The Grayt Life
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women.
Think big anyway.
The Short+ sweet
My name is Christina Marie Gray, and I have fallen in love with myself. My soul fire is travel, hiking, and my life co-pilot, Ava the dog. I believe every single person has something to teach us, and now that you're here, I have something to teach you. What that is, is up to you. What do you have to learn? I've been asked to leave college. I've been in four car wrecks with an equal number of concussions. I brought my dog to Norway where we volunteered on a hippie farm and lived out of a tent. I bought myself a one way ticket to Denmark at 19 years old right after I left college. I was the backpacking Europe cliche. My inner self came forward. I grew and became addicted to the pursuit of me. I want to know my true self. Who are you really? We never stop growing, and we are infinite. The potential to know yourself- to know myself- is infinite.
I was made in Hawaii.
The ancient forces of the islands wove me together with waterfalls, rainforest, sunshine, and ripe bananas. The Goddess of lighting and wind seeped into me. The God of the Sky is the warmth in my veins. The beauty was within me from the beginning. Long after I could dream, a month before I was born, I was no longer growing alongside lava flowing. I was among pine trees and cookie cutter houses. A month later, I was born in the year Duncan Hines Cake mix was only 96 cents. The day was Norway’s 179th Constitution day. It was a Friday.
My first word was, “No,” and I told my mother stories of “when I used to be big” as soon as I could talk. My parents were extraordinary and ordinary. Together, they were the angry lava of Pele. My first memory I recall as an out of body experience. I was knee high to a grasshopper in a
90’s maroon dress. I was in front my mother screaming, “Stay away from my mommy!” as my dad threw a plate at her.
I had an imaginary friend named Josie that played with my toys in the night. Taking the batteries out and putting toys away didn’t stop my Barbie phone from ringing all night long or my babies dolls being on the floor the next day much to my father’s chagrin. This was my normal.
I broke my arm when I was two. I fell out of a parked car while jumping around in the backseat being a playful child. I cried for two days before I was taken to the hospital. In their defense, children cry.
I was very close to my
dads sister, Aunt Angie. She took me to play in dirt for the first time. She smoked cigarettes that smelled like home to me, and she held me like a baby and rocked me no matter how old I was. She would sail me down the stairs in a laundry basket with the laundry at the bottom of the stairs to cushion my fall. It was joyful and the essence of childhood. She spoke my love language and taught me to turn yarn into art with my hands.
I remember my first day of kindergarten. I remember when my dad took me took me to buy a puppy. She was a Golden ball of love named Netta. I also remember when he put her in the dryer “for fun.” He laughed. I laughed. I told his joke to my kindergarten class. No one laughed.
My legs started to defy gravity and shoot me upward every day at 1pm on the dot. I was in 3rd grade. Sometimes the pain was so excruciating, I would puke. My parents split the year before that, and I learned lessons from them they didn’t know they were teaching me. Hard lessons. Important lessons.
I learned to play the string bass, because I was tall and strong. I felt the tug to play the cello. It was a gentle pull. Subtle. I woke up early to learn cello before school started. For my 13th birthday, I was gifted a cello. I named her Dixie. I poured myself into the powerful art of being a musician. I continued to play the string bass and get better. I went on to learn the Bass Guitar and Piano as well. The cello is and will always be my soulfood.
My first year of high school, Angie called me. She sounded upset and asked me to please call her back. I remembered that she had asked me. Whatever I was doing felt important, and I didn’t call her back. My gut said, “You should probably call her,” but I hadn’t learned yet to listen to that all-knowing part of myself. A day later she took her life. Purposeful or not, she was lost.
It’s hard to recognize what I was going through.
High School is hard for most everyone, but I learned about deep dark parts of myself that are often felt much later in life. I’m telling you about the hard things, because these shaped me. I was molded by these experiences, along for the ride, and all I could do was hang on. I met a man right after Angie died that I clung to and wanted so badly. I was so lonely from her death, and I now had someone to talk to, but it wasn’t healthy to be with him. It wasn’t until he led me on for four years into my senior year of high school that something snapped within me, and I woke up. It felt like it took one tiny second for my mind to shift, but it really took four years of psychological abuse, and eighteen years of bad influences accepting the same for themselves. I could see everything red flag behind me on a road I still have a hard time believing I was walking. It was the road of not loving myself, of not taking care of myself, and not understanding how amazing it is to take up space.
I went off to college right out of High School as most good Americans do. I went to Appalachian State University in a town that had snow on Halloween and a constant cloud of students smoking weed. I started indulging in the devils lettuce in High School. A few days into school, my roommate called the cops of me for having weed. Whatever your views are, I learned the hard way that my casual smoking habit was the only thing between a healthy mental state and dangerous spiraling depression. If you’ve never had your mind try to drag you down with dread and sadness out of nowhere, please, fall to your kness, pick a god, and pray thanks to it. I didn’t know the depths of my mind until I couldn’t help myself by smoking weed. I was being drug tested by the school and treated as a drug addict. No one noticed when I stopped going to class, stopped eating real meals, and stayed in bed for two weeks straight. Just writing about this still brings back the fear I felt in that room. Not the fear from my mind, but the fear that I wouldn’t be able to take it anymore. I reached a point where I was shaking all of the time. I could feel my heartbeat in my chest and every single vein. I felt like I was either going to die from this slow degrade of a body I couldn’t connect to anymore, or from killing myself.
The best thing that ever happened to me was getting kicked out of college. My financial aid went away for whatever reason, and I ran out of money. I had 48 hours to leave. I picked an apartment close to campus, ready to stay with my new friends in the mountains I’d grown fond of. All I needed was a co-signer. My mom wouldn’t sign, no one would sign. That was hard. I fought so hard to get that apartment. I can still picture it.
Instead, my mom gave me no other option than to move back home with her, just a short six months after moving out.
My mom rented a truck to move all of my things back home. We did. After I was home for a few day, I asked my mom why her boyfriend was there. She said he sold his has and had moved in.
I thought I was coming home, and this one still hurts like the worst heartbreak. I don’t know if it will be something that ever stops hurting.
This house I came back to was the house I grew up in. The house where my parents made notches on the doorway as I grew with my age next to it. The house where I took my first steps, spoke my first words, experienced my first shower. The house that had beautiful butterflies in the backyard that I would chase as small little girl. The house where I had been planting strawberries for years. It was a house of so, so much.
I learned that home is a feeling. I wasn’t home anymore. My moms boyfriend took down my baby pictures. He painted over the pencil mark notches in the doorway. He dug up my strawberry patch. He screamed at me every day. He blamed me for his relationship problems with my mother. He told me she didn’t really love me and that she wasn’t proud of me. He painted my beautiful wooden cabinets, threw away anything that wasn’t in my room, and he yelled at me for not locking the door if he walked in on me in the bathroom.
I learned what it’s like for someone to destroy your life from the inside out.
I learned that my time spent deeply depressed in bed at college was practice for the days that would come. Practice for how to wake up every morning, drink water, and go to bed every night.
Within a few months, I got my first real job. My first day, I spent the morning crying my eyes out. I was constantly living within the pain of the life I was living and understanding I couldn’t bring that to work with me, but I went.
I spent my money on a plane ticket to Denmark. It was the cheapest plane ticket I could find. I went, and it was the beginning of learning to heal, learning how to grow internally, and learning to push my comfort zones even more.