I used to be that girl who stood out in the crowd; intelligent, artistic, creative, reasonable, logical, ambitious, hardworking, caring, loving, and beautiful, with a set of high moral standards, wonderful friends, self-respect and pride… despite some (possibly unreasonable but definitely inevitable) insecurities. Then there was this wonderful, wild, whirlwind journey of adolescence. I became more corrupted and sinful by the second. Alcohol, drugs, parties, sex, “popularity” (whatever that even means)… they all seemed so innocent. I was just having fun, just a teenager in my experimental phase, everyone was bound to do it or go through it at some point before adulthood (or so I thought).
I was good at it for awhile; living a double life. I kept my grades up, stayed near the top of the class, I stayed involved with all my extra-curriculars: multiple sports teams, choir, dance, etc. I had respect and admiration from my peers, teachers and family. Now I’m here. For a long time I had trouble bridging the gap. But somewhere along the way, I started losing grip. A very, very long time ago. I realized I was lost and somehow, I dug deeper. And deeper. And deeper.
I was blind. I had no idea how much I was changing, how far I was straying away from myself or, if I did, I was so far in denial that I wouldn’t admit it to myself. I tried to be the best of both worlds. The best student and the hardest partier. The most desired by men and the best friend of every girl. A person for my peers to talk to, a good friend to everyone, a role model, the most respected, the most accomplished. I wanted to work lots of hours so I could have the most money to get ahead, to a better life someday and I wanted to be the most generous, so I shared my money (or the things I bought with my money) with all my friends. The list of contradictory wishes goes on and on. Somehow, I had all these great dreams and good intentions, yet they presented themselves so poorly. My goals entirely undermined each other. I just couldn’t see it.
Early on, without realizing it consciously, I couldn’t handle everything; I couldn’t keep all my ducks in a row with the exceedingly high goals and standards I put out for myself. So I denied it to myself and put on a good face for everyone(really it was for me). I took caffeine pills to finish my schoolwork, I lost copious amounts of sleep and made several other poor decisions for my health (physical and mental/emotional). Once and awhile, someone close to me would protest, but I refused to listen. I lost a couple of my greatest girlfriends from my stubbornness. I thought they were just jealous, or they were holding me back because they wanted me to stay close to them and not grow or meet new people or have new experiences (whatever I could come up with). I thought they were holding me back for their sake or with irrational fears that were ludicrous. I couldn’t see their wisdom. I wouldn’t. My mother tried numerous times to make me see that I had fallen away from myself; off my path. I don’t know how many times she told me I needed to choose between being “the party girl” and being …(whatever else she called it… a responsible, beautiful human being that I had the potential to be?) “the good girl” (… we’ll call it?). Every time, my response was… “I can do both”. Oh how wrong I was.
I have to give myself some credit where credit is due. I kept up a really good face, for a really, really, admirably long time. YEARS (almost 10 to be precise). I had my heart crushed numerous times, each time trying to pretend that I wasn’t hurt. I tried to give people advice so they could be their happiest; trying to get people to open up to each other when I knew they liked each other, even when I liked one of them. I completely denied my emotions any validity or importance or respect. It would always backfire though. I would get stressed, lonely, overtired, overworked, or sad and I would blow off steam in the worst ways possible. Generally by getting highly intoxicated to the point where I blacked out. Which was a fantastic solution (sarcasm, in case you didn’t already notice). I probably lost more friends over things I did that I don’t remember than things I do. The number of phone calls that consisted of me sobbing to my girlfriends as they informed me of what I had done the night before is actually a little bit humourous (in hindsight, now that I’m coming to terms with it all). And then something switched.
I decided that if I kept acting this way, then maybe that was who I was: that maybe I should embrace it. I made it one big joke. I treated it like a game at times; a game I had mastered. I continued to stumble through life. I stood tall and strong, I smiled and put on a good face. I was still successful at many things, in the eyes of many people (although I knew I wasn’t living up to my full potential in many ways). I had trouble focusing at times, I had break downs, or panic attacks or I would lie awake for hours crying. But no one really saw that.
