As I begin to introduce Guest Blogger Post #11, I am also introducing a first on Yankee Doodle Paddy. For reasons you will understand once you read this LOVE story, the author asked to remain anonymous. It is a gut wrenching story and I need to say that in case there are any triggers or if you feel you have to be in the right space and place to read it. It isn’t graphic or anything, just that if you are like me, empathetic, you’ll want to reach through your screen and hug this person and comfort them. But here is the good news; by the grace of God and the writer’s angels (some of whom may even be reading this), there is a silver lining. And as I always say, our highest purpose often comes from our deepest pain. That is in fact how my purpose to spread LOVE was born. So thank you to the angels that helped this person! May we all be grateful to our angels, even if they are unaware of just what they did to help us! Our hearts know and are blessed because of it. And thank you to this guest blogger for trusting me with this sensitive and powerful piece…..
It’s taken me a long time to get here. But it’s the rough bumps in the road and even the kind strangers that make me who I am.
I was reflecting on 2018 and the start of 2019. A Christian event was held the first week of January that I wanted to go to but wasn’t able. Thankfully they livestreamed the event. The event is run by a group that “inspires and equips college students for a lifetime of Christ-centered friendships, discipleship, and evangelization through dynamic features, inspiring conferences and influential speakers.” It’s geared towards university students but others are also welcome. There was a video that they looped in between speakers along with other videos, but one of them had a staggering statistic of how many Christians fall out of practice during and after college/university. It was a high and sad statistic and made me think about my college experiences.
When my sister and I moved to San Francisco, she reached out to our high school alumni in northern California. One lady in particular replied and welcomed us with open arms. I am so incredibly thankful for her. Almost every Sunday we would go to church together and have lunch afterwards. Mary was like our San Francisco big sister or mom. I’m especially thankful for her love and support after my sister was called out of inactive duty to go to Afghanistan. The entire year my sister was away could have felt incredibly lonely as I went to school halfway across the country with no family nearby. I genuinely appreciated and was so grateful for Mary looking after me and my spirituality. I don’t think I ever really thought about it at the time, but in hindsight God had sent me an angel.
Fast forward a couple years. I had my Bachelor’s Degree. I was back home and was working to continue my education in film and media production. I had several seemingly great jobs. I worked as a stage manager for a world-renowned theater company. I worked on the trading floor for a small trading firm, somehow surviving the massive cuts that came with the largest recession at the time. And I worked in the television and film industry – all at the same time. Eighteen to twenty hour days and loving every moment of it! Life was great, and I wanted more.
I carried myself confidently, dressed for success, and “faked it til I made it”. I must have done something well because show after show, I kept getting asked back. I worked on full episodic television shows and continued to work as a stage manager whenever show schedules fit. And when the shows went on hiatus and when seasons were over, I’d work on other movies. I was also producing promotional videos for small businesses. With the years of varied experience in various industries, I took what seemed like the next logical step in GO BIG OR GO HOME! I was asked to move out to Los Angeles and work for *Olann Lahns– “living large in the Hollywood Hills” while working on projects here and there. Working when I wanted to work. Traveling when I wanted to travel. Life was beautiful!
But the City of Angels sure is filled with a lot of fallen angels. Negativity can make moments a giant blur or a hazard of haze where you can’t make heads or tails of anything. Is this just life? Is this just a bad hand in the deck? Or is the abuse here too? Has it followed me? Or has it always been here and I too naive to see it? Or is it me? Have I become the closet negative Nelly? Years of abuse can have its toll. The months where I went home to work on seemingly easy shows proved difficult. In retrospect, it was where it all started for me. Looking back at the years that led up to that time of hellishness, it all started with the “weird production”. First red flag in hindsight! If only it were foresight. It’s where I met the abuse and seemingly attached myself to it.
Rewind to the very first production I ever worked on.
I worked on a production and was supposed to work for the production coordinator. The production coordinator at the time temporarily gave me to another department to fill in for someone who couldn’t make it the first few days. In so little words ‘[poop] hit the fan’ and the department head, *Olann Lahns and I bonded over surviving the ordeals. Digging through dumpsters of garbage to find props that were accidentally thrown away – to this day, no one on the production knew about it because of my masterful garbage gumshoe work. Yes, I found myself digging through garbage. It was the first time and it wasn’t the last. Watching a producer go into survival-comfort-game-face mode after hearing of a former talent’s suicide; she wore a sock on one hand while petting it with the other. It felt surreal watching this woman trying to hold it together. It also felt surreal after your boss gets fired for not sleeping with the main talent but still worked on the project under-the-table.
They brought in another department head to pretend to do the job while working as an assistant. After speaking with my boss and the production coordinator and the producer, I was still on the project and my boss would pay me under his incorporated business. I still worked, and I still got paid. Temporary became permanent. I was officially *Olann’s assistant. For the rest of the production I continued to go back and forth from production office, sets, locations, department stores, and hotels. There was even an unwanted trip to the emergency room! Everyone including the production manager said this was a “weird production”. This was my first foray into the industry.
After that production, I worked on various commercials, tv shows, and movies. Interspersed *Olann would call me on occasion to see if I wanted to work for him in LA. I would live in the Hollywood Hills working on his businesses while he assisted and mentored me on my own business and other projects and endeavors. Unfortunately, every time he called, I obliged. I continued to fail upwards with every return trip. Though I had a free place to stay and occasionally free food, with each trip I received an unusually unhealthy dose of verbal abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse. I went from “Director of Operations” to “Assistant” to something along the lines of “there-is-no-word-for-this-title-but-it-may-be-a-little-worse-than-indentured-servant”.
