Once upon a time there was a wee lass named Candice who was four years old. Candice loved the A-Team, He-Man, GI-Joe, and baseball. Sadly, Candice's interests were not the same as the other four-year-old girls. On top of this, Candice wore a Wonder Woman undershirt almost every day. Thus began Candice's disorder: the inability to 'fit in'.
Candice grew and went to first grade where she was punished for crimes such as puking up Pork Skins, breathing too loudly in nap time, and launching spit balls in the lunchroom. Being six years old, Candice didn't know what spit balls were called, but was simply blowing chewed up paper wads out of her milk straw. When a teacher angrily and abusively wrenched Candice by the arm and demanded to know, "Were YOU JUST SHOOTING SPITBALLS?!?!" Candice became suddenly proud of this and said something like, "Yeah, I guess I was!" Sadly this was not the proper time to brag. Candice can show you a neat trick with her shoulder that was dislocated that very day by Mrs. Angry Teacher.
Needless to say the next year Candice began second grade in a DIFFERENT school. Totally punked out with her super big clothes and brand new turquoise airwalk sneakers with black spiders stitched on, Candice, her N*A*S*H skate board and Diamondback bike were unstoppable. At this school, only boys would befriend Candice. Candice surely didn't mind this, but the other girls did. They thought Candice to be some sort of female pimp, at the tender age of seven, stealing their 'men'.
Third grade came; Candice and her best pal John Frank wore the same shoes and passed the time by stabbing each other in the thigh with those horribly sharp compasses that draw circles. Another favorite activity was to play karate on John Frank's trampoline and laugh when their other friends got bloody mouths. Candice was borderline on becoming white trash at this point, and spent a lot of time in the Guidance Counselor's office talking to puppets, which would inevitably make her cry.
In a horrible twist of fate, in 5th grade, Candice was a fat kid, and was forced to wear hand-me-down clothes of an older cousin who was a Mississippi native. These clothes were about 10 years old, so obviously from the '80's, when, c'mon, this was 1990! Like, get with it! On top of being the target of endless taunts from the so called 'popular girls', Candice was actually the victim of physical abuse from one of them who was not any smaller than she was! This added injury to insult. What's up with a fat kid calling another kid fat? Being a fat kid was the worst thing that had happened to Candice yet. Little did she know what horror lay in the middle school years.
Middle School was quite possibly the single most traumatizing event in my life thus far, besides having to watch The Miracle of Life video in twelfth grade anatomy class.
I entered Homewood Middle School in 6th grade. The year was 1991. Duck head shorts, Guatemalan belts, bass shoes and GUESS? were all the rage. I was exiting my fat stage and quickly assuming the appearance of an anorexic, thanks to a healthy growth spurt. This year, I decide, I am going to be cool. I mean, I wear a bra, I shave my legs; I'm halfway there. I study up on the latest fashion trends and quickly purchase a Baja, some Bass shoes, and two pairs of duckhead shorts. One pair of shorts was 'melon' and the other one was 'turquoise', ensuring optimum coolness. By the end of the school year I resolve that my efforts are futile and resign to my fate: popular is one thing Candice will never be. It seemed like a big deal at the time. I decided that my only other option was to be...ALTERNATIVE! Circa 7th grade, Nirvana was rockin' the casaba with a vengeance, and I drowned my teenage rage and despair to the tunes of Counting Crows and Blind Melon. No one understands me, man. Except for my one shimmer of hope, MY GOOSE! My goose was my best friend, Virginia. She was such the Alterna-queen; we begin sporting plaid converse, flannel shirts and lots of attitude all over our suburban school. No one was safe from our cutting remarks and witty sarcasms. For fun we burned school work, drew cliché' pictures of our teachers, made fun of everybody, and watched movies. Another popular pastime was wrecking havoc on the Home Economics teacher. During this time, I was introduced to the magic of indie rock, promising a glimmer of cool in my distant future. This was also the year my cousin Stephanie finally befriended me after years of torture that included putting gum in my hair during a school assembly, throwing me around the softball field, tripping me often, and spitting water on me during basketball practice. Stephanie knew how to torment the adult set. I still marvel at her creativity. In one such episode, dark colored thread was woven around the legs of ever piece of furniture in the Home Ec room. The thread blended in wonderfully with the dark carpet and worked very well for tripping anyone, including the teacher, who attempted to walk across the room. Another popular trick was tossing a handful of sewing needles into the industrial strength fan as the teacher would walk by. This would result in a calf full of the sharp, shiny instruments. Oh what fun we had. And of course, if creativity ran dry, there was always plenty of stuff to burn or throw out of the window, like text books, food, pillows, computer disks, and anything else that looked flammable.
