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Being homeless and depressed was my lemon. Refocusing my energy towards school and getting my beauty license is my lemonade.
My name is Aswad. I am a Beauty Vet. I do Skin, Makeup and Manicures. But the one thing I seem to do best is survive.
In 1981 I was a 17 Year old Navy Recruit in the Barracks in Southern Florida. About a week in, three guys backed me into the mens room and said, “if you take your faggot ass to sleep we’ll slit your throat”! I was followed around the base for days, sexually assaulted, hospitalized and discharged. My military career was 18 days. When people ask me where I served, I say The Barracks.
I have been Homeless six times since then. I attempted suicide. I’ve been used and abused. Fired from nearly every job I’ve ever had because some one else was uncomfortable with my presence. In 2009, I lost my last full time job in Portland Oregon due to the financial collapse. Not soon after, I lost my home and my cat of 13 years. I was homeless yet again and had to immediately re-locate to Los Angeles to stay with an old friend. That lasted about 9 months, then there was another place, then another place, then a Homeless Shelter.
While I was in the Homeless Shelter we discovered that the discharge in 1981 had been honorable. This allowed me to qualify for re-training through the VA. So I went to beauty school and studied skin care. I got my license in 2013. I also left the shelter for my own apartment and have a service dog who helps with my disability.
In 2014 I was awarded my VA benefits. I went back to beauty school and studied manicuring. I got that license as well. The VA has found numerous things they are treating me for. One of them was Gynecomastia. It’s not breast cancer. It’s the abnormal growth of breast tissue in a mans chest. I actually had a mammogram. Which for me as a man was new. I then had a breast reduction. Which I wish they hadn’t called it. I started volunteering with the Look Good, Feel Better Program in 2013. I also volunteered at the PATH – Personal Care Center. The only beauty parlor in a homeless shelter in the United States.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned up to this point is that there is only one direction. Forward. Sideways gains you nothing and backwards is not an option. But you have to do the work. You have to show up to class and you have to pass the test. They don’t give licenses to people who don’t pass the test. It’s kinda as simple as that.
The bottom line is, I feel like people don’t like it when you’re happy. They don’t like it when you’re healthy. In the last few years, the more things I gained, the less friends I had. When I exchanged my food stamp card for an American Express card, people started backing off. And the more I gained, the more some of my so-called friends asked me for.
There’s a line from a song by Adele, “Next time I’ll be braver, I’ll be my own savior.” To me there has never been truer words.
So now I’m no longer homeless, my health is much better, I’m a service connected veteran and I finally have work I love. I have a plan now for the rest of my life. It includes beautiful places, beautiful food and beautiful people. I’ve had enough ugly.