*Olann was great in the beginning. Work was decent and he felt like family. He even introduced me to his dad and grandma. I was his aunt’s caretaker before she passed away. Most times it felt good. It felt okay. But something was off. People say and do things when filled with heightened emotions. People say and do things out of hurt and anger. When his aunt passed away, he asked questions that made me feel like he blamed me, that it was my fault; I should have kept a better eye on her. I’ve seen the good and the bad, both in this growing personal friendship as well as in the industry. Don’t get me wrong. There are some good people in the industry, but for the longest time it felt the contrary. For me personally anyway, it felt like the world around me was beating me down even when the work was good. The final straw was when lines were blatantly crossed. There is no excuse for any kind of abuse and certainly no excuse for physical abuse. But physical abuse was dealt. Little pieces of me were chipped away. I had given up on myself many times in many small ways, but that last year, I had really given up.
There was a saving grace at the time. In hindsight God sent me two more angels. The saving grace was Angel and Grace – his amazing dogs. The comfort, love, and protection of a dog is immeasurably unconditionally amazing. They protected me from making poor choices. When I didn’t want to go out and party LA style or knew I wouldn’t enjoy going out with the cast and crew as long as he was there, I could use them as an excuse. I wanted to watch them. I loved watching them. There was a moment he asked me outright. When he asked me if I wanted to die and I couldn’t speak, but inside I was screaming at the top of my lungs “YES!”, the dogs were there to comfort me after. One particular night *Olann was out drinking with the crew. I didn’t go as I stayed to “watch the dogs”. I felt so low that night, so low in fact that I took his gun, weeping and telling myself I just wanted to hold it. And the angel dogs were there to bring me back. One of them licked my tears until I stopped crying and let me hold him until I fell asleep.
The year following the final straw of abuse was bittersweet. I felt free from the monster but lost in the trauma of it all. I still felt all the anxiety and depression. It was just taken to a new level. I didn’t feel safe – anywhere – with anyone.
Back in 2000, there was a movie entitled “Pay It Forward” starring Haley Joel Osment. In this movie he has a line where he is being interviewed by a reporter where he says, “I guess it’s hard for people who are so used to things the way they are – even if they’re bad – to change. ‘Cause they kind of give up. And when they do, everybody kind of loses.”
I believe that to be true now. We all need to try. We all need to keep trying or we all lose. But at the time, that was the farthest thing from my mind. This is the last thing on one’s mind when in the throws of negativity and negative situations. You may not even realize you’re IN the bad. You may be making excuses and trying to see the silver lining. But sometimes those motivational go-get-ems and never-give-ups should actually make room for know-when-to-let-go-and-move-on and make way for giving-up-can-be-a-good-thing. No matter how good a situation feels on the outside, no matter how much it “makes sense”, no matter how seemingly kind people are, if you feel like it’s an awkward challenge or if everything looks picture perfect but DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT, I pray that you can discern that bad feeling as true warning signs. I pray that it yells and screams so loud in your soul that you can’t ignore that not only is it not right, but YOU NEED TO LEAVE.
“Know your limits.” There is only so much you can do. There is a big difference between taking calculated risks and reckless endangerment. Obviously one seems like a smart strategic move while the other is not thinking or taking lightly the consequences of whatever actions are taken. But what about those moments when both seem like the same thing? I know this may sound silly, but I assure you, from personal experience, it is possible.Reckless just looks like risk. And you make up excuses for the endangerment, thinking the excuses are calculated when it is really just a false sense of safety. When you’re in that headspace, “know your limits” does not exist. The person you trust is the person who hurt you. You don’t know what your limits are. You just feel lost and broken. You don’t know who you can talk to and who you can trust.
The community that has helped me the most through all of rough times post trauma live on the internet. It is people like you, reading this article, that have helped me rediscover who I am. It is people like you who have helped me find the good things in life. My virtual angels!
Sure, there are plenty of bad people out there including the online community. But just like in real life, we keep on going. We keep on living. We keep on loving.
Life is a menagerie of all kinds of experiences, people, places and emotions.
Life is filled with countless opportunities, mind-blowing places, and interesting people.
It’s filled with people who care – people who really care. People who care enough to invite you into their lives on screen every day. Strangers. People who you may even meet in person. People who invite you into their homes as well as their hearts. It’s a Blessing I cherish when given the opportunity.
I’m so grateful for the dogs that have taught me to love unconditionally. I’m so grateful for the supportive community and genuine friendships; Thank you for helping me find hope again and reminding me that I am loved by not only friends and family, but especially God. If it wasn’t for a handful of wonderful people online, I wouldn’t have this renewed relationship with God.
The greatest gift we receive is God’s love. The greatest gift we give is the love we have for one another.
I thank God for the life He has given me. I thank God for the love he shares with me through the people and the community that He has strategically placed in my life, and for the amazing dogs He’s Blessed me with in every encounter. I love the angels He’s sent me.
Wishing there was some way I could repay all the angels that have come into my life, I know I can’t. I’ve made it through but can’t ever repay these people, pets, and no-longer-strangers back. They may never truly know how grateful I am. But I can pray. And I can hope to pay it forward to others. I hope someday I can give the Blessings that were given to me to others.
*Name has been changed to protect the guilty.
Wow! What a LOVE story! This brave person was concerned about the length of the story. But here is the thing, I don’t put limits on someone else’s story. Long, short or in between, this blog belongs to all of you for the month of February. The month of LOVE! And I honor your souls for “putting it out there” warts and all! Everything is a teachable moment and we can all learn from each other. But only if we have the courage to open up. Thank you for allowing me to curate this incredible series for a third year. It is only due to your ongoing moral support. You are indeed all angels!