A friend might see me cry once or twice but generally it was always someone different each time. This meant that I kept up a good face. No one really knew I was unhappy. In fact, I hardly did. I thought I was just stressed or lonely or it was an isolated incident or it was just because of “this” that happened today or “that” that happened yesterday. I mean how could I be sad when I have so many good things in my life? When I had so many wonderful, beautiful (internally… and externally as well) people in my life (even if they walked in and out)? When I had so much going for me? When I was talented at so many things?
But my mother… she saw right through me. Just how mothers do. I can only hope that I will know my own daughter so well someday. She knew something was up, but she couldn’t reach me. I wouldn’t let her in. I wasn’t ready to face myself. Not yet. So I dug myself deeper. And deeper. And deeper.
I let my parents watch me in pain and I fell further and further away from myself. I can only imagine what my future children have in store for me. Gosh, that’s a scary thought. But for everything I put them through, no matter how rude or disobedient I was, they never stopped loving me. They tried to support me as best as they could. They gave up so much time and energy trying to drive me here and there or fight with me about poor decisions I made. They tried to get me to see the light and I refused to open the blinds, time after time. You’d think they were glued shut or something.
I went off to university; racked up a ton of debt, barely made it through my first year, found love, couldn’t hold a job, dropped out. It was like a spiral and I was getting closer and closer to the middle; the poor choices and negative relationship patterns (with work, friends, and boys) became more and more frequent. I thought I reached rock bottom multiple times. I leaned on my friends and family like my state had no affect on them whatsoever. I lost more people close to me along the way because they couldn’t take it and I watched others around me wear thin. I got to the point where I’d lost almost everything.
My family didn’t know how to deal with me anymore so we’d grown miles apart. I’d lost touch with most of my friends. I had no phone. I lived alone. I was single again. I couldn’t afford to look after my cat so someone close to me took her in. I had no money. I could hardly afford food. I had enough food to live on, but not enough for a healthy diet. I had to man up, smarten up and grow up and I knew it.
So I landed a job, just in time. It was a Godsend. I decided that I had to make it work. So I did. Things started improve slowly. I excelled in my job. I had money. I got another pet. I paid off my debt. I mended my relationship with my family. I moved home. I mended a couple of my friendships with those that were generous enough to let me back in. I made new friends. I got healthier. I went back to school. I continued to work. I moved back out.
Then the pressure started coming back and so did my bad habits. Procrastination. Unresolved issues from years before. Actions and feelings of my own that I don’t understand or want to deal with. The destructive habits never really went away. There was just a period there where they weren’t really interfering. But now they are.
It’s puzzling really… I have all these opportunities and resources for change, every second, every hour… yet I remain. I have a great skill set, good genes, a good life with wonderful, supportive people in it… yet I remain. I cling and hold on to my bad habits like they are my lifeline, despite my confidence that these habits don’t serve me well… I know it whole-heartedly. I know I can do without them because I used to thrive in their absence… yet I remain. I procrastinate. I put off schoolwork. I avoid the people that will protest my behavior (classmates and teachers mainly) or tell friends and family half-truths so they see that I am doing just fine.
When I realized that, I realized I need to stop. I need to stop beating myself up. I need to stop being so ashamed of my past. I need to stop being so embarrassed by myself. I need to stop holding on to my pain. I need to let it go. My denial of self, my pain, my guilt, my suffering; no one is benefitting from it. I need to let go of it all.
I need to respect myself again. I need to love myself. I need to realize that I always had good intentions, despite the terrible outcomes of many of them. I need to let myself be happy, be loved and be me. Somewhere along the way I lost my pride and self-respect without even realizing it. My optimism seemed to chip away with it. But I deserve to have those things despite the mistakes I’ve made and the people I’ve hurt. I can be all of those things I once was; intelligent, artistic, creative, reasonable, logical, ambitious, hardworking, caring, loving, and beautiful, with a set of high moral standards, wonderful friends, self-respect and pride. Except this time I can be more confident, experienced, compassionate, curious, open and wise because of everything I have endured. I think I’ve found that little girl I once was. I need to love her and nourish her. She will show me direction, what will bring me happiness and who I am supposed to be. She will show me… well… me.