During December, my focus will be on sharing Christmas stories from my own past! I hope you enjoy
A monkey was a perfect present
This is the story of how a simple monkey became the perfect Christmas present for me. I had moved into a program for homeless youth, which acted as a transitional living program. It was a place near the Castro District in San Francisco, which is the predominantly LGBT area of the city. San Francisco is one of those weird cities where it seems like every type of person has a place. The place was a S.R.O. or single room occupancy hotel. You got a very simple room to live in. This had been a for-profit hotel, so there were other guests that lived in the place besides those in the program. We were free for the time we were in the program to do pretty much whatever we wanted, to come and go as we pleased. It was a freeing time for someone that had been living with other people for the vast majority of their life. It still, however, was a shelter type program with a limited amount of time that we were allowed to live there. We were required to meet with a case manager once a week and to attend a housing meeting to maintain the housing.
The year had not been necessarily kind to me, which one could assume if I was in a homeless youth program. I had moved around a lot trying to find adequate housing in the city. I started realizing that I was not fully capable of working due to where I was with my mental health. I was introduced to drugs during this time and had tried to get off them. It was full of ups and downs with that. I became very honest with my case manager about this struggle. I thought she would boot me out of the program. The weekends became a time I would use and then I would miss the meeting on Monday because I was recovering. I knew that this was becoming a problem. I barely could function in my life and I was a proud person. I always said that I was a highly functioning addict. I was someone that could seem professional and still do whatever the heck it is I wanted to do. Those windows and doors of lies I created started shutting around me, as I became more and more unable to do the things I needed to survive. I had had enough of living in my own life. The catalyst came when I could not get food and I knew that I was going to have to go to several soup kitchens. A friend sent me a care package. A package of food. That started me down a path of understanding that something was going bad for me, but that something could go right. I had people that cared for me. Almost immediately after this something else occurred. Something that helped me in a way that the person probably didn’t intend it to do.
We had another required event to attend. This one was a holiday event for the program and also for the agency, Larkin Street Youth Services. It was weird because I did not feel a part of the Larkin Street community at that time. I felt that I had created a very isolated existence from most other people. The only person that seemed to be in my life was the person that introduced the drugs to me. I had given up on a lot of life. He was fairly abusive, but that is something that I survived. We were both at this event. I felt that I could not do anything but spend time with him. He was also in the program. Out of nowhere my case manager comes up to me and says that she wants to see me. I was worried, given our most recent conversation. Once we were alone, she handed me several packages. She said these were from the Larkin Street Youth Services staff and that we all wanted to make sure I had a pleasant Christmas. She said please don’t tell anyone about it because the agency couldn’t afford to get everyone things. She knew I was struggling with a lot and she wanted me to know that she saw it, but she had faith in me. She knew I could do wonderful things. Much like my friend that sent me food, there was food in here and silly stuff like socks. There was a gift card for a place that sold movies and music. I was big into walking around the city and listening to music. I know that it made me look crazy as hell, but it was something that I used to be okay. To feel alive, even though I often didn’t feel like I was. I do not remember what music I ended up getting because music, as I have grown older, has changed. I have changed, so some music has not stuck around. There was, however, an item in there that I still have to this day. It survived many housing changes, many uphill battles in my life. It hasn’t been destroyed. It still looks almost perfect. It was a simple present, but one that reminded me that I was human. That I existed in the world. It started me down a path of healing. I quickly after dumped the ex, even though we later got back together, I started getting clean and I mean 100% clean. This monkey may have been a simple gift from a case manager, but it was the moment that I realized that humanity wasn’t horrible. It could be beautiful. It made me remember myself in a silly sort of way. I hadn’t been using when it was given to me. I wasn’t coming down. I was 100% myself and it impacted me so profoundly. I knew that I had lost a lot in the years of being homeless, but it reminded me at my core I was still a person full of dreams and hope. Someone that wanted to achieve things. It was a simple present, it was this simple monkey, but it was so much more to me in that moment. It was hope.