You know that saying, not all who wander are lost? Well, sometimes those wandering really are lost. In this case, me. I was.
Not in the actual sense though —more like metaphorically speaking. Except, I literally lived in the woods.
The Woods II to be exact, which happened to be the name of my new neighborhood. If you remember from, Freshman, Foreclosures, & Fresh Starts: What It Was Like Getting Evicted From the Only Home I’ve Ever Known During The Most Confusing Time in a Girl’s Life, my mom and I just got some awful news. That news being, the only home I had ever known was now in foreclosure.
We were getting kicked out.
At the time, I was a high school sophomore living in a pretty affluent suburb of South Jersey. Luckily, my mom had wealthy-ish parents who started a trust fund for her back in the day, in case a situation like this might arise. What do you know? It did. And so, she found a realtor basically right away who got us a two-bedroom apartment on what felt like the other side of town.
It was still a decent place but it wasn’t home. I did my best though, which most likely wasn’t enough. I only say that because most nights, before we officially left, I cried myself to sleep. I’m pretty sure, my mom did too. It’s just we weren’t ready to let go of country club drive.
And we definitely weren’t ready to move on.
In the literal sense and of course, metaphorically speaking. Except, sometimes, you just don’t have a choice. My once perfect life literally blows up in my face when I find out it was all smoke and mirrors —at least for the past 365 days it was. Basically, my dad was fired from the law firm he spent nearly 30 years at. He worked his way up and became one of their best senior partners. Everyone loved him. He was a well-respected guy around the office.
Except, when he steals some petty cash (more than a few times) and management finally finds out, they fire him. But we didn’t know that. He literally pretended as if he still had a job. He woke up every morning and came home at the end of every evening like he just worked a full day. It was business as usual except it wasn’t. So when my mom, sister and I ask to go shopping or out to eat, he says yes, like he always had. Except, he should have said no.
Eventually, the money coming in was exceedingly less than the money going out.
I mean, he was spending and pretending as if he still had a job and so were we. But we didn’t know we shouldn’t be. Then —he runs out of cash, which was around the same time he starts charging everything instead. When that wasn’t enough or when he maxed out those credit cards, he ends up in over his head. He was a damn good attorney so he knew where to find loopholes in just about anything.
In this case, that loophole was his wife, my mother, who at the time, only dealt with household stuff. My dad was the breadwinner. He was in charge of money and bills. So when my mom asks him for a couple bucks to buy groceries, he hands her one of his credit cards without a second thought.
Except, it’s not the card she thinks it is. But she doesn’t know that.
She didn’t know any of this for a very long time (either did I). What I’m getting at here is that my dad created a bunch of accounts in my mom’s name. Those accounts being multiple credit cards that she never asked for, wanted or consented too. I should also add that he had no intention of paying them back. Meaning, he not only lied but he forged her damn signature.
And so, we unknowingly lived off those damn cards for months. They were our only lifeline. Eventually, they get maxed out too, which is around the time you’d think the cardholder, “my dad” would pay the tab in order to continue using them. That’s how it works, right? No. Not in this case. Remember, they were in my mom’s name, not his and this was all premeditated.
So what exactly does my dad do next?
Well, he ignores everything —including his wife’s confusion and proceeds to forge her signature on a few more cards. I guess he thought if he could keep everything up for just a little while longer, eventually, he’d be able to pay everything back. Only, that’s not what went down. About a month later, another round of bills come through. So my mom goes outside, grabs the mail and opens up whatever is addressed to her.
She skims through a few lines of this one letter and is unsure of what she just read. Remember, those cards were in my mom’s name so these invoices reflected the same. Right away, she’s confused. Things aren’t adding up. She brings the paper over to my dad who talks his way out of it again. So my mom lets it go under the assumption, her husband of 29 years would take care of it. I mean, that’s literally what he said. But that’s not what he did.
Remember those loopholes I spoke about earlier?
Well, they were his insurance policy. A policy to make certain he wouldn’t be liable for any of the charges (none of which his wife knew). Another month goes by. He ends up spewing, even more lies to cover up his original one. Like when my mom brings him another version of that same letter, he talks his way off the ledge and my mom drops it for the 5th fucking time. She thought she could trust him. Meanwhile, the two of them are still fighting what felt like every day.
If it wasn’t over money, somehow, it would always lead back there.
Then my mom gets a call. Guess who? It was a collection agency claiming the sum total of her credit card debt was now nearly $1 million. They needed some sort of payment plan otherwise, they’d be pursuing legal action. I think they even said the word bankruptcy. What the actual fuck. My mom knew for a fact that she never signed off on any of these cards.
She asks my dad about it right away who straight up lies to her face. He clearly knew what this was all in reference too but he wasn’t going to tell her that. She decides to do some digging on the D.L. (down low) when she gets the idea to hire a private investigator. And so, it finally comes to a head when her P.I. reveals, all of this was, in fact, constructed by her lying husband.
That was when she decides to file for divorce and why my dad left the state.
Now you’re all caught up.