This was also the same year that I had an incredibly deep thought: you shouldn't worry about what people are thinking about YOU, because chances are they are too busy worrying about what people think about THEM to be thinking anything about YOU. It seemed profound when I was 14.
When 8th grade came, the unthinkable happened: a BOY LIKED ME, and not just as a friend, but in THAT WAY!! We had such fun in science class secretly holding hands under the lab table and writing sweet little notes to one another. We never officially 'dated' but we were still a 'couple' way up until the middle of 9th grade. Wowie!
Now I haven't explained this yet, but even though I was alterna-girl in Middle school, I still did uncool things like wear barrettes everyday and sport huge tortoise-shell glasses. But, the summer before 9th grade, the ugly duckling turned into a swan, baby! I got contacts, a tan, and a haircut. Sadly I took one wrong turn: I was in the marching band. Crap! Why didn't I just wear a sign that said "Dork-4-Life"? I played the flute. The first day of band camp my love flame from middle school saw me and thought I was some new girl. He and his friend started fighting over who saw me first when he realized, hey, that is Candice, she is mine anyway. Woohoo!
The lucky part of this situation was that my Goose was also a band dork. She played trombone and boy could she wail! Er, something. Every time the band went somewhere we would sit together on the bus en route and talk about how annoying and immature all of the other band members were. Even worse, they all did drugs in a lame attempt to 'be cool'. We decided to make our move. After a year of mental anguish, Goose and I committed major taboo: WE QUIT THE BAND! My first love dumped me for a flag girl, and for the rest of our high school lives we were met in the halls by sneers from the other band students and most of all, the band director. Every chance these maniacs got they would corner us and talk about the virtues of being a member of the marching band, trying to convince us to rejoin the band to pay our penance for the sin of quitting. To no avail! Goose and I caught on to their mind tricks and stood firm enriching ourselves instead in art, photography and politics. Yes, I said politics. Quitting the band gave us more freedom to associate with all walks of high school life, making for vast grassroots support. We were able to cash in on the natural hatred that all 'normal' people have for 'popular' people and soon were ruling the 10th grade class in style as Vice President and Activity Chairman. We came a long way, baby!
High school kept on truckin' along, and boyfriends came and went. Then I made the big mistake of being totally and fully deeply in love at the ripe old age of 16. We spent an entire year putting around happily in my 1973 VW Bug and being in luvvvvvvvv. One huge mistake I made was that I pretty much put him in charge of all of my emotions, expecting him to meet needs that only God himself can. It was pretty much Idolatry. As was the pattern in all of my relationships, I got dumped. This one came very hard, as Mr. Boyfriend decided that he needed to dump me because 1) God told him to and 2) God wanted him to go out with this other chick who was my friend!! Now call me crazy, but I never heard of God being as wishy-washy as all that. I have this problem where I have to learn life's little lessons the hard way. I had been a for real Christian since I was about 18. I had been in church many years before that, but it didn't truly hit home until age 18.
There was one part that I missed to the whole equation. The part that I understood said that to be a Christian, all you have to do is accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior. That is pretty easy, because no body wants to go to hell. It is like a reflex to jump on the bandwagon and say "Yeah, me too, save me to Jesus! No hell for me!"
And all is well, right? Wrong! People forgot to tell me that Jesus Christ has to be your Savior AND Lord. So during the whole Idolization of my Boyfriend thing, I figured Jesus was my Savior, but I was living for my Boyfriend. Everything I did, thought, felt was for him. That was so wrong.
For Jesus to be your Lord, you have to live, think, and feel for Jesus Christ. You surrender your will to Him, and He then lives through you. You are no longer your own. And it applies to everyday living. Not just church days. It is a daily surrender. That is the reason that you give up the 'bad stuff.' Because you are not your own. Christ is your master. He bought your way into heaven with his blood.
I think that a lot of people have never had this concept explained to them. I didn't hear it until I was about 18, and I grew up in a church. I'm glad that I learned the hard way, rather than not at all.
