This is about who I am, how I learned who I am, and why this process is necessary to know to find love and be ultimately happy in life.
This last year has changed my life in ways I cannot even measure. My whole life, I’d been doing as many things as I could do whenever I could do them. I’ve always been unfocused, but exposing myself to every facet of the world that I could. The problem is I began pushing aside my feelings to satisfy people that only ever hurt me in the end. A lot of times, I found myself trying to moderate situations by reacting to how others react instead of how I feel. I used to have my limits, but I started blurring those lines to feel accepted. That was leading up to this last year. It wasn’t until someone addressed the fact that I was in an abusive relationship just to keep up my grades that I realized something had gone terribly wrong in the last few years.
Taking on exuberant amounts of responsibility is nothing new to me. Ever since I was 14, I had to overcome my own personal health problems to look after my family. The same month I went to the hospital for complications due to malnutrition and weight loss, my mom was flown to Duke to have removed a newly-discovered brain tumor. My dad kind of lost it, and he’s never been the same since. I had to fill my mom’s role and take care of my little brother despite being in recovery myself. I had to answer questions without actually answering them, like letting people know everything was alright with my family without having to explain “My mom has brain cancer, my dad’s drinking too much, I’m too young to drive but I’ll find a way to get my 9-year-old brother to school.” To this day, discussing my mom’s health or my dad’s behavior even within the family is complete taboo. It’s like this one fact of life we all try to forget exists.
It was this part in my life that things suddenly weren’t so fun anymore. I didn’t feel like a kid. I lost my ability to imagine a perfectly happy world. I became extremely depressed, but I absolutely could not let on to it. Not with my family’s situation. This is when I started putting others far before me, moderating how they feel, and closing in my own feelings. It was a necessity in my home life at the time, but it became a habit that I still carry and still battle with every day. My brother doesn’t feel what I feel because he was too young to remember everything I did, and I kept him sheltered. I was the one in the family my small private school went to. I was the one who was called to the office to arrange his rides. To this day, he remains oblivious to the things I’ve done for him, but I’m not looking for reconciliation. In fact, he’s lived with me in Cleveland for the last two years. I’m still taking care of him. The last 8 years have hardly changed.
I don’t want to go into all the complications I’ve had during my schooling years, but basically I work really hard and have a tendency to let people hurt me – emotionally and physically – without questioning my own sanity. I just accept it as a part of life. Well, I used to.
Ever since being in an abusive relationship last year, I’ve had trouble trusting people. I’ve withdrawn and begun picking myself apart, trying to figure out where I went wrong. Why am I so desperate to please people? What are my standards? Where do I draw the line?
I feel like I am not the only woman asking myself these questions. Why are there so many domestic abuse cases? Why do some women dress so promiscuously? Why are we so pressured to find our soul mates, then go out to find them in all the wrong ways?
Here is what I’ve decided:
If I lower my standards and accept someone who doesn’t treat me the way I should be treated, then that’s exactly what I will get. If I think it’s okay to do all the work in a relationship, then that’s all I’m ever going to be doing. If I let a man dictate how I feel, then I will always be miserable. I don’t want that. I’ve been putting up with it long enough, and it’s time to appreciate who I am and where I’ve come from.
I don’t need to be full of myself by any means, but I acknowledge that I am not an ordinary person. We all have things that make us individuals, and, as women, we need to cling on to that power. Me, I work hard at school, I have a great resume, I get involved in projects, I study what I study because I want to make a difference, I do what I do because I love it. Any person who cannot understand that is not someone I should trouble myself with. If a guy cannot appreciate how hard I work, then he’ll always take me for granted. On the other hand, if I seem so unattainable to a guy because of the standards I set for myself and he doesn’t have the courage to approach me, then he won’t go that extra distance I need him to go for me.
As women, we need to stop molding ourselves to please people in our relationships. We need to be ourselves, live our lives, know who we are and what we want, and the chips will fall as they may. Would you rather be in a so-so relationship for the rest of your life while treading on eggshells the whole time? Or remaining potentially single but doing everything you dreamed of?
I love traveling. I love hiking and camping. I love art and photography and reading and writing. I love learning. I love helping animals and people. I love the environment and taking the time to make eco-friendly decisions. I love doing things and exposing myself to what the world is really like. I love living!! If a guy can’t appreciate those simple things, then how could we ever be reasonably compatible?
I hope I never subject myself to an unhealthy relationship ever again.