Courtney Ray is a crazy dog mom, Florence + the Machine loving, Cher obsessing, Angelina Jolie super fan who just so happens to be a photographer. She has a B.F.A. in photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design and is currently working on her M.A. in Arts Administration.
This is about my experience of forgiving where I grew up. It’s not my parents fault that I particularly dislike the place. I had an unbelievable childhood. It was my teenage years that made me want to get away so badly.
At 13, I lost my grandfather. It wasn’t unexpected. He was in his early 90’s, had fallen and broken his hip a year earlier, and basically, he never came home. He lived in a nursing home for the remainder of his life. I hated that place. I really regret not spending more time with him in the remainder of his life, but the place he lived, it smelled like death. It was death. A day after his death, I got my period for the first time.
My grandmother was destroyed by his death. Ended up having a heart attack a few months after his passing from a syndrome called “the broken heart syndrome”. Go figure. She recovered but was definitely not the same. Over the next two years, she practically mourned herself to death and on April 17th, my father found her on the floor. We figure it was another heart attack. I was at a sleepover the night before. One of my friends at the sleepover found out about her death before I did, over a text. So I found out about my grandma… over a text message.
EXACTLY a week after my grandmother’s death, an f-4 tornado hit my town. I am grateful to be alive. A tree fell on my room but luckily did not go through the whole house. 20 other trees fell like dominos around our home, but only one fell on our house… on my room. My neighbor and two of my classmates were killed. That day was the first time I ever wished I was dead.
Life was a rollercoaster after that. I went to counseling but, it only taught me how to not talk. My doctor put me on prozac. I went from 10mg to 40mg, a full adult dosage, at 15.
High school was awful. I wish I liked it. I wish my good memories were more vivid then the bad memories. But they aren’t, my good memories are hazy; my bad memories are so vivid, like they happened yesterday. A boy I stupidly thought I was going to marry, broke up with my over a text message, in the middle of my school day. A girl I thought was one of my closest friends turned on me during a severe mental breakdown, and honestly, I didn’t blame her. I was screwed up. My senior year of high school I remember thinking if I was brave enough, I would jump out the window and hopefully die. I ended up telling my mother I felt this way (thank God), and the next day I was at the doctors again who fucking finally sent me to a psychiatrist. I went from prozac to celexa which thank God, that medicine worked. I decided to not compete with my high school dance team my senior year because it only made my depression worsen. Girls are awful. Their parents are worse. I still can’t believe some of the things those parents said about me, a 17 year old girl, over 30 years younger than they were. I could care less what those girls said about me, and probably still say about me, it’s their parents that hurt me more. I am so thankful that I had the dance studio, where I had danced since I was 3, to help me fall in love with dance and life again.
College was the best thing to ever happen to me. 5 hours away, away from a place I learned to hate. My roommates always talked about missing home, but I could never understand. I missed my parents, but I did not miss home.
I have lost most of my friends from home, which is completely my fault. I just distanced myself so much from that place. I honestly wanted to forget.
I learned forgetting is impossible. Every time it storms I remember the tornado. Every time I sit in my grandfather’s reclining chair in my apartment, I remember he fell from that chair which ultimately lead to his death. Every time I go home, I see my grandparents old house, and am reminded of what was and what is no longer. Forgetting is impossible, forgiving is not.
So almost 5 years since I graduated high school, finally, I am learning to forgive home.
This is still a work in progress. It’s been a work in progress for over 5 years.
To view more of Courtney’s work please visit her website.