I used to live in a world of black and white, but now I live in a world of grey. I am the product of many years of maturity, growth and life experiences. Today, I see things very differently. I’m not the naive little girl that once lived in the protected bubble my parents created. Looking back now I see that it was more like a kingdom that they alone ruled and controlled. The years I lived in their care were some of the best memories of my life. We were always sheltered away from the realities of the world. I never knew the depths of depravity that ran rampant right outside our front door. I was unaware of the real life nightmares others around me were living. I thought my upbringing was how everyone was brought up and in my ignorance I judged others from the high pedestal I had been placed on. I thought we were the lucky ones who knew the truth, but it turns out that they all knew better than all of us. Now I see that the world isn’t as simple as my parents made it out to be. Sometimes the “monsters” aren’t the creatures lurking in closet or the boogeyman underneath our beds. Truth is, oftentimes the monsters are those we love most and call, “friend”. Sometimes the ultimate enemy isn’t something or someone attacking us, but instead, the cancer of self-destruction that lies dormant inside ourselves. I was taught to put all my faith and trust into my parents hands, and by doing so, I became emotionally paralyzed and incapable of doing anything for myself. Everything was always done for me and decided for me. My father provided financially and my mother stayed home and raised us. He met our physical needs, while my mother tended to our emotional. Being little girls, I don’t think they realized just how great the effect our father’s lack of presence would have in our lives. Since our relationship with him suffered all along, so did we.
I was taught to never trust anyone else but my immediate family and make my decisions based on doubt and anxiety. I was never allowed to venture outside my parents overly- protective reach, and in time our home began to feel more like a prison instead of the fantasy castle we once believed it to be. In time, the walls that once protected us, would become nothing more than impenetrable barriers we could never be free from. Although meaning well, my parents suffocated me and had me living like a drone, subjected to a way of life and thinking they thought was best for me. Anytime I challenged that notion or their stance in anyway, there were consequences. Sometimes those consequences were far to harsh for a young girl of my age. Really, I don’t remember living a day without fear of judgment or not feeling under pressure. Many times I felt my existence was to better and protect the existence of my sisters, and others around me. I was the “guinea pig” and the “black sheep” since birth. Dubbed my parents “love child” only to be referred to as, “the problem child” in latter years. I would come to pave the way for my sisters, but it would cost me plenty of psychological damage, physical bruises and emotional scars that would follow me for the rest of my life. My sisters only know so much, and then their memory grows weary. It’s possible they may have even forgotten how bad it got, but I never did. Sometimes I can visually imagine that “road I paved for them” solely made up of my blood, my sweat and bitter tears. Even now, I don’t believe that they understand how traumatizing it was to be me growing up, especially being a sensitive, people pleaser like I am. I’m not trying to paint myself as some sort of scapegoat or victim, but if you’re going by the actual definition of those names, and all of my countless years of therapy I had listening to a professional pick me apart and diagnose me, than those labels were exactly what I was. Naturally, I’d become super defensive and want to rationalize all the bad. I didn’t want to believe the reality of what I’d experienced and I was in denial of it for a very long time. In many ways I still think some of my family is in somewhat denial of it or they want to play it down. I’ve accepted that they will never understand it as I do, and really, I don’t want them to. As much I gained by fighting my way out and breaking free, I still remained a prisoner to the mentality I was raised in. And so began the arduous struggle between my truth, and that of my families.
I know I was close minded for a very long time, shut off and far removed from everything and everyone. I lived, thought, breathed, reacted, processed and loved in constant fear. I knew I was loved, but I was never shown it in the ways I so desperately needed in order to feel it. I never felt quite right in my own skin, and I remember the many days I dreamt of eventually becoming someone else.
I know that as a child, I thought that puberty not only changed your physical man, but also your inner man. Somehow I thought that one day I’d wake up as someone else with a different filter of emotions and mentality, but that never happened. Puberty came and went, but I was still the same old me. Only difference was, I became more and more aware of my inability to be what others wanted me to be. I would struggle my whole life to meet their expectations, but in their eyes, I would continue to fail miserably. I sometimes look back on my decisions and wonder how many were really mine, and how many were done for the sake of “keeping the peace” or as an act of pure rebellion. I guess I’ll never know and it really makes no difference now, since the past has come and gone. But the pain has changed me and molded me into a different person. I see the world through knowledgeable and understanding eyes. I feel and follow my heart and emotions more than I do my head these days. I have grown so much in the last few years and learned to separate the image others have of me, from the actuality of who I am. I’m not a robot that can be controlled and set aside when they’ve grown tired of me. I have cried enough tears for those that have claimed to love me. It’s time I dried my own eyes and lived for myself, and so I have. I’m no longer seeking the conditional love and approval of others.
Some of you have irrevocably damaged me, and gone about life as if it never happened, checking on me every so often, to help you sleep better at night. Although forgiven, I have not forgotten your heartless acts and I will never allow myself to be hurt by you in those ways ever again. If you burned me, just know I burned that bridge that united us when you betrayed me. If you destroyed me once, I promised myself to never let you have that chance to do that to me again. My mantra has become a “take me as I am” philosophy in regards to my life. If you don’t like it, keep it moving. I’m done begging, chasing, and holding onto people that only want to stray. As Robert Frost one said,
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
See, the thing is, you don’t have to like me, agree with me or condone my actions, decisions and behaviors. You don’t have to like who I am friends with or who I chose to date. You don’t have to tell me what you “feel” is right or wrong, or tell me how I should live my life. You’re sole purpose in my life is to love me in spite of everything I am and everything I’m not. You’re role is to encourage, uplift and try to understand. If I haven’t asked you for your opinion or thoughts, than honestly I couldn’t care less what you have to say. As much as I have tirelessly loved so many of you, I have reached my breaking point and I am at the end of my rope. I cannot do for you, fix you, make you happy, or be the person you want me to be anymore. I was a victim of my past, but now I’ve found my voice. I am more than my mistakes and what has been done to me. I am more than just a mother, a sister, daughter, aunt, niece, granddaughter or friend. I am an entity all my own and if you want to be a part of my life, it’s gonna have to be on my terms. I’m not censoring, filtering, or watering down any part of myself to accommodate anyone else. If you love me like you “claim to” love me then this decision will make no difference to you. I’m so fed up with being condemned and questioned. I’ve changed in recent years and I am not following suit like I used to. Others say they are overwhelmed with trying to keep tabs on me and feel helpless, but guess what? I’ve lived in that feeling for over 3 decades. Some of you can’t take this small portion of rebellion in the last 3 years! I have spent my entire life, saving others and always being there for them. I had a good run but now the emotions are too great to be bottled and my wings are too big to be held down. It took what felt like an eternity, but now I see that I am actually free. I know now that there is so much that I’m still getting wrong, but along the bumps in the road there are some fundamental truths, I’ve gotten right. And maybe that’s really what life is all about? Carving out your own path along the many that surround you. Maybe life is about taking chances and making mistakes while learning to stand on your own two feet. Either way, I believe we all come to that moment in life where we stand facing the fork in the road, and have to choose which road to take. Even with all the pain and loss I have felt, I can be honest and say that I wouldn’t do it any different. I wouldn’t take it back or erase on of my experiences, good or bad. Maybe you’re right when you say I’m nothing like the girl I used to be. Maybe change hurts but with it comes growth. Today, I choose to believe that all of that black and white throughout the course of my life, helped to soften me to reflect a lighter shade of grey.