As a result of this shitty situation and on top of the credit card debt, my dad also stopped paying the mortgage, which was why we were getting kicked out. So when the sheriff knocks on our door that fateful day, my mom and I were in for a rude awakening. We knew we’d have to leave the house eventually. I mean, it was just the two of us now and we didn’t need a house that big. We just didn’t think it would be THIS soon.
But like I said, sometimes, you just don’t have a choice. The sheriff literally tells us we have 14 days to get out. There was no pretending this wasn’t happening. And there certainly weren’t any loopholes to scheme our way through. As a result, we had to sell most of our shit in order to fit everything into our new place —wherever that may be.
At the time, we had no idea where we’d go.
For a few days, my mom literally thought we were going to be homeless. I mean, we were still living in our beautiful five-bedroom, four-bathroom home, which now meant nothing. It was rough. Luckily, with some help from my mom’s family and a really nice realtor, we find something. That something being this awful two-bedroom apartment on the other side of town (now you’re really caught up). Needlesstosay, we were downsizing and clearly, I wasn’t ready.
I had to be or at least, I had to try. I recall packing up my room and crying. I remember sitting on the floor with all my clothes in boxes thinking this was it? All of that for this? After all the years, all of the shopping sprees, the family vacations, the dinners, the memories —just to pack up and leave it all behind as if it never happened? I didn’t understand and it certainly didn’t seem fair. But I had work to do. So I do just that.
A few hours and a million boxes later, I couldn’t believe we were actually done.
I remember us eating dinner on the computer room floor. Everything including the kitchen table was either in one of those boxes or sold days earlier. We sold most of the expensive shit to help cover moving costs —something we never had to think about before. We never had to worry about money. We never had to look at a price tag before we bought something.
If we wanted it, we got it. I’m pretty sure, it was at that exact moment (when my mom shares this info with me), I knew just how bad things really were. I already kind of figured life would be different but I guess I didn’t really grasp the gravity of it all. Now I did and it made me even madder. I was mad at my dad, at the sheriff, at the bank —even myself. I hated everyone and everything for a very long time.
Nevertheless, it was time for bed, which too pissed me off.
I mean, at this very moment, my bed was gone. I had an air mattress in a room with periwinkle walls and crown molding that separated the purple tones from the pale yellow contrast that sat across the ceiling. It used to be my safe place but now, it wasn’t even mine. Everything about the entire house screamed Macey. Like my childhood for instance, which was imperfectly sketched into each piece of white marble that appeared in almost every room.
Laughter had been whitewashed into the windows and doors. Heck, even my tears had a spot. In short, I had memories everywhere (including the carpet fibers). I mean, this was the only house I ever lived in. I lived there for nearly 20 years. We all did. It was clearly past my bedtime but my mind wouldn’t shut the fuck up. “At least I knew it wasn’t my fault,” I remember thinking. Except that kind of seemed irrelevant. The damage was done.
I toss and turn all night.
As my head reminisces with yesterday, I try to fight back the tears. I recall waking up relatively early the following morning in a really bad mood —like even worse than last night. It was moving day but I couldn’t move at all. You know what though? I did it anyway. As we place the last box in the U-haul, my mom and I stand on the front porch hand-in-hand one last time. We say goodbye out loud and I recall saying a few things privately. We get in, shut the doors and drive.
Destination —the Woods II.
Do I end up turning my frown upside down? What did my life look like after we left? Whatever happened with my parent’s divorce? And what exactly were we moving into? Don’t worry. I had the same questions. Luckily for you (and unluckily for me back then), today, I have those answers. I don’t know everything (obviously) but with the type of journey I had after that, you’re destined to gain a thing or two (hopefully).
At this point, let’s make it three.
In all seriousness though, most of the time, it will get worse before it gets better. But it will get better. I think sometimes, you may not even know it’s worse. For me, I didn’t. I didn’t know how the actions of 16-year-old Macey could somehow affect the twenty-something girl I am today. It’s weird to think about, but all of that shit shaped me. I mean, what would have happened if none of it occurred?
What if my mom never filed for divorce? What if my dad never got fired? What if they both still lived on country club drive? I really could what if myself to death. I’m sure you could too. But we can’t think like that. I mean, yes, my inner demons, that I still struggle with today —somehow manifested as young rebellion all those years ago. But I never took it further than that at the time, so there was never any need for anyone to question what I was feeling.
Turns out, I was battling with my fucking mental health.
My extreme emotions weren’t just circumstances of that shitty situation. Because eventually, those inner demons took control of my life. I didn’t know it then. I didn’t know that was my “worse” but it certainly was. And instead of it manifesting as high school drunken fun (since high school had long been over, as were those circumstances), I took it to a whole other level and got myself addicted to pills. But you already knew that.
My point here is, starting today, I want you to forget what’s gone. I want you to appreciate what remains and look forward to what’s coming. Because behind you stand the challenges you’ve met. They are gone. You can’t get them back. But, standing right before you is a whole world of new possibilities. Plus, it’s literally all about your state of mind. Simply make today the day you choose the direction of your life.
And when someone asks, “Where are you moving?” You can firmly say, “Onto better things” (literally and figuratively).
Oh, and for the rest like what happens next —stay tuned. Thanks, guys.