My parents married when my mom was 24, and my dad was 26. I looked up to them as I grew up and had this fantasy in my head that I would be married when I was 24 like my mom and life would be sunshine and rainbows. Well, I’m 26 years old, and I’ve never been married.
When smartphones came out, online dating became easier. The first time I set up an online dating account I was 16. A decade later I am still doing it. My photos and bios on the sites have changed as I grew up and matured. As I evolved so did the dating apps. There’s an app for hook-ups, fetishes, religious partnerships, and affairs. In my desperate attempts to find love and connection that would blossom into a lifetime marriage, I went on them all. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
After being on so many sites at once (upwards of double digits) I got to the point that I needed to step up my game and get serious. I upgraded my Bumble account for a month last August then crossed my fingers. 28 days into my “premium” month I was matched with a girl in Kansas City. I had burned and shot down so many times that I thought ‘What’s the harm in talking to this girl? It would be good practice!’ Little did I know that the 742 miles that separated us would help us to create the best relationship either of us has ever had.
Seven months later I am still talking to that girl. Don’t get me wrong; I love this girl, but the distance is rough with a capital ROUGH! Somehow we make it work. Every day starts with a text to the other person and ends with a video chat. Now don’t start thinking ‘have they even met?’ Yes, we’ve met! She’s met my parents and friends, and I met her friends, and I am scheduled to meet her parents at her brother’s wedding this year. This winter I plan on moving to Kansas City to make a real “go” of the relationship. She is still in graduate school for social work, so her moving is not an option; my life is just easier to move.
Being a stay-at-home-daughter may come to an end this year.
For some reason 32 years ago my parents thought that getting married would be a good idea. Somehow it all worked out. They are still grossly in love with each other. Any night they are apart from each other they will call to make sure that their voice is the last one the other one hears before they go to sleep.
In those 32 years they:
- Built 2 different homes
- Lived in 6 different places
- Created and raised 2 adequate adults
- Raised a cat to almost 19 years old
- Adopted 3 dogs
- Fostered 44 dogs
- Felt the loss of a mother
- Owned 11 different cars (including the clunkers that the children drove)
- Felt the loss of the family dog twice
- Held each other up during times of sickness
- Retired from the daily grind jobs to pursue and flourish in their passion projects
- Put up with 13 years of the daughter in Girl Scouts
- Attended countless Track and Cross Country meets where they spent more time watching the woods, for the children to come out running or hoping that their kids didn’t turn right on the track, than anything else
- Had countless arguments, mostly about their children
- Fell in love daily
- Best of all taught their two offspring that it is better to help the world than it is to do nothing
When I came out to my mom almost 8 years ago, I only dreamed about being with my family at a PRIDE parade. Never did I think that at 26 years old I would be able to get my whole family at pride (brother drove down from DeSoto for this) nor did I think I could get them to wear matching shirts. It was a night I will never forget! I owe my family so much for their support and love of me and the LGBTQIA+ community.
I made the photo smaller because of…gross. As of today, I now have two beautiful big scars on both of my knees, neither of which came from surgeries. The first one came from the sea and the second from land.
Aw yes, the sea, how does one get a lifelong scar from the sea you ask? Going into second grade, my family and I took a trip down to Galveston Bay to a family’s friend’s beach house. For those of you that know the Texas Gulf area, when I say beach I mean rock formation that separates land from the sea. The rocks by the sea get covered by the water with the rising tides, and so the stones are slippery throughout the day and covered in barnacles. We young children; being my brother, myself and 5 other kids similarly aged; thought it was a fun idea to climb onto the rocks. About 5 minutes into playing around one girl slips on the rocks, and the parents warn us to be careful while we play, but what does Shelbie do less than 2 minutes later. You guessed it! Shelbie slips forward onto the rock and her knee lands square on a colossal barnacle slicing it open, but Shelbie being the tomboy that she is at that age stands up and starts to wipe herself off like nothing happens but glances over to see the faces of the other children in horror staring at her legs. Shelbie looks down her leg to see red pouring out of her knee. This is when Shelbie starts feeling pain and screaming for her mommy. Long story short Shelbie gets stitches in her knee and doesn’t listen to the doctor when he says to not move it. She ends up separating the wound and leaving her with a massive scar on her right knee.
16 years later at the young age of 25 years old, Shelbie takes her family dog, Sparky, out for a run on the greenbelt behind the family home. Shelbie and Sparky have run the trails before, and every time Sparky falls behind to smell something new, however recently Sparky had healed from a spine injury, so Shelbie did not want to overexert him. About 10 minutes into the run Sparky slows down for the first time, and as Shelbie runs past him, she glances back to check to make sure he didn’t stop because he was in pain. Once Shelbie realizes Sparky feels okay she starts turning her head back around to see where she is going, then she elegantly trips over the dirt, and her left kneecap lands square on a rock and again red starts pouring out of her knee. Needless to say the run/walk back up the trail and hill to the family house and yelling for my dad’s help was the longest ¼ mile I have ever gone. The best part is coming to the backyard and seeing my dad run upstairs when hears me calling from outside because he thinks I am upstairs. Gotta love that man. That is the tale of the first and second knee scar.
