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Every two or three years, usually after a long period of contentment and stability, I have the dream.

In the dream, I am in my childhood home in South Minneapolis, the mustard A-frame surrounded by fruit trees, garden, and consecutive waves of gang wars and immigration. It is always morning: I am always young. It is always the last dream of the night, come after climbing down the dim, concrete stairs of skyscrapers, or wandering through the parklands Minneapolis in twilight.

I run through the rooms of my home, intent on warning my parents of the doom that is hanging over our family. As I begin to wake up, I find them, smiling and benevolent in their bedroom, my mother with her morning coffee, my father unbroken by grief and years of disappointment.

As I open my mouth to speak, dizzy with relief that I'm there, I'm in time, I wake up.


My mother is not benevolent. Here in the future, she's done neat things like lock her second husband in the attic. She makes a hobby of emotional sadism, because she thinks the results are funny. When my brother simply stopped going to high school, she was happy enough to convince him to be put on Minnesota's disability and collect his money to pay for part of the mortgage of her house.

She attempted to do similar things to me, years after I had to overhear her attempt to coerce my father into polyamory via hours of emotional abuse late at night. Twenty year old me had bad taste in men and a lot to learn, but I knew enough to run.

This isn't new for her: she has a decades long pattern of exploiting and abusing anyone unlucky enough to drift close enough.

When I say I got out of Minnesota, I didn't get out unscathed. I will likely spend the rest of my life having bad dreams: I will never quite be normal, if only because of the CPTSD. To an extent, I will always be looking over my shoulder. While I can be certain I've escaped ever having her hurt me again, I haven't escaped the fear of becoming anything like her.

(She did, after all, not really distinguish between me and her - and did her best to impart her lack of ethics to me.)

Bootstrapping your own ethics while cursed with a case of imposter syndrome and severe depression is not a low-risk activity. As a result, I stay in therapy, and cultivate close friends. I listen carefully to their advice: I listen carefully to their feedback. These days I have a better idea of who I want to be and what boundaries I refuse to cross, but on bad days, matters are fraught.

My constant traveling isn't the worst coping mechanism. I've driven coast to coast across America thrice, lived in seven-eight different cities, and worked on some of the largest pieces of Internet infrastructure there are. Now in my thirties I work in Internet operations management, which is a whole lot of information-gathering, meeting-wrangling, and plotting with management and mentors.

My main skillsets revolve around solving the hard problems. But then again, this is nothing new.