was often unwashed, and what we had nice that was given to us by caring relatives was quickly ruined by the world we inhabited. I remember long days outside in the summer and how my socks were covered in slime inside my own rotting shoes. I remember being covered at times in lice, in fleas, in warts and even piss. Roaches occupied the same spaces we did, and I was no stranger to the chemicals they bombed the apartments with to make the cockroaches scurry out from hiding to die in a horrific pile in the middle of our kitchen. When I was placed in a foster home, I remember how they bagged my clothing in a trash bag and said they were going to incinerate it. They weren’t joking, but I was angry that they looked down on me the way they did. I didn’t know any better. I thought that life was normal.

I have not forgotten that, as a child, I experienced abuse and violence in such a way that I do not trust now in my current life, and if I do – it requires constant validation. When I was just a young boy, I was taken advantage of to the fullest extent, a victim of neglect. I was constantly in a state of endangerment. I was chased by thugs in the city. I was made to fight for money in backyard brawls, a product of illegal gambling. I was beaten by grown men, knocked unconscious. I was thrown into rivers, pushed down hills on too-big bikes, made to hold bees and spiders to “toughen me up”. I was ganged up on, with my only earthly possessions torn up in front of me. I was sought out in the schools, chased, beaten – had rocks thrown through my window. My own family has fought me, betrayed me on occasion. I was lied to, cheated on, and left behind by so many, so often.

And yet, here I am. I am using “trust” again. Sometimes, I want to take it back. It takes more courage than I sometimes feel I have to open myself up to a hidden strike again. If I close myself off, it limits the possibility that someone can come by and ruin me, destroy me all over again. But one can’t go through life without human connection. One can’t go through life being completely afraid and shut off. I refuse to let the ghosts of my past dictate who I am today. Each prior moment of anguish and pain and hunger was a test. I have passed them all, and I have persevered. I will continue to do so, because I’m a fighter. I’ve lasted through so much. I’m still standing.

And now I have the most beautiful, funny, kind woman to stand with me, to show me how to trust again, to make me appreciate all the good she’s brought into my life when I’ve had so much pain and sorrow. I think we’re gonna’ be okay.