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Tales of a Post-Grad Nothing

Friday, October 19, 2007

Project Badass or How I Met My Sister

I'm back from Virginia, I'm officially settled in Chicago, and after a monstrously good three days* with a friend from the other side of the globe, I feel strong enough to destroy an entire city with my fists, but jovial enough to have a hearty laugh instead. Feeling awesome has become a crucial part of my life plan for the next, I don't know, bunch of years ahead. In fact, it's become so crucial that last month I decided to launch a new initiative:


Project Badass basically goes like this - I've spent a disproportionate amount of brooding in the past two years which really isn't cool. What is cool is becoming a Badass. Capital B. I'm just going to spend the next calendar year doing badassey stuff. Since any good initiative needs to start with flow chart or Venn diagram or some visual aid, I made a list of everything I think a Badass would do and slowly throughout the next calendar year, I'm going to cross them out and write about them. So far, it's going pretty well.

Project Badass Step One:
Hike Up Your Skirt, Grab Your Balls, and Do the Thing You're Most Terrified Of

Since I don't live anywhere near a gator-wrestling farm or Neverland Ranch,*** conquering the top 2 things I'm afraid of were out. That left number three - track down that secret sister I didn't know existed until about eight years ago. Basically the story goes like this - my father had a child about ten years before I was born but didn't really bother to tell anyone about it. I say that he didn't tell anyone, but the truth is that somehow word got out to basically everyone in my family knew except for me. I found out she existed when I was 18 and my father drunken/haphazardly mentioned "I've had five beautiful children by three beautiful ladies" and I could only count four beautiful children by two beautiful ladies.

At the time, I didn't really think anything of it since my father sort of tossed out that information in the same way that one might casually throw out "you know only ten percent of all birds mate for life?"****, as if news of my newfound sibling carried the same level of importance as the Illinois state motto or the secret ingredient in Arbecue sauce. In fact, I had dismissed the comment almost entirely until I casually mentioned it to my mother and watched her face flash from shock to devastation to hatred to concern in 0.2 seconds and thus kicked off a very long series of talks about a sibling I never knew existed.

Let me take pause here to say that finding out you have a secret sister is a strange feeling, mainly because of how little it affects your everyday life. I had never met this woman, never heard her name mentioned, never seen a picture, wasn't even sure if she was living or not, and frankly didn't really think any of that until one day 7 years later when I found her name and phone number lying around my father's retirement condo. (I wrote about it a bit here.) Knowing that someone somewhere on earth happens to share your bloodline is one thing. Knowing that a living, breathing human being...one that comes with a name and a job and ideas and apparently a phone number she's written in purple pen on a post-it note...lives 3 hours from your house makes it all eerily real. In April, I took the number, but didn't do anything about it believing, at the time, that I would warm up to the idea of a secret sister and then one day when I was good and ready make the phone call.

That day did not come. What did come, months later, was a day when I fell to pieces over the ex boyfriend so hard that a 20 minute drive from a friend's house turned into a multi-hour, crying on the side of the road, dry heaving kind of affair...the sexiest kind of affair. That's when I decided, covered in snot and sweat and tears and dirt and maybe even some vomit, that I needed to make radical changes, so I did the most radical thing I could think of at the time. I'm honestly ashamed of that last paragraph. I'm pretty sure if I was not me, I would read that and think all of the following:

A) Quit bitchsquealing over a dumb boy and do something with your life.
B) The most radical thing you can think of is making a phone call? Get this lady a Nobel Prize.
C) This post is way too long for a blog. I've got a lot of Spider Solitaire to play this afternoon dude.

So I picked up the phone, dialed the numbers, and in a mousey voice mumbled, "Hi, my name is Chris. I think you might be my sister." I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't the line "I was hoping you'd call." After a couple of phone conversations, I drove to meet my secret sister at a restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland where we poured over creepily identical baby pictures, exchanged stories, and basically caught each other up on our entire respective existences. I told her about growing up with my father, the night I learned she existed, the circumstances surrounding why I made contact, and how much awkwardness I had anticipated. She told me about meeting my father for the first time (she was 21), introducing him to her daughter (who's now 13), and how it feels to know that you're being kept a secret from your father's "real family."

Through the whole experience, what surprised me the most was how very normal this woman is, you know, for having been the family secret for 28 years. Going in, I expected her to be a wreck, the kind of person that's so rightfully consumed with bitterness that the phrase "she's been through a lot" inevitably pops up when she enters a room. But she's not that girl at all. My secret sister is confident and genuinely forgiving. She's got a dry, sarcastic sense of humor and this distinctive laugh that fills up a room. After three full hours of splattering our hearts out on the table, this woman who shares my nose and cheekbones hugged me for what seemed like a full half-hour and I felt this surreal mixture of relief and deep, deep gratitude and unexpected serenity. Those things are much better alternatives to bellyaching and dry heaving. Maybe the Badasses had it right all along.


* How good was the weekend? We spent a full day seeing sharks and then rolling on our backs down the grassy hills in front of the largest indoor aquarium in the world. THAT is how good it was.

** I just learned the command that makes letters blink. Please bear with me until the novelty is out of my system.

*** Ba-zing.

**** That's totally true.


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