This site used to be called Hacker.Ninja.Hooker.Spy. and for good reason. But things have changed. I’ve changed. ← my favorite sentence in the world.
A little background
I was raised in a far-right evangelical family in America’s Bible Belt. Like everyone else I knew, I believed feminists were evil, homosexuality was an abomination, and the most important thing in the world was that I keep myself pure so as to someday score a coveted slot as wife and mother.
I thought we were right about everything. Until I was 13 and noticed my dad behaving strangely on the computer when he thought no one was around. I wanted to know what he was doing so I downloaded a hacker program. Turns out, my dad– a Southern Baptist church elder, Focus on the Family writer, and author of several books on Christian parenting– had been living a double life as a gay man and cheating on my mom for decades.
This information conflicted so strongly with everything I believed about myself and my life that I spent the next five years doing anything and everything to keep myself from acknowledging the truth. As you can imagine, that did not go well.
When I was 18 I finally told my mom. It took a bit, but my family– and my world– completely imploded. I watched my father publicly confess (to the “sin” of being gay) in front of our entire church. I watched him get ex-communicated anyway. My parents remained married, though estranged from all five of their adult children and over a dozen grandchildren. My father continued cheating on my mom, even as he re-branded himself as a conversion therapy success story and began advocating for his belief that God could “cure” anyone’s “deviant” sexual orientation.
I went in the opposite direction.
I left the world I was raised in but was unequipped for the real one
I didn’t know what to believe, but I knew the first 22 years of my life were based on a whole lotta bullshit. Thanks to purity culture I made it to the age of 23 without so much as letting a guy hold my hand. Unfortunately, the guy I chose was someone I shouldn’t have let anywhere near my life. As things went sideways, I snooped on his computer (old habits die hard) and learned he was engaged to another woman.
I confronted him and he broke off the engagement. I was done with him, but thought we could still be friends. This was a stupid idea. On New Years Eve 2009, shortly after we rang in the New Year, he decided to get back with his ex. As I watched him back his way out of my driveway, I felt like I’d dodged a bullet.
But a few hours later he came back.
That night he sexually assaulted me. I didn’t know anything about rape and it never occurred to me to go to the police. I blamed myself and tried to deny what had happened. It didn’t work this time.
I had to get away from my own life
I was afraid of telling anyone the truth, so I coped by selling everything I owned and booking a one-way flight to Beijing on my 24th birthday. I didn’t know anything about China. I’d never even used chopsticks. I just knew I needed to get as far away from my life as possible and a city on the opposite side of the planet with millions of people who didn’t speak my language seemed like a great start.
After a couple months of self-imposed isolation I spent the summer solo backpacking through Southeast Asia.
I began telling my story
On bottom bunks and across bamboo bridges, I told complete strangers the truth about my life and how I ended up where I was. This was a first time experience. Telling the truth may sound like something good little girls are supposed to do, but it is not. Because telling your story is an act of power. It puts you in control of the narrative and allows you to look at your existence from a perspective that cannot be controlled by someone in authority or who doesn’t want the world to know what they’ve done to you.
To my amazement, people listened. And it changed my life.
To be able to speak the truth and not have it denied, explained away, or treated as a threat was a game changer. The shame I had carried my entire life– from playing along with my family’s lies to not knowing better when it came to shit men– began to fall away.
Then I ran out of money. Which meant it was time to go home.
I returned with $47 in my bank account and an urgent need for a root canal. I took the first job that offered health insurance on the day of hire– which happened to be working night shift on a psych ward.
Working on a psych ward
I’d been raised to believe mental illness was a “sin issue,” selfishness, or perhaps the work of the devil.
At the psych ward I met people with stories to tell. It was my turn to listen as they shared how they’d gotten where they were and of the numerous systems within our country that had failed them along the way. Including the hospital where I worked. Which was a shit show.
Instead of bailing once I’d had my root canal, I stayed for four years until I was on the Executive Management Team and knee-deep in the toxic and dysfunctional environment that trickled down to such subpar care for our patients. I led a series of projects to try and help, but damn. The mental health system in America is broken.
Another guy I should have avoided
When I worked on the wards I dated a rec therapist who (supposedly) shared my love of travel, but ended things when he became controlling and abusive. I’d learned my lesson with the last guy. Or so I thought.
I broke up with him the same week I applied for a promotion. I got the job and resisted his efforts to woo me back. Because no thanks to all that. A few months later I received a message from a woman I didn’t know. She claimed she’d been in a relationship with my ex for over ten years– including the entire time we were together. Deja-f*cking-vu. She asked if we could meet for coffee and I agreed.
We told each other everything with the promise that neither of us would tell him we’d met and uncovered the truth. I kept up my end of the deal. She lasted about 16 minutes.
My ex was furious. He asked why I was so determined to ruin his life and threatened to kill me for betraying him. The irony. I didn’t respond to a single call or text and immediately changed my number.
I wanted to move forward with my life. He had other plans.
A short time later a male coworker confided he’d been sent a compromising photo of me from an anonymous number. I was mortified, humiliated, and very motivated. For the third time, I found myself using the internet to unravel a man’s shite behavior.
I was able to prove my ex was the one who sent the photo. I got a restraining order against him and he was eventually fired for threatening me at work. I thought the entire saga was over, until a year later when I was subpoenaed to testify against him in his wrongful termination lawsuit.
Slut shaming via cross examination
When I was cross examined by his attorney, his claims about my life and identity were such a bizarre rendition of the truth that my attorney began referring to me as a Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy.
The narrative he’d concocted about my life, as a way of justifying what he’d done to me, was so bewildering that shortly after I won– because of course I won– I decided to start a blog.
It was time to take “telling my story to strangers” to a whole other level.
Proof we can change our lives
Since then I’ve met and married my favorite human, Alex (a decent male, who’d have thought) and together we escaped the land of our origin and resettled in Denver, Colorado.
At different times my life has become almost indistinguishable from what came before it. Thank God. Some things remain the same, however: My insatiable curiosity, inappropriate responses to things that should not be funny but come on, they’re kind of funny, and my relentless drive to uncover more of who I am and bring myself closer to a life I actually want to live. Because no gracias to what anyone else thinks I should do with my one fleeting existence. Carpe Yolo, etc.
Even when you have to lose a few things along the way, the pursuit of a life you don’t mind telling other people about is always a net gain.
Six years (and counting) of telling my story online
Even my blog, which became a lifeline for me and propelled me into a community I value so much, now feels like a relic from some former version of myself. There’s value in this, because I like seeing how far I’ve come– but I also feel like so much of my writing, while having paved the way to all this change I keep harping on, is an inaccurate depiction of who I am now. I’ve also learned/unlearned/and re-learned so many things that reading much of my old work feels like opening an old box in my attic labeled “remember when you didn’t realize that saying X was homophobic/sexist/ignorant as hell?” I’m still trying to figure out what to think about letting these things continue to live on the internet. I’ll never pretend I haven’t been a lesser version of myself– but I’m not sure those remnants need to remain online for public consumption without context. Here’s what I do know, though: There’s no limit to what I can make happen with my life. So I’ll keep some of my old writing, even if it makes me cringe (because WTF was I thinking and WTF is wrong with me) and will continue adding new posts under the expectation life will continue being terribly interesting.
I’m currently working on a memoir. And so much more.
So, stick around.
You just might like it.