I Do Feel Lucky
Being me is kind of stressful. There are so many different things I want to do with my life, and I feel like there’s not enough time to do it all. So I’d say being me is knowing that I have the potential for doing all the things I want to do, but maybe not having the time or energy.
I suppose I’d have more time if I had a routine, but my life feels so chaotic right now. I don’t really wake up at a set time. I don’t go to bed at a set time. The first thing on my daily list is to try to get out of bed. Then put pants on. That’s all I can hope for. Breakfast is usually not on the list.
I’m a writer, a musician, and a full-time college student. I try to get random things done throughout the day, but usually I have class or work. I work for a Vietnamese sandwich and bubble tea shop and for the Nebraska Writers Collective as a Louder Than a Bomb coach, which is a program that brings spoken word poetry to high school students. My team is about a dozen students at Omaha South, and eight of them performed recently at the annual competition. I’m so proud of my kids.
When I’m home, which is rare, I relax the most just by lying in bed, whether I’m on my phone, reading, or hanging out with my girlfriend. Her name is Rachel too, which isn’t a problem like you might expect it to be. The perfect day for me would be a summer day with her. Maybe go to a park in the morning, get lunch, hopefully Asian food. Then I’d take her to a show, whether it’s a play or a movie or a concert. Music makes me so happy.
Being in nature also relaxes me. I love seeing greenery. I used to live in a desert—a highland desert, so it wasn’t even a pretty desert. The mountains were beautiful, but the plant life was lacking. And then we moved to Nebraska, and everything’s so green and lush here because of the lower elevation.
I was born in Sacramento, California. We lived there for about four years, and then my family and I moved to Bellevue, Nebraska, for another four years. We actually drove the whole way here. Then my dad got a job in Reno, Nevada, so we drove all the way over there. We lived there for six years, and then my dad got laid off. He had some job opportunities from around the country, but we decided to move back to Bellevue because we really like it here. So now we’ve been here since I was 15, a sophomore in high school.
Moving a lot has definitely affected how I’ve been shaped as a person. At first, I was like, wow, this is ruining my life. But I’ve learned to appreciate where I’m at when I’m there as much as I can, and I’ve learned that when change happens, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I was able to meet so many people, and if we hadn’t moved, I wouldn’t have grown roots here in a way that I’m really happy about.
My family dynamics have also really shaped who I am. I’m a first-generation college student and the only child in my family. Sometimes, it makes me feel like I’m the only hope for my family. I have the potential of having a future, a successful future career-wise, whereas some of my family hasn’t had the opportunity to. I wouldn’t call my experiences impoverished, but my family does have a lot of money issues, especially currently, and I’d like to be able to take care of them one day.
There’s a lot of illness in my family. Physically, my mom, she’s chronically ill with an autoimmune disease called Lupus. And mentally, there are people in my family with bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and OCD. I’ve gone through some pretty long bouts of depression. Still trying to figure all that out. And I also have dermatillomania, or pathological skin picking, which I guess is a sign of OCD. It’s something I can’t escape—a compulsion. Every single day, I pick at my skin, all over my body, and it eats up so much of my energy, self-esteem, and time. Usually I can’t stop for 30 minutes, unless I’m with my girlfriend all day. Then it’s maybe five minutes.
I’m not very comfortable with my body. I really like making costumes. I love clothes, and I pay special attention to my outfits. But sometimes, I don’t like how I look. I think that’s because of the way people read my gender. There’s definitely a person inside of me, my inner personality, that I don’t get to show other people. I really wish I could show the world the badass guy that I feel sometimes. I feel that way much more than I feel like a girl, more than I feel girly.
Luckily, I haven’t been discriminated against, as far as I know, but I am afraid of it because I’m gay and also really androgynous. I know some people might not understand me as a person. So when I’m around strangers, my first thought is always: am I safe? As a very small person, a girl, whatever, I feel like there are more situations where I’m not safe than situations where I am. Like a guy might be able to walk up to homeless people in the middle of the night and have a nice conversation, but I won’t do that because I don’t want to risk getting hurt. I know I can’t defend myself. I could try, but the reality is I’m small and I’m not strong.
I wish I were stronger. I don’t like my voice, either, because I wish it sounded deeper. I feel like I sound really, really young. I hate recordings of my voice, which is ironic because I sing.
A recurring pattern in my life is just the search for my personal maturity, as well as the search for who I am. The biggest obstacle for me right now, and it has been for a while, is trying to prove to others and myself that I am a mature adult. I’m 21, but most people either think I’m a 14-year-old boy or a teenage girl when they look at me. So people never think I’m a man or woman—they just think I’m a kid. My maturity is always at question.
Although my current life is pretty stressful, I feel a lot freer now. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 18, so I couldn’t really go anywhere and dating was hard. Now, I’m branching out and doing my own thing. Sometimes, I think I had such a strong connection with my mom growing up that it’s hard for me to branch out and do my own thing, but I’m getting better at it.
One of my favorite memories is when my mom would carry me up the stairs at night and tuck me in for bed. She tucked me in for a really long time—I was older than most kids when she stopped. And we would always have really deep conversations. If I couldn’t sleep (which was often, because I’m afraid of the dark), she would just talk to me until I was able to.
It’s really hard for me to talk about, but I almost lost my mother. Not long ago, she was in a medically-induced coma while her body was trying to recover from double pneumonia and legionnaires’ disease.
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia caused from inhaling a specific kind of bacteria. It was named after dozens of legionnaires that met for a meeting, during which they breathed in the bacteria from an air vent, and after which they all started dropping like flies. Somehow, my mom was exposed to it too.
When my mom was in the hospital in her coma, I didn’t know if she was going to die or not. Fortunately, she didn’t. But I thought there was a very high chance that she was going to. And I remember thinking this might be the last time that I could hold her hand, and I didn’t because I was afraid to touch her. Her whole body was puffy and inflamed and swollen from the infection, and I didn’t want to remember her hand feeling like that. Her hand wouldn’t have felt the same as when she used to hold my hand in bed as a kid, you know? And her body was unresponsive because of the coma, so I was worried it wouldn’t feel alive.
I used to beat myself up about that, but I think I understand now that that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing that I couldn’t, that I didn’t want to hold her hand. It wasn’t what I wanted to remember.
Since almost losing my mom, my reality is kind of fuzzy. Most of the time, I don’t actually feel like things are real. I feel like I’m just kind of playing a part, playing a role. Sometimes, I snap into reality and I realize, oh my gosh, I’m actually here. This is happening. And honestly, it freaks me out.
Since almost losing my mom, I think about death all the time.
I have existential crises like every other day. But I keep living because you never know what’s going to happen. You never know what life is going to throw at you, good or bad. If you’re in a bad place now, you don’t know if in a couple of days or a couple of years something amazing is going to happen that makes you think, wow, I’m so glad I didn’t end it. I’m so glad I’m here.
It’s kind of an interesting question when people ask me about my dreams, because for the longest time, I didn’t have any at all. I just focused on trying to get through the day. And when other people told me they had dreams, I’d be like, wow, what’s that like? I just felt like whatever I dreamt wasn’t actually going to happen. I don’t want to get my hopes up. But at this point, I do have some dreams. I dream of being published, and I dream of releasing an album. I dream of being seen as an adult, of knowing who I am and being secure in my maturity. I dream of having lifelong friends and a lifelong partner. I dream of my mom getting to see me graduate college and get married.
I’m Rachel Luck. I love to learn, I love to create, and I love being with people.
I’m Rachel, and I’m here to tell you, spend time with the people you love. Tell them that you love them. Because you don’t know when or if you’re going to see them again.