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YYY: On fear and transitioning out of the concrete jungle

On fear and transitioning out of the concrete jungle

 Street Roots (USA) 14 June 2019

Until recently, Julie McCurdy lived in Portland without a home. She is now housed but stays involved as an advocate for the homeless. In this column, she talks about the fear of not having a roof above one’s head. (620 words) - By Julie McCurdy

You know, I think the thing that all of us have in common is fear - a thousand unruly forms of it. Wherever we are, there is fear to be faced.

Becoming unhoused turned me feral. That is a fact I live with every single day on the long road back to self sufficiency.

You're so not gonna believe this (wry grin) but part of the trouble with trying to re-mainstream back into "normal society" is the shame of having become unhoused in the first place. I can only speak for myself in this, but that whole "what-if-they-find-out-I-have-been-unhoused?" comes into my thoughts these days. Because I see the way the expression on peoples faces change when they know. We go from vital, wonderful conversations filled with possibility to stutters and stammers and murmered apologies.

It's not anyone's fault. That's just the way it goes. I see the expressions change. I see the fear step up to the plate. Is she gonna rob me? Is she gonna ask for money? (No, I am not. I can find ways to make my own.) Is she gonna tell me a story that I can't bear the emotional brunt of? (Quite possibly.)

Here's the thing, one thing that makes this transition difficult for me is the very thing that helped me survive out there: the hyper-vigilence and constantly roving stare. The rough edges to conversation. The brusqueness came from there, and kept me alive.

So the opposite would be true, I guess, in regular society where polite counts but is very hard to navigate. Words - and backing your words up with action - is the only way I have to determine your legitimacy, and how authentic you are as a human being. The transition also comes up in the daily details, as in job applications where there are obvious spaces of unfilled time, or in housing applications where there are no addresses to put in. Or in a noticeable awkwardness in mundane activities such as conversations about baseball.

It comes up in not wanting to be touched in hugs and handshakes unless I know you. Sound ridiculous, yep, and frankly I think it is. But it is there permeating every single thing I do.

I suppose I could wear a sign that says, "feral: doesn't play well with others," or make excuses, but I won't. I will find a way to be at home in any setting again, however that is probably not gonna happen today or tomorrow. I'm just gonna take this one step at a time for right now. Bear with me - people and their passions and their perfect sin judgments scare the shit right out of me, and some days it's all I can do to breathe past that fear, one breath at a time. If the best I can do is say have a nice day and breathe, then that is the best I've got that day.

Clearly, I need to find a way to take the shame and survivor guilt out of coming to and up off the concrete. By all means, write in if you have a suggestion. It comes up in conversations where it shouldn't, so clearly we need to take the shame and self-imposed exile out of the equation. I know I can do this. I just don't know how right this second, so perhaps if we all put our heads together, then I can try. And if it's successful, then I can give it to the next one coming up and off the concrete. Who knows?


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Originally published by Street Roots. ©


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