Before 2016 I had no idea what a Recreation Therapist was or even that I could have a future in it. Now after over a year working with Recreation Therapists I knew that becoming a Recreation Therapist is what I wanted to do. I hate being stuck behind a desk and filling out paperwork after paperwork. I like being out in the world with people and helping them where they are at. When I worked as a case manager I got more out of walking the trails with a kid then I did sitting in an empty room with him staring at each other trying to get a conversation started. The more I worked with Recreation Therapists as a Case Manager, the more I wanted to be one.
Now, a year and a half after learning about the career I have been accepted into the State University of New York at Cortland’s Recreation Therapist Certificate program. While I will be taking all the required graduate courses to collect a Masters in Recreation Therapy, because I am taking the course online I am not able to complete the mandatory internship and meet the supervisory requirement for the graduate degree. For some reason, I am content with that. I have always hated school with a passion. I struggle to learn sitting down in a hard chair and being talked at. I got through my early school years because I had my parents on my back pushing me, and college I made it through by the skin on my teeth.
Online grad school is something that has scared me for the longest time, until January 2017. Early this year I got diagnosed with ADHD, and I was placed on medication to assist me in focusing on my daily life. It has done wonders for my mood and procrastination. I hate to say that drugs will get me through college, but they will. These are legally prescribed medication that I take the required dosage for, and I am monitored every 3 months by a licensed professional to ensure that I am not abusing the prescription. I was one of those kids that bought Adderall off of her friend to finish a paper in college. The medication worked for me, but that doesn’t mean that it will work for you. There are many dangerous side effects to self-medicating with stimulants. I am very fortunate that none of those side effects happened to me, and now that I am prescribed the medication I make sure that I stick to the medication schedule.
Drug addictions are a serious illness and if you are unable to live without taking substances to numb, dull or get through your life then reach out for help at Americanaddictioncenters.org or Call 877-443-2801.
As you may have gathered, I am a little sister. I grew up with an older brother. Many people say we are 3 years apart, but I suppose we are 2 years and 365 days apart. The year I was born was a leap year, so there was an extra day in there. We were almost born on the same day. My brother was born on July 28th at 1:32am, and 2 years and 365 days later I was born on July 27th at 3:31pm. I was the best birthday present a 3-year-old could ask for.
For those of you who know my brother nowadays, he wanted me when he was 3. He loved me so much that when I was growing up and supposed to be hitting my growth milestones, my speech growth was delayed. Why you ask? Because when I was younger I would point and grunt at things I wanted and my loving older brother would run and get it for me. Why would I need to learn to talk if I could communicate with grunts and pointing? Needless to say, my parents stopped my brother from being my lackey, and I learned to speak which is when my brother began falling out of love with me.
There is one thing and will always be one thing that my brother will love more than anything in the world. Animals. My brother has entirely laid out plans for a zoo and an aquarium. It includes which animals would be at each enclosure, what the sex of the animals would be, feeding schedule, feeding needs, habitat needs, and where he would be able to locate the animals. Every family vacation included at least one zoo or aquarium or nature preserve of where ever we were. While granted I have seen some pretty amazing zoos and aquariums, there are only so many times I can look at the same kind of fish and fain my enthusiasm. My brother definitely took my family on many adventures that looked the same, and to an outsider that wasn’t my brother they were, but to my brother, they were new every time and got better and better with each visit.
“Are you a boy?” asked a 5-year-old.
“No, I’m a girl,” I replied.
“But you have short hair?”
“True, but girls can have short hair, and boys can have long hair too.”
“Oh, okay. Cool!”
The sad part is I have had that conversation multiple times while various aged children. Or I get the occasional “sir” or “gentleman” when I am in a store. The adults that have called me sir or gentleman have always apologized and I tell them it’s not a big deal. To me, it really isn’t. Now I know I can spout off all this psychobabble about how society views gender and how I should be proud to be a female woman that is able to express them self any way they want, and don’t get me wrong I appreciate that. But being called “sir” doesn’t hurt me.
How people perceive my gender does not bother me anymore. I can say that now after a lot of soul-searching, but now I don’t care. I like how I look. I feel empowered by my appearance, and my demeanor does not mean I want to be a male either. I just want to be me. I am the best person I can be when I am able to be my authentic self.