“Where am I?” I thought, cracking one eyelid open in a battle against the rays of the morning sun and the dulling effects of a long sleepless night. The singular leather jacket substituting for a blanket reeked of smoke and was hardly keeping me warm enough in the brisk air. I sat up on the hard cement roof and struggled to make sense of my surroundings. My back ached and I repositioned myself against my over-sized canvas luggage. Within moments, I recalled the events of the previous night.
Jackie and I had gone out to celebrate our recent victory, but mostly to forget about the stress that was behind us. We ended up at a dance club in Tokyo mingling with the darlings of the moment –two sumo wrestlers and Denzel Washington. In the meantime, Pueblo models had received a phone call from a friend of mine in the U.S. asking when I was scheduled to arrive home. Somehow in the shuffle, I had not filled her in on the plan I had hatched to stay there while my stateside agent found me a new agent in Taipei. After much back and forth, the agency realized that I had not departed Japan as I had led them to believe and was in fact still there. This whole exchange only became apparent when after returning to the apartment, I quickly realized they were waiting outside the complex for our return. I immediately hid in a stairwell while Jackie distracted them enough to get in the apartment and hide my luggage on the balcony. They were determined to inspect the apartment for any sign that I was still there. Who knows what their intentions were beyond that; after learning of the Mafia’s involvement with modeling agencies in Milan, I wasn’t about to find out.
I spent that night hiding on the roof of the 5-story complex, shivering in the cold and contemplating the lack of greater meaning in my life while gazing up at the open star-filled sky. I didn’t know where else to turn, and I had very little cash. Jackie was scared and didn’t want to draw any attention to herself and so I was alone. For one night of my life, I experienced what it might be like to be homeless, uncertain of what the very next hour ahead held, fearing for my safety, cold and hungry, feeling alone and intoxicated. It was messy and ugly. My life was a facade. Closer examination exposed the cracks and flaws of this glamorous and empty lie. Partying with movie stars and mobsters one moment, meeting with some of the biggest clients in town the next, then sleeping on a roof top. Add to that the sheer pressure of daily physical critique and rejection based on nothing of substance and it was enough to push an emotionally undeveloped 18 year old over the edge. The built in expectation to look and play a part that didn’t align with my upbringing or me as a real human being caused me to question my integrity and sense of self-worth daily. Undue attention from shallow bystanders built a paper-thin sense of pride and invincibility that was routinely shattered with a single blow. There was no sense to be made of it. I was not cut out for this type of dissection and didn’t want to subject myself to it any longer.
Image courtesy Sam Pac
I looked down from the rooftop upon the warmth of the family homes around me. They represented the stability and comfort that I longed for. In the quiet calm of that night, I began to find myself again. As I waited for the sun to fully rise, I determined to call my mother to help me get out of there immediately, regardless of my agent’s efforts. For the first time in a long while, I felt within myself a desire to pray for help, to seek that which would bring real peace and happiness. While I had chosen for several years to ignore and even run away from those persistent and deep spiritual yearnings, they could not be denied or forgotten. In my darkest days and most rebellious wanderings, I knew with certainty that the Mormon faith in which I was raised was true; I had personal confirmation of this on more than one occasion. Yet, I wanted it to vanish and to believe that it wasn’t important, that I could live the boundary-less life I wanted without repercussion, conscience, or worry. I was determined to carve out my own path, to prove to myself and the world that there was a better and easier way. But the tender mercies of the Lord are upon us all, and despite my naive and foolish ways, angels tread where others would not.