Updated: Jun 25, 2020
| This is the 449th story of Our Life Logs |
Growing up in Ozone Park in the New York borough of Queens in the 1980s was not easy for me. My childhood was not sweet, to say the least. Instead of love and security, it was filled with mockery and humiliation. I mean, my parents gave us kids—my twin sister, older brother, and me—basic things like clothes and food, but love was always in very short supply. I was the punching bag for my family who took out their anger on who they felt was the weakest link. I was a reserved, scared little girl that just wanted to be loved. But I never got the satisfaction of a warm hug or a gentle kiss on the forehead; I was given venomous words instead.
The mistreatment didn’t stop when I walked out my front door. In the neighborhood, I played with kids who took advantage of my shyness and would make fun of me. I once even had a playmate who tried to touch me inappropriately. I felt so violated. I never knew how to fight back against these bullies, and with that came an underlying shame. My parents always acted as if doing things for their kids were a chore, so I could never come to them for help with the bullying. I didn’t have any other adult around that I thought could help me. So, I grew up with no emotional support; no shoulder to cry on.
If my parents weren’t yelling at us, they were yelling at each other in awful and terrifying screaming matches. They fought about everything, from paying for our tuition to who was supposed to pick us up from school. It was always like playing the blame game with neither taking responsibility for anything. A lot of that negative energy festered onto us kids, and me most of all. I’d get compared to other kids and they’d say, “Why can’t I have smart kids like the other parents, instead of dumbbells?” But I wondered, why couldn’t I have loving parents like the other kids?
By the time I got to high school, I started striking back when my parents would hit me, so, much of the physical abuse stopped. But the verbal abuse was as harsh as ever. I tried my best to ignore their comments, but I always felt like a dark cloud was hanging over me, and I could not think straight to meet their expectations. As a teenager, I wished that someone kind would adopt me, so I could know what it was like to be safe and loved. But of course, that never happened.
At school, when teachers asked me questions, I wouldn’t answer because I was worried that if I said the wrong thing, they would be angry with me, and I would be attacked, the same way I was at home. I was too shy to talk to anyone and had a hard time maintaining friends. Gradually, I deflected from others and became my own best friend. I did manage to find a group to sit with at lunch, but I never contributed to the conversations with much more than a yes or no answer out of fear of rejection. Still, I longed to feel like part of a group and not be the one on the outside always looking in. I wound up finding that group feeling in an unlikely place.
In the times when I felt lonely, I turned to TV, back when TV was TV, not reality and scripted programming. I fell in love with comedy. It became my escape, my happy place, my companion in dark times. I would watch TV and talk to the characters as if I were a part of the conversation. I developed a closeness with TV characters, who might not be real, but played a pivotal role in my lonely life. I built an entire “fantasy world” from this, imagining what it would be like to have healthy friendships and a great career.
I decided right then and there that one of the things I wanted to do as an adult was break into comedy, or generally, acting. I wanted to make people laugh. I wanted to do the same thing for others that comedy had done for me. I wanted to be that anchor, that one thing in the world people clung to when they had a bad day or simply felt alone. Comedy did this for me, and I wanted to someday return the favor.
To start working toward that dream, I joined an online chat group for fans of a sketch comedy program I loved while I was still in high school. Through it, I developed the conversational skills that I was afraid to practice face-to-face. I became more comfortable with socializing and asking questions without fear.
After graduating high school, I went to study at The College of New Rochelle in New York in 2000. It didn’t have a major for comedy or acting, but I was so desperate to get out of my house that I took the opportunity. I had reached my breaking point with the fighting at home and wanted to get away for a while. I ended up choosing philosophy as my major.
There in college, away from all the toxicity of my home, I realized how damaged I had been and how guilty I had been feeling about everything, even things that weren’t my fault. In this new place, I could not fully shake off the feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem. But still, I realized I had made strides from the person I’d been back home, and that was a start. I discovered a healthy sense of self-respect. I knew I just had to keep fighting, to unlearn all the negative things that had been beaten into me.
The comedy chat room experience proved very helpful. By then, I was better equipped for face-to-face conversations and was a lot more confident. Although initiating conversations was still hard for me, I was improving. College showed me that I was worthy of love and respect.
After I graduated from The College of New Rochelle in 2004, I was thrown back into reality, and no kidding, reality was harsh. Even though I was emotionally in a better place, I found myself struggling to establish a career that made me happy. Over the next decade or so, I jumped from job to job, trying to make a living, not really pursuing what I loved. A few times, I fell back into the cycle I’d been in before college. The low feelings of self-loathing would creep back in from time to time. I tried seeing a counselor but couldn’t find the one person whom I’d trust and feel comfortable venting to.
Even so, I didn’t give up. I started writing a few years ago, and that helped me find the motivation to keep fighting. It was when I began to truly come into myself. Much like comedy, writing has become a haven for me. It is one of the ways I am honest with myself about everything. I’ve written a few books and short stories so far and am trying to become an author of children’s books.
I’ve made new friends, and that has brightened up my life so much. I still want to pursue my dream of comedy—you bet, I haven’t forgotten about that. I’ve also decided that I will go back to see a mental health professional, and I am going to do everything I can to work toward my dreams.
Today, I have a much clearer picture of what I want out of my life. Even though I haven’t got everything figured out yet, I’m happy that I’ve started my journey to a brighter, healthier, and more successful future. I know that reality is perhaps always going to be harsh, but I no longer want to sit aside and let my life pass me by. I’m in a place where I’m willing to keep trying.
I have shared some things in this story that I have never told another soul, and now, at the age of 36, I don’t want to hide behind a curtain anymore. You can’t heal if you are in denial, and you can’t heal if you don’t think you could heal. You must love yourself first. I have grown a lot from childhood and now as an adult, I am ready to become more of the person I know I’m capable of being.
This is the story of Erin Yarrobino
Erin (36) still lives in the neighborhood she grew up in, Ozone Park, in the New York borough of Queens. Growing up in an abusive environment, Erin didn’t have a good self-esteem and had trouble communicating with people. It wasn’t until she found her passion that she came out of her shell and awakened a desire to get her life on track. Erin loves watching TV, shopping, going to the movies, listening to music, and curling up with a good book. She has penned several books and short stories. She also has a serious cat obsession, but in a good way. They have gotten her through her entire life. While she has felt very lost and lonely all her life, she is now planning on making careers goals and friendship goals her main priority. She believes good things will happen in her future if she continues to love herself.
This story first touched our hearts on October 19, 2019.
| Writer: Erin Yarrobino| Editor: Kristen Petronio |