Monday, May 18, 2009

City Life

Sometimes, There’s No Place Like Home
By Thomas Ford

We’ve all heard the story of the “good girl” gone “bad” — the girl who starts off polite and kind and takes a sharp turn for the worse, becoming reckless and irresponsible. But seldom do we hear the story of the good girl gone bad gone good or in simpler terms, Chrissy Galifianakis.

From a very young age, Galifianakis was extremely headstrong. She, unlike many of her peers at her private school in Jamaica, Queens, entertained responsibilities that even most adults would find daunting. On top of the piles of homework her honors classes forced her to complete, Galifianakis performed the daily routines of a stereotypical housewife in her early teens. She cooked daily meals for her family, maintained the condition of the house, did laundry and any other activities her parents might ask her to do.

While this may seem like chores any young person would be obligated to do, Galifianakis was taking the full brunt of these obligations because there was no allowance and she couldn’t shift these duties with her younger brother. She was, essentially, acting as the mother and father of the household. She jokes, “I cooked and cleaned like a slave!” Yet, the motivations for her unstinting willingness to take care of people; people much older than she, were far from humorous.

Galifianakis’ mother, Helen, suffers from multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system and is often disabling, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Galifianakis cared for her mother in all ways that she could, whether it was helping to bathe her or pushing her wheelchair. Seeing her mother’s slowly debilitating health inspired Galifianakis to do something to help ill people. She wanted to become a doctor.

However, her father, John Galifianakis, had other plans for her. Bitter from an accident at work that ultimately limited his mobility, John Galifianakis thought that his daughter should stay at home and not go to college. A very strict man who values Greek traditions, John Galifianakis sees Chrissy marrying a Greek man and doesn’t like it when she brings home friends home of other races. “I am not very close with my father,” admits Galifianakis.

With what most would consider burdens, it is no wonder Galifianakis was ready to escape her daily life of taking full care of a mother she loved and dealing with her father who simply did not understand her or believe in her. So, despite her father’s reservations, Galifianakis attended Marymount Manhattan College in Manhattan. Unfortunately, along with escaping her old life and leaping head first into a new one, she lost her better judgment, and the phase of the so-called ‘bad girl’ ensued.

With Manhattan at her disposal, Galifianakis wanted to venture into a new quadrant of life that she hadn’t explored. What was it like to be a kid? To be a teenager? What was it like to do the things kids, teenagers, and young adults do that she had missed out on?

She would soon find out.

Galifianakis began partying on weekends and her roommates encouraged a habit of staying out all night, which she did. Classes slowly became less important to her and alcohol slowly became more of a focus. As partying began to completely consume her weekends, so did her consumption of alcohol and interests in using other substances.

She laughs, “I had a Lindsay Lohan month.”

The worst of the month came when she was nearly evicted from college housing. This moment, along with friends outside of her partying circle intervening during this phase, forced Galifianakis to realize that she needed to regroup, to get back on her feet and do exactly what she came to Manhattan to do.

Achieng Radier, a close friend of Galifianakis, was present throughout the good and the bad times. “I told her she needed to change. She had a new best friend every week for a month,” says Radier. “I wanted her to realize that these people were damaging her life, not helping it.”

With the support of her old friends who actually cared about her and the image of her mother driving her to be successful, Galifianakis buckled down and slowly returned to being the joyful, light-hearted, gregarious person many had grown to love. She rid herself of anything that would negatively affect her body and her mind and began working diligently in school again.

Galifianakis also returned home intermittently to help her parents. However, this time, she would do even more than she did before. In addition to cooking and cleaning, she helped her parents organize and pay bills, patched her father’s jeans, and even managed the gardens outside the house.

Galifianakis was back to helping people and doing what she always wanted to do. It seems as if her days of continual partying at gay clubs and neglecting everything that was important to her are coming to end. Says Galifianakis, “I want to help people, and we need doctors!”

No comments: