There are those years, I have discovered, where you learn something about the world you live in that changes your perspective forever. Although I am 48 years old, I didn’t really grow up until the year 2013. Why do I say that? Simply because the process of becoming an adult is learning to accept that the world is not a reflection of your ego, desires, beliefs or fantasies. Becoming an adult is letting go of the notion that what lies beyond you is somehow an extension of you.
Let us begin with the world of economics and politics: our country landed in a recession that was so terrible that we are only beginning to see “recovery,” and that recovery is more for the folks and institutions that already had money to begin with. I used to believe in the American Dream; I truly did. I suppose that is why I purchased a home that was ¾ of a million dollars on a teacher’s salary. Anything was possible! My plan, and my husband’s, was to work hard, make lots of money on various projects, refinance the house when it was valued at a million dollars (that was inevitable, said the unscrupulous broker, don’t worry!) and keep moving on up, to the top—which for us, was going to be a lovely Craftsman perched on the hills above Malibu.
Around this time, I had filmed a ‘sizzle reel’ for a show featuring my paranormal group. We were poised to have our own reality show, and we were going to be famous. We were thinking about the books we needed to write and publish, the products we needed to market, and how to keep our private lives to ourselves when the paparazzi started swarming the Malibu house on that fictional hill.
In addition to the stress of stardom and sudden success, I had to figure out how to invest all the money that was coming to me from stocks my parents had gifted me. Any day now, the company in which I now owned stock would sell, and I would have yet more wealth to think about hiding from taxes. Ah, first world problems! There were so many projects, so many plans.
Then, things started to unravel. A family member landed in the hospital after attempting to leave this earth prematurely. The shock of that was followed by others. The “pitches” to the networks were revealing a depressing requirement that my life’s passion—the paranormal—be turned into a brawl fest where my para sisters were asked to drink copious amounts of alcohol, pull each other’s hair, insult each other’s husbands, and invent ghosts come hell or high water. We were summarily dismissed when it became clear that we liked each other, and that my family members could not be convinced to throw each other under the bus.
Gradually, it became clear that the reality show, the scripted show, the talk shows, the radio shows, the newspaper articles and all the publicity was dying, and quickly. Last Halloween, our big time of year, not a single producer contacted us, and no one cared to profile us anymore. We were suddenly uninteresting and then invisible. As much as I tried to convince myself that I didn’t care, that I was only interested in the survival of consciousness as a topic of intense personal and philosophical interest, I had to admit that I was deeply wounded. The pain continues. Life after death, it turns out, was only fascinating on television for the last few years. Now no one cares. Now the public wants to watch hillbillies wrestle alligators and vomit moonshine on one of their multiples wives.
With the various business opportunities vanishing quickly, I emptied all of my savings, drained retirement accounts and scampered after any scrap of income in order to pay a ballooning mortgage. When all that money was gone, I waited for Mr. X to sell his company so I could cash out my stock money. The company didn’t sell; Mr. X became distant and strange, refusing to return phone calls and difficult to track down. I stopped paying the mortgage as my lending institutions insisted I must do in order to save my home. “We will not help you,” they said, “unless you are in default.” Oh. OK.
You know the rest. The house was sold in a short sale for $300,000 less than what we paid for it. We moved to a rental in Camarillo. The show was dead. The stock was worthless. Our projects vanished into thin air. My job was still there, but greatly diminished, class offerings slashed. My family and friends distanced themselves from me, perhaps embarrassed at my multiple losses and my ongoing depression. Everyone protected themselves. My husband and I circled the wagons and tried to work through our emotions. I clung to him like a lone swimmer adrift in the wreckage.
My wonderful, loving kid decided to live with her mom (the biological one, that is) after we moved. I gifted her my car so that she could stay with us; but she had turned 17 and her life (read: friends) was not in Camarillo. I have been lucky to see her once per week. That was another heart-wrenching blow to my already delicate system.
You know what they say: If you want to make God laugh, tell him all about your plans. Well, God certainly was trying to make a point the last few months. I became obsessed with property, attempting to buy a house as soon as possible and mitigate the huge loss of my old home. Strange things started to happen to my property, that concept I held so dear. The cabin in the woods suffered a break in and was burglarized; my wallet was stolen at church; my identity was stolen subsequent to that incident, and my credit was hammered. I found out that no one, not even the government, is planning to loan me any money for a new home purchase anytime soon. I must be punished for three years by the same institutions that forced me out of my home and then made a tidy profit off of my loss (I explain how that worked in an earlier post).
I have experienced many losses in my life: divorce, serious illness, deaths in the family, mental illness and its aftermath, job loss, relocations, and so on. However, the loss of my projects, plans, hopes for the future and my home were new to me. This time, more than just a house was taken from me—my entire sense of who I am in the world has vanished and I don’t know what to replace it with. It used to matter that I was a paranormal investigator; now, I realize that very few people are interested in whether or not there is life after death. You either have faith, or you don’t; but no one will bother to listen to ‘evidence’ for anything, no matter how compelling. I don’t know what the public cares about anymore; I truly don’t. I’m not even sure what I care about any more.
At Starbucks the other day (a place I frequent in order to meet people in Camarillo), a nice older gentleman asked me about my current house. I told him the story about the old house, the short sale, renting, and so on. He smiled and cocked his head: “How could a Yale PhD, a professor, lose her home and be renting? One would think that you would be smarter than that.” Yes, he’s an asshole. However,
I wasn’t smarter than that. I believed the lies everyone told me: the banks, the brokers, the loan officers, the lenders, the ‘loss mitigation’ employees, the directors, the producers, the studios, the CEOs, and lots of other people who had power over me and were manipulating the hell out of me, and yet I couldn’t see it. Why couldn’t I see it?
For this reason: up to now, the world was a lovely place filled with people like me. I was a child in this place, believing that everyone worked for the betterment of the people. I wanted to believe, just like Fox Mulder. I also forged ahead thinking that “the Truth is out there,” and it was glorious, and everyone would run towards it once I revealed it for all to see. I was naïve, egocentric, narcissistic, and most all, ignorant. At least now, I can truly say that I am an adult, and that is not a happy thing to be.
The upside? I spend a great deal of time in church. God has been hammering home a message to me for a few years now. I suppose I refused to listen, so He had to use the nuclear option. I’m listening now.
–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW