My name is Renée Chae, and I was born on May 29th, 1971, in the US city and state called Brockton, Massachusetts. I was born to parents who loved me tremendously, and did their very best raising me; however, due to circumstances out of control, I was on my own starting at the age of fourteen.
By not having the typical strong influences of parents, teachers, or any other adults from such a young age, I had the freedom and space needed to create and form my own original perceptions and understandings of the world around me, based on firsthand experiences. And because I had no family and home that I could look to for guidance, support, and shelter, I had to rely solely on natural instincts and personal abilities to survive.
I was on the streets and unsuccessful at finding a safe place to live for 2 1/2 years despite my efforts of 52 plus attempts. I would be offered a place to stay, and then shortly after sexually hit on. I learned to get out of the situation by doing things like excusing myself to the restroom so I could instead make a b-line for the door.
It was during this time I started to realize how messed up our society was. That I could find no one to honestly help me, unless I put out sexually.
After some time of being on my own and not having a safe place to live, I remember feeling as though I must not be all that important to people for this to be allowed to happen to me. I started to feel as though I were invisible, and didn’t matter, that is except when it came to my body and sex, apparently, I seemed to matter and have value when it came to that.
Life for the most part was a living hell. It was a moment to moment battle just to eat, bathe, and sleep. I often found I had no choice but resort to sleeping in between bushes at a beach, with a double-edged knife stuffed in my teddy bear because I couldn’t find people I could trust that cared to help with my situation. It seemed everyone I met, no matter how promising and “professional” they were, wanted to take from me the only thing I felt I had left, my self-respect.
The bushes at the beach park hid me well, and I had a little space in between them to lay. I felt somewhat safe there at night being all by myself, and it overlooked the ocean, which I liked.
Despite only eating about once every day or two, I felt great physically. I walked everywhere and for several miles a day. I loved being outdoors in nature, even if paved in concrete. Nature invigorated me.
I prided myself for surviving on my own for so long, and for not giving up and succumbing to the drugs and prostitution that was everywhere on the streets. I felt very strong, feisty, resilient, and tough. And I could scale a 10-ft. wire fence or jump from a 2nd story window like it was nothing.
However, I figured it was only a matter of time before I might have to kill someone to defend myself, and I was prepared and ready. I was on constant wide eye alert, always scanning for predators, with all my senses turned to max.
Little did I know when I was younger, my ex-Green Beret Father’s military training he so adamantly shared with me and my brothers since I was a toddler would pay off and save me on several occasions. The confidence alone I gained in knowing what he taught me, helped me hold my head high and back straight, which is crucial to surviving on the streets. Even if I was crazy delusional in what I thought I was capable of, I made sure to put off a vibe that said, mess with me and I will kill you. Luckily and thankfully, no one messed with me to that degree.
I found myself really starting to hate people though for what I was forced to do just to survive and how I had to live. I hated them for seemingly ignoring me, and refusing to see me as a worthy person who deserved respect and genuine care.
I found alcohol to be successful in numbing the pain and silencing the war zone in my head. I’m quite certain it helped keep me alive and cope with what was too much to bear and overwhelming to process. Especially, considering the lack of accurate information I had been given on how to interpret and understand this insane thing called life.
There was hardly a day I did not fantasize about ending it. I was exhausted and felt 90 years old. The thought of not having to struggle and fight any longer, but end it once and for all, and to just sleep without worry was very tempting. Knowing I had a way out if I wanted or needed brought me feelings of hope and peace.
Despite experiencing a difficult time finding unconditional love and support from people, and life was a living nightmare, I do remember often feeling on a very deep level that I was not alone. I remember feeling as though I was being watched and supported by an invisible world, with it silently whispering things like: ‘You’re doing great, just keep going’, ‘This will all make sense one day’, ‘This is all for a much bigger purpose so hang on’, and so on. Those kinds of thoughts gave me feelings of hope that there might someday be light at the end of this dark tunnel, and all of this may be for a good reason. Those whispered thoughts I felt kept me chugging along because they offered me hope, faith, value and purpose.
I also found myself being able to step back from my life and look upon it like I was watching a movie. That was a very surreal and dreamlike experience. I could see how pathetic and insane my life was, and yet how interesting and exciting it was at the same time. I also knew I was witnessing firsthand many things and learning a hell of a lot about people and life.
I will never forget the day I turned 16 years old, nor the exact spot I was walking on Cabot St., in Beverly Mass, when I made a promise to myself. I swore that if I lived to be an adult, that I was going to try and figure out what is wrong with this world, and understand how and why people do the hurtful things they do to others. The world just seemed so mean, sad, absurd, upside down, and lost.
At 16 ½, I would meet a boyfriend who I moved in with for 3 years, and life was still pretty crazy, but at least I had a roof over my head and food to eat.
When I was 21, I would meet, fall immediately in love with, and be taken under the wing by a young and beautiful Indigenous man. He taught me about the ways and traditions of his people that he learned while spending summers on his family’s reservation.
I’ll never forget the question he asked me one day, “why do your people treat you like this?” He knew I was pretty much alone in the world. I lived in the ghetto at the time, was so poor I didn’t even own a can opener, and had to disguise myself as a guy just to leave my apartment. My reply was, “like what?!” I found myself defending “my people”.
Just like the best of questions should, that one really stuck with me and made me think. Until then, I had just figured I must deserve in one way or another everything that has happened to me. I mean, surely this is just the way life is and there’s nothing we can do about it. We play the cards we are dealt, suck it up, and never complain.
Thanks to Scott, I started to see life through a much broader lens. I saw that I really did deserve respect, as does all life, with Earth being no exception; it is after-all, what sustains all life. I also learned what it meant to have a family who unconditionally loves, and has your back no matter what.
That was just the beginning of decades of very painful and challenging life experiences. My obsession with finding out why people do what they do, and why the world is the way it is so I could maybe help fix it, started when I was 16 and would last 30 long years.
I used to feel invisible and as though no one cared; however, I have come to realize that’s not the case. People do care, and immensely, deep down. And not just some people, ALL people. I realize now people couldn’t see me to help me because they could barely keep their own heads above water. Even the seemingly most successful people are struggling to make sense of this world just the same.
On May 29th of 2016, and on my 45th birthday, I suddenly saw that my life had come full circle. When I was no longer neck deep in crashing waves and fighting to keep my head up, and everything for the first time in my life was calm, I could see how all that transpired interconnects, happened in precise time, gives great meaning, and now tells a profound story. It was then I felt very compelled and inspired to write what I have learned throughout, with the hope and faith it can, and will, bring clarity and sense, understanding and knowledge to this chaotic, confusing, thing called life for my people all over the world.
I can honestly say, I know exactly why people do what they do, and why the world is in the shape it’s in. I also know how this world can get turned right side up. This is the information I share in this guidebook titled, This Thing Called Life- Come Full Circle.
Thanks for reading,
XO Renée Chae