Anyway, this teenage heartbreak coupled with problems at home and uncertainty about my future plunged me deep into CLINICAL DEPRESSION! Nooooooo!
I visited depression land for over a year. Although I felt a profound sense of hopelessness, I kept plugging away at the things that were supposed to be important to me. I finished out my senior year in high school on the soccer team, was vice president of the SGA, and actually was on homecoming court. That was a personal victory actually, because the other girls on homecoming court consisted of two cheerleaders and two dance team girls, and I had none such 'status' as they. Woohoo! People just genuinely liked me I guess.
Anyway, I felt happy sometimes but I didn't know how to BE happy, and I didn't have joy. My back got injured in soccer and my coach wouldn't let me even play in the last game of my high school career because I missed a practice to GO TO MY PSYCHIATRIST! Where is the compassion? I only went to the psychiatrist like three times because she seemed like a total flake, and I didn't believe she could ever do me a bit of good. Instead, I unconsciously decide to medicate myself by dating tons and tons of different guys. One of them, my depressed self reasons, is sure to bring me the happiness I lost. So, in an 18 month period I proceed to go out with *pause to calculate* 15 guys, sometime simultaneously. Every now and then one of them would 'fall in love with me', and I would totally realize that I didn't really care and I was totally using them. What a jerk I was. Sometimes I would actually start to REALLY like a guy, but those were usually the ones who turned out to be callous themselves. . .
I left high school and carelessly chose a college, simply because I was so tired of worrying about where to go for school, and secondly I didn't really care anyway because I am depressed, remember? So that was how I ended up attending the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. If you aren't from the South, that is the college where "Bear" Bryant coached the Crimson Tide football team, and also where Forrest Gump played football in the movie by the same name. Another famous UA moment was when Governor George Wallace stood in the school house door and proclaimed loudly and proudly "Segregation today, yesterday and forever!" Or something equally ignorant and embarrassing to educated southerners everywhere.
Anyway, I quickly discover that Tuscaloosa is a very strange place. The t-shirt I saw in a shop window that read "A drinking town with a little football problem" summed Tuscaloosa up very accurately. In my frantic search for companionship, I find only two people willing to accept me, be it though I do not consume alcohol, like football, or belong to one of those crazy 'Greek' organizations. Those two men of valor were Scary John, the sweetest 'Goth' guy you could ask for, and Jay, a misplaced ska kid who was coincidentally a ZBT. I don't know what that means but it was the Jewish fraternity. Having two friends was nice but it didn't stop the strange occurrences. By strange occurrences, I am referring to these events:
The girl next door to me in the door disappeared one weekend and never came back.
People my roommate and I had not seen since we were in pre-school or younger began to resurface in our college classes--hence the 'Bermuda triangle' effect
The building we lived in was in the shape of a triangle.
The first week of school the other girls on my hall accused my roommate and I of Satan worship. So, why, did the crazy girls in our dorm think that Amelia and I worship the devil?
When I was moving in to my dorm room I thought it would be a nice touch to decorate it up a bit and give it a little personality. My brother gave me a Hanson (as in Mmmbop) poster that some one gave to him as a joke (Hanson, if you are reading this I am sorry, don't feel bad, kids are cruel). I had recently read the literary masterpiece called Helter Skelter, the story of the Charles Manson murders. So, inspiration strikes and I turn the "H" in "Hanson" into an "M", so it spells "Manson". Then I draw swastikas on each of their foreheads, just like ol' Charlie had!
I proudly display my work on the door of our room. A few days go by and Amelia and I wonder why no one has introduced themselves, and how come whenever we see someone in the halls they hurry past us without speaking even though we say hello ever so courteously. Soon we learn that the word on the street says that our "Manson" poster means that we worship Marilyn Manson which some how also mean that we are in cahoots with the Prince of Darkness, Satan. Okay, fine. I will protect the minds of the simple and take down my poster. To amend our ways, we make a new poster that says "Candice and Amelia Love the Fourteenth Floor!" With hearts all over it and all kinds of things that show how we are really loving and don't worship the devil at all. Then we find out the names of every girl on our floor and cut out hearts and write one girls name in each heart. This will ease their fear, we reason.
Sadly we were wrong again. Apparently there was some episode of the X-files in which some serial killer wrote the names of his victims in heart shaped cut-outs and put them on the wall. So now the rumor is that the Devil worshiping girls are also going to kill everyone in the hall.
