I remember when I turned 18 and someone said, “Congratulations! You’re officially an adult!”
The day I was moving out from home and into my dorm on campus, my dad cried and I assured him that everything would be just fine. I would work hard, do well, and still be his goody-two-shoes.
But I wasn’t going to work hard, I wasn’t going to make good decisions, and I was by no means an adult.
Easily distracted, caught up in the novelty, and I had no idea what to do with all my freedom.
> Second semester freshman year: I could barely remember what classes I was even in. I was in my very first relationship–if you could even call it that. He could’ve replaced me with a sock and not known the difference. But he threw in enough “but you know how much I love you”s to fool me.
> First week of sophomore year: I was hit for the first time in my life.
> Second week of sophomore year: I said no and I “learned” that I didn’t have a choice.
> Second semester sophomore year: I was in same place with the same guy. Going through the same motions. Completely dissociated from the self that I once knew, hating the girl that I’d become.
I spent 18 years constructing an optimistic, hyper-empathetic, (outwardly?) confident, knowledge-hungry, comfortably nerdy self. I probably thought I was smarter than I really was. But I had good intentions, lots of ambition, and no doubts about my capabilities. I was a good friend, a good student, and I tried my best to be a good daughter. And I flushed that girl down the drain in a matter of months.
I wasn’t making good grades. I didn’t have friends. I had been crying myself to sleep every day for over a year and I woke up each morning, bitter, mean, and sore. My life was a chore. I hated myself, I was embarrassed of my decisions, and I was scared of change. I was scared to start over because it would mean that I was admitting to myself, officially, that I was in something miserable that I needed to walk away from. Who sticks with something so miserable for over a year? I just told myself that it could be worse.
As someone who considered her greatest asset and source of pride to be her mind, it was just too much to accept. How does a rational, intelligent human being allow this to “just happen”? Maybe I wasn’t so smart after all… And that thought opened a whole new can of worms.
If I wasn’t the pretty one and I wasn’t the smart one, then what was I? My worldview was a lot more black and white at the time so the answer was “nothing”.
And that’s when I just went complacent. I just let life walk all over me. Who was I to stop it? Nobody. Nothing. I felt so utterly worthless. I felt like on some level I deserved to be miserable. Maybe I wasn’t such a nice person either, maybe I had it coming. So I wasted yet another year of my life.
> Junior year summer: He graduated and moved away, but still called regularly to make sure that I hadn’t moved on so that I was still available on his free long weekends. I was months away from excavating the hate I harbored for him. The self-loathing managed to cloud that. I was also many months away from flushing him out of my life for good.
> Today: I am finally comfortable sharing this story–this is kind of a transitional moment for me. I am not totally free of my past and I won’t deny that I’m fragile in certain respects. But I’m back, and I am my own person, and I am the pre-college me that felt like the only thing ever standing in my way was myself. I know I’m not dumb, though very much still naive. I have been betrayed, I have felt broken, and I have had my patience tried constantly. But I am still resilient. I haven’t lost my faith in the goodness of people and I still trust until I’m proven stupid.
I know when to walk away but I do not give up easily. I still love with all I’ve got–for better or worse–and I’m comfortable with that. I have amazing girlfriends who are always there to cushion the blows.
For the time being, I can just focus on my family, my education and myself. Me, me, me. I’m a little late with the whole growing up thing, but better late than never. And this time, I won’t try and rush the process. And I won’t settle for just anything that life throws my way. I will hereby be selective.
It took me 23 years to learn something that a cell knows to do instinctively. It took me 23 years to learn how to say no. NICE.
Sometimes I’m not even sure how I’m still alive. But in any case, I’m pretty excited for the next phase in my life. Stay tuned, friends.