I am 32 years old and I don’t have a credit card. It’s not because I choose not to have one but rather I’m not able to have a credit card and I probably won’t be able to have a credit card until I’m 37 years old. When I was 30 years old I filed for personal and corporate bankruptcy — Chapter 11 and Chapter 7. Really novel way to celebrate a 30th birthday. When people ask what I did to celebrate my 30th birthday, I usually just turn the question on them and allow them to tell me about the trip they took to Tulum or Palm Springs and describe what the weather was like, what the food tasted like and so on. I haven’t written about this experience mostly because it’s been obscured by a sense of shame. I remember last year I was helping organize a friend’s birthday celebration in Joshua Tree (yes, her 30th). I coordinated all details of the Integratron visit up until payment. When the receptionist requested a credit card to place on file, I shamefully turned to my group of girlfriends to ask whether someone else would be able to front their credit card. I didn’t really go into details as to why I couldn’t provide my own. I was too embarrassed. I filed for personal and corporate bankruptcy in 2016 because this was apparently the only way to rid myself of the nasty lawsuit that had been filed July 2014. The lawsuit was covered in the press but I never spoke up about it mostly because I was just trying to keep my head above water as I navigated territory no one had ever warned me about. I didn’t learn these lessons in college, nor did I learn them while getting my Master’s in graduate school: No one taught me how to close a business, how to interface a lawsuit, where to find an affordable legislator, how to play nice with the IRS, the EDD, the BOE. Most days I felt like I was drowning, one day, I nearly lost myself, so to say anything to press would just push me deeper under water. The other reason I didn’t say much publicly about the lawsuit was because I didn’t know how to make sense of the claim and no one around me seemed to be able to make sense of it either. I was sued for reasons that were sexist, bias, false. I was being sued by a powerful white man with myriad resources. A man that worked high up in the entertainment industry. He was used to the game. I was new to the game. I remember reaching out to a female journalist to ask if she might cover the case to which she responded validating that the claim was indeed sexist (she had read it in its entirety) but that “unfortunately sexism is rampant in this industry and to be honest, your story is not even worth covering” At that point, I gave up on press and decided to focus instead on head above water. I was 29 years old when the lawsuit was filed. I was 30 years old when I filed for personal and corporate bankruptcy. Somehow the lawsuit survived bankruptcy and moved into federal court (as I mentioned, the plaintiff had access to financial and legal resources) I had nothing.
Nearly a year ago, a few days before the 2016 Presidential Election, before the world truly turned on its head, I fell down the stairs, breaking my right foot and my tail bone. That Tuesday evening, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. That Wednesday morning, I hobbled into Kaiser. The mood was bleak.The doctor X-Rayed my foot, gave me a cast and crutches and sent me out onto Sunset Blvd. I remember it was sort of overcast, moody, and friends were texting to try to connect and try to make sense of the previous evening’s event: How had the election come to this? How would we move forward as a country? What could we do to mobilize? I remember embracing the excruciating pain of my broken bones — I had declined any sort of painkiller — and realizing the similar fractures our country was enduring, the pain of it all.
I turned my mind to federal court. I had to attend my hearing in federal court the following week right there on 1st Street in downtown Los Angeles. I felt overwhelmed by the unknowing of it all. That following Tuesday morning, I walked into federal court. I was alone, I had two crutches and my boot on my right foot. I remember the security guard pulled me aside and requested that I remove my boot to ensure I wasn’t armed with a gun or weapon. I remember he smiled at me, the irony of the scene of it all. I think I smiled back. I was running maybe 10 minutes late mostly because it was difficult to be punctual with a broken foot and I always run 10 minutes behind anyway. I took the elevator up to the 7th floor where the federal court hearing would be held. When I stepped out of the elevator, my bankruptcy attorney was standing by the doorway of the courtroom to greet me. He spoke very few words but in short said, “ The court has dropped the case. There will be no settlement because they didn’t even want to see the case. The case had been that egregious, the court didn’t want to waste its federal time.” Like that, it was over. 4 years of my life resolved in a quiet, anticlimactic moment. There was no settlement involved, which meant my legal bills and debt incurred through the lawsuit would remain as is. The plaintiff had gotten his way. He had filed a lawsuit in 2014 that was rooted in sexism and hostility. It was now 2017. Donald Trump was President. The world had shifted dramatically over the past weeks and here I was with a pile of debt, no credit card, a broken bone and broken tailbone. Yet I was finally free from the handcuffs of the lawsuit. I felt simultaneously relieved, angry, grateful.
It’s nearly one year since the lawsuit was dismissed. We’ve known Donald Trump would become our country’s President for nearly a year. Our country is fractured in ways we maybe didn’t realize until now. Or perhaps we just chose not to see those fractures, perhaps they had existed all the while. Allegations of sexism, sexual misconduct and sexual assault in the workplace are surfacing daily in corporations and industries that we’ve held dear. Women, and men, too, are speaking up. #Metoo and other hashtags are allowing a space to share, to heal, to relate, to find safety, to speak up to our resiliency. On a personal note, my foot has healed and I finally feel like I’m beginning to get my footing (pun intended), climbing out of the debt, moving through the pain of financial trauma, learning, albeit slowly, that when my bank calls me, it’s no longer about Insufficient Funds, but rather to just check in about an account. I’m learning to find the comedy in the fact that I can’t have a credit card, I’m moving through the shame. Somedays are tough. Somedays I just want to scream into a canyon. Somedays I want my house with the long table where I host dinner parties, I want to be out of debt. But then I realize that these scars I have only make me stronger, more fit to endure whatever the future entails. I now wear these scars and marks with pride and carry the lessons I have learned close with me along the journey. xx