You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone   Leave a comment

Got an email the other day from an old boyfriend I haven’t heard from in 25 years, and it reminded me of how bright-eyed and ignorant I was then, a whole different girl really, unknowing of the losses that lay ahead.  He was from that life before the losses.

I met Gary at a nightclub where I worked after I left music school half way through my sophomore year of college.   Having my future as a pianist mapped out for me since I was 4, and not knowing anything else I wanted to do except that I didn’t want to be a concert pianist, I waitressed and bartended.  It was a bit of a blind year for me, but one where I gleefully took advantage of my first year free of academic responsibilities, where I could just make money and party. I worked at a place called Trinity’s, which in 1978 was New Orleans’ answer to Studio 54.  Famous rockers stopped in on occasion, and tips frequently took the form of a couple lines of good coke during a bathroom break.  How I got out of there without some form of addiction I don’t know, but I did.  Just not in my blood chemistry, I guess.

I was friends with another bartender who’d moved from California with her husband, whom she’d divorced but remained close friends with, and she set us up.  I went through my bar years, then a year or two at an art supply store, and one at an upscale clothing store while I was with him, as well as joining his karate class and getting a black belt.  We stayed friends after we broke up, but eventually he moved back to California and we lost touch.

Well, recently he got my new address from somewhere and I heard from him.  He got married and had several kids, and was still in the computer programming business as he’d been before, but now mobilely, and that they’d moved to and from a couple of states with his job, largely done at home, never skipping a beat.  Good for you, in this troubling economy; you go, sugar.  His email also told me that a mutual friend of ours, his girlfriend after me, a sweet and gentle girl with an abusive misogynistic father, had died under suspicions of suicide, and that her parents hadn’t even had a funeral for her.  Seeing her face in my mind from 30 years ago, I cried.   What I wouldn’t do to get my hands on her father, and her mom too, I guess, since that pedophile coach Sandusky’s wife and what she did or didn’t know is all up in the news.

Through my best friend, he’d heard that I’d finally gone back to school… in psych instead of anthropology because Loyola didn’t have an anthro department, and my mom said I was a Loyola faculty brat so it was Loyola or pay for it yourself.  And he knew that I’d gotten married to a law professor at Loyola who I’d met through my mother.  He didn’t know that momentum had kept me rolling through a psych Master’s and a job at the VA hospital doing PTSD therapy and research with Vietnam veterans before I “woke up” and went back to school for that anthropology doctorate.  He also didn’t know that at the same time as I left the field of psychology, my husband and I split up.

Funny, at the time, spending days with disturbed patients, then coming home to a troubled marriage, both of which kept me embroiled in the psychological mindset, I couldn’t tell which one was messing with my head worse, so, as it turned out, I would leave them both within a 4 week period.  Now I realize I never should have left the VA.  Never… *sigh*.  I have a difficult personality, and some atypical capabilities, and who knew that job so uniquely meshed with my strengths and weaknesses.

Ya’ know, when you’re young and a great opportunity comes your way, you think that that’s what life will be like, that great opportunities will come at you like apples falling from a tree.    Alas, in my case, I didn’t realize that the best came to me before I had the experience to recognize it as such. And went.  I had no way of knowing when I went back to school that I would never find a job as great again, where I would be so happy .  Joni said it… you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

VA hospital in New Orleans; my world with Vietnam veterans.  *Note the Islam poster from an exhibit I’d been to years before.  Conflict with the Middle East had only just begun to rear its head.  The Twin Towers wouldn’t come down for another 9 years.

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Posted February 27, 2012 by Laura Stella Sitges in 1976-1983, Current Journal

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