I’ve been on this earth for almost twenty-one years, and throughout that time, I’ve learned a few things. For one, twenty is a weird age to be. You’re definitely no longer a child, but you don’t have enough life experience to consider yourself an adult. You understand heartbreak and (maybe) taxes, but things like paying bills and healthcare still have a big question mark. Oh, and you learn that growing is painful.
Life is so funny in the way it tricks you. The minute you think you have it all figured out, a new obstacle or adversity throws itself into your way. I’ve definitely had so many of these “a-ha” moments throughout my life, only to realize my vision was clouded by innocence and even ignorance. It took me many years to learn one singular important lesson: just because you’re a good person and you do good things, it doesn’t mean life will treat you any more fairly or kindly. We’ll all go through terrible things, and playing a martyr won’t make anything easier. All you can really do is roll with it and accept the reality that you are given.
I spent most of my life believing I was weird, different, unlikeable, and unlovable. In fact, I didn’t let that raw outer shell melt away until my senior year of college. It was a slow, gradual process, and it felt like I was shedding pounds of anger with every year I grew. Regardless of what my public school peers actually thought of me, I was absolutely convinced everybody thought they were better, smarter, and prettier than me. I was certain I would be everybody’s second choice, at best, and there was nothing I could do about that. I spent so much time wrestling in emotional anguish over what other people thought of me; did they think I was cool enough? Was I smart enough? Was I lovable enough? Was I, isolated, enough?
Coming from a loving, strong, mother, but a detached brother and father, I struggled with male-centric attachment issues throughout my life. I always knew I loved women from the day I even understood what love was, but my constant need to fill that male role (and my fear of judgment) prevented me from reaching that goal for almost twenty years. When I finally let myself accept the fact that I could love a woman just as much as I love a man (if not even more, if I’m being honest), those pounds of fear and resistance slowly began to break away from me.
One of the worst pains I ever felt in my life was the day I decided to cut off all communication with my biological father. For years, the sadness and unease I felt surrounding our relationship plagued me from ever standing up for myself and what was best for my health. It would have been so much easier for me if he was completely and totally catastrophic; I think I would have had such an easier time pausing that relationship in my life if the pain was black and white. Unfortunately, even though the bad outweighed the good, a few happy memories and sensitive spots still lingered (and continue) to linger in my heart. One of the hardest things a person has to do is mourn the loss of a relationship, particularly with a parent who causes emotional and verbal harm. No matter how much you love a person and wish they could change, some things are just out of your control. I grew up about a thousand years that day, and even though I still sob into my pillow for feeling like “the worst daughter ever,” I still accept that this was I step I needed to take to protect my health and my well-being. If he died tomorrow, what would I do with myself? Would I regret ending this relationship? Would it be my fault? These are the questions I am still grappling with as I go through my own adult growing pains.
Anyway, this isn’t supposed to be dingy and sad, so let’s switch topics. Let’s talk about the beauty of growing pains and going through dark times.
I hated college for the first two or so years. I was very much still in my Me-Against-The-World mindset, and grew constantly paranoid of the laughing, happy students around me. I was absolutely convinced that everybody hated me; even the people I’d never spoken to in my life. I learned something very interesting this year: most people genuinely don’t even have a fleeting opinion. Secondly, the people who I judged and decided were just “bitches” ended up being the nicest darned people I’ve ever met in my life. And, most of the time, they were more scared of me– the ultimate resting-bitch-faced boss lady of Lasell. It’s kind of an embarrassing realization to come to, but also a very hilarious one. There are so many people I’m now best friends with that I never imagined would give me the light of day before. And it’s not because they changed- it’s because I’ve changed.
I’ve definitely noticed a positive shift within myself this past year. Funnily enough, I didn’t even notice it happening- but other people did. “You’re so much more confident now,” my friends are saying to me. And I truly am. Like I said, it was such a gradual internal change within myself, I didn’t even actively notice it happening. That’s a huge thing I’ve learned about gaining confidence: you can’t just will yourself to be happier and then wake up the next morning feeling like a new person. It takes time and effort, and of course, it takes growing pains. But now that I’ve reached such a state of comfortability and gratitude for who I truly am, it’s almost like I don’t even have to put in the work anymore. I just live my life the way I want to live it, and the rest follows in suit.