Our creativity now exhausted, we type a form letter saying how the rumors are very ridiculous and we don't worship Satan even though we believe he exists, we think God is much better and we are not freaks, honest!
For some reason the sorority girls on the hall get mad about this letter as well, but about four girls felt really bad about the whole thing. One of the girls gave us a fresh pitcher of Kool-Aid, and we heard another one of the girls on the phone in her room saying "Oh mom, you know those girls? They don't really worship the devil it was just a joke! Ha-ha!"
I couldn't believe people told their moms about it!
That is just one small example of what we had to endure in Tuscaloosa. Somehow my roommate finished out her four years there. I hope it didn’t steal her soul and she can live a productive life after graduation
Another girl on our hall was a 40-year-old trapped in an 18-year-old's body. She went to bed at 8pm and was always telling us to "Be quiet, some people are trying to sleep!" She also locked her room when she went to the shower or toilet.
Everywhere we went, we saw the same people. We gave them nicknames, such as Amish boy (plainclothes fella with an old-time beard), lovers-n-love (inseparable couple), swan lake (a pencil-thin dance major boy who was always wearing a leotard), midge (she was really short), mom (motherly, of course), fatty McGee, house (one very big boy), Madonna (bleach blond hair with black roots), and mouse (he looked like a mouse).
By my second semester at Alabama I decided that I would transfer to the University of Montevallo. It was closer to the true 'big city' of Alabama, Birmingham, and four of my best friends in the universe went to Montevallo also.
The summer before I was to attend Montevallo, one of the affore mentioned best pals in the universe talked me in to living with them for three months in Panama City, Florida. The deal was that we would get full time jobs, live in a one room efficiency apartment with four other girls, and be trained in evangelism. I was reluctant to attempt such an adventure but deep down inside I knew it was something I needed. It turned out to be the third best decision I ever made. I spent the summer swabbing the decks of a dinner cruise boat and being exposed to a wealth of spiritual knowledge that allowed me to grow immeasurable. And, as absence (or is it abstinence?) makes the heart grow fonder, my boyfriend of 6 months came down to visit one weekend and asked me to marry him! I know that would not have happened if I had stayed hangin around him all summer. We married in May of 2000, and I continued my educational pursuits while hubby toiled at a bank to put bread on the table.
At Montevallo I was an art student. What mental picture do you produce from the recesses of your mind when you think "art student"?
Silly me, I thought my comrades would be open minded free-spirit types. Sadly, I discovered the ART SNOB!!!
The first day of class I walked in a wee bit late and found that there were no more stools. So I decided to sit on the floor and not make a fuss. I sat down at the feet of some greasy-haired heroine addict-looking sort of chick, and she gave me the curled-lip, squinty-eyed snarl-stare! Can you believe it?
I decided that my 'non-artsy' clothes were to blame. Calf-length cargo shorts and a camo t-shirt were not loud and proud enough. Though I long since abandoned the idea of ever 'fitting in' anywhere, I used this opportunity to test my clothes theory. The next day I wore my black emo glasses (black glasses can make anyone look deep and interesting), some nice baggy cargo pants and a plain white v-neck undershirt. Not surprisingly, my 'art uniform' won me three new friends and positive comments from my teachers. My contour drawings suddenly became 'good', and the collage my small group made in class as a 'getting to know the classmates' project was well praised. Deep meanings were drawn from my collage that I didn't even know existed. All thanks to my inspiring clothes.
I finished school, earned my special piece of paper, and promptly left the country to go live and work in the rain forests of Belize, Central America. My husband and I stayed there for three-and-a-half months living on a Mayan Indian reservation. The life there is simple, the pace of it is slow, and I had a lot of valuable time for reading and reflecting and writing. I hope to go back there one day and visit the friends I made.
After leaving Belize, we spent two months in the U.S. before jetting off to China for a one-year teaching contract. We teach ESL to elementary school students. I have grade one, and Nick teaches grade five. Next year, we have signed to teach college students in Laos. I love to travel, and I love being in Asia. I recommend that everyone in the U.S. find a way to get out of the country for at least a year. It really helps you to gain perspective about yourself, how you react to being out of your comfort zone, what it is like to be a minority, what you really think important in life, the way the rest of the world views the U.S., and how ridiculous Americans are made to look on news programs.
That brings my life as it stands, present day. Who knows what adventure is next.