There’s something to be said about one’s past. It defines the future, molds the present, and creates character. We all have these fading memories of what has made us who we are today. We carry the good and the bad with us like baggage into the next part of our life. Worried, anxious, fearful that those who finally open up the bags will see us for who we are. Worried that those who see us, who truly know us, won’t like us. So many of us try to avoid the past, thinking that maybe if we drag our bags on a long enough chain and try to throw a blanket over them, no one will see the pile that lies there. No one will know what we carry. But that’s not the truth is it? Someone will see. Someone will always think to look into that bag and discover your deepest, darkest secrets. As a whole, we all flinch away from the outcome, knowing that it will never be good. The person with that baggage will never be seen in the same light as they were before. It’s funny though, what happens when you take off the rose colored glasses. What happens when you see that someone isn’t who you thought they were… What you feel when you realize that your baggage isn’t really baggage after all, but rather building blocks that can take you to where you need to be if you think to stop dragging them, and start stacking them instead…
Today is my day to start stacking. So, while I’m sitting here watching Boy Meets World, talking to my closest friends, and reflecting back on my life and to what has brought me here, in this moment, I realize that the past I’m carrying isn’t really all that scary. Instead, the past I’m carrying has become my strength that I needed to take myself out of a situation I didn’t want to be in. It’s finally given me the strength I needed to say “NO. I DON’T want this.” It’s amazing what a few tidbits of memory and the lessons learned can do for your present and your future…
When I was 16 I had my first “boyfriend”. In reality, he was a complete and total jerk. He treated me like crap, had no respect for me, and walked all over me every chance he could. He made me feel inferior. I had no self confidence. No self worth. In short, he was horrible, emotionally abusive, and controlling. I was nothing but a blooming flower getting caught in the destructive storm that was him. In the end, he ended up ignoring me. He stopped talking to me. Never called me. Completely dropped off the face of the planet for a full month. I didn’t hear from him until 6 years later… This was my first experience with love.
I’ve had a few boyfriends along the way. Many who were controlling. Some who were mentally and emotionally abusive. A couple who were great people, but horrible boyfriends who were emotionally incapacitated. And a very select few who were actually good to me, but just weren’t the right fit. Imagine me, as a girl whose first relationship was the disaster above, trying to navigate this. I ran away, a lot. More worried that these boys would strike out at me in some way, shape, or form if I told them the truth. I shrank into myself, fearful that if I said something wrong, I’d be called an idiot and “put in my place.” There was even a time when I just broke up with good young men and just ran for cover, thinking that I just didn’t have any kind of feelings for them, when in reality, it may have been my insane fear of saying “no” that drove me to date them in the first place. Believe me when I say that my fear of saying no is for a good reason and is rational. It’s been a work in progress for many years to get over the trauma that caused this fear in me.
In many ways I was so starved for attention. Starved for someone to actually see me. Look at me. Find out who I am and accept me for everything that I am. That I still am. I’m still starved. Even to this day, I can feel myself searching, looking, and praying that one day this will all be worth it. One day I’ll finally find someone who actually wants to spend time getting to know me and who will love me for all of the good and bad things that I am. I’m not perfect. I don’t pretend to be, but I do wish that someone as imperfect as me could see the bandages, stitches, bruises, and patch ups on my heart and soul and still see the beauty in it. The most ironic part is that my wish came true. Someone did finally discover my ripped apart heart and soul and love me for it. It was never who I thought it would be though.
Saturday night I was out with my boyfriend and friends. He was being a complete jerk while drinking and I had had enough. I walked away. When he finally came after me, I was already in tears from embarrassment and emotional pain from the disrespect shown to me and my beliefs. We ended up fighting for hours that night until he literally fell asleep while I was trying to tell him how hurt I was. We fought the next morning too. Tried to talk it out for three hours and the only thing I learned about him was that somewhere along the way in our year long relationship, he stopped caring about me above himself. He became a man who valued himself above all others, would never say sorry, would never compromise, and most of all, would never feel any kind of emotional connection with me because he didn’t want to. I was asking too much from him, to want to talk about his day and things that were bothering him. I was asking too much from him to care enough to open up to me and respect me as an equal. I realized in those final three hours that this was not the relationship I wanted to be in for the rest of my life.
As soon as I heard all of this come pouring out of his mouth, I had made my decision. The things he said were so wrong and degrading. Like he didn’t care enough about me to even try to compromise on some of these things. He just fought me. Attacked me verbally like I was a little girl to be pushed over, walked on, and left for dead. I think it came as a surprise to both of us when the next words that came out of my mouth were, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m done.” I repeated it until he heard me. Said it over again until he understood that I was leaving him. I packed up my things, picked up my bags, until he finally said, “Fine, I can see you really want to leave. So go.” and opened up the door for me, like he was shoving me out of his house. I walked out, trying to hold in my sobs until I could at least make it to the car. I got there, and I let it all out. I realized for a split second that I was alone again. Purely, utterly, alone.
I had no one to call. My friends are extremely limited because not only have I walked away from relationships, but I’ve walked away from controlling friendships who wouldn’t allow me to be myself. It was a miserable feeling, knowing that I was alone. I did, however, find one close acquaintance, told her I didn’t want to involve her, but that I had no one else to go to, and I just balled my eyes out. I told her everything. Within the next 20 minutes, I had stopped crying and had hung up the phone. My mind was clearing and I could finally, finally think logically again.
I had the next 40 minutes to spend thinking for myself and what came to mind honestly shocked me. I was PROUD. Proud of myself for not standing there and taking his yelling. Proud of myself for not staying quiet while he called me embarrassing and childish for walking away from him while he was being a jerk. I was proud that I SCREAMED at him because I wanted to. Because he wasn’t listening. Because he would never listen and I had to speak up in whatever way I could. I was proud that I ended it. I recognized that this relationship was no longer for me and that I had to get out now, or I would never do it. So I did it. I got out and I was, and still am, proud of myself for it.
You see, all of my past boyfriends, good and bad, have lead me to be a more confident person. Not only that, but the last time I was broken up with, I spent a year alone, trying to piece myself back together and figure out who I was without anyone trying to persuade me otherwise. I made myself strong. No one else did that. I did. My baggage was still being dragged on long chains and it seems that the longer you drag your scary baggage behind you, the heavier it gets. The stronger I got. Yesterday, I reeled all of my baggage in. I wanted to share it with him, but he wanted no part of it. He didn’t care enough to become emotionally attached. So instead of opening up my bags for him, I opened up my baggage of secrets for myself. I took everything that I had experienced, endured, and lived through and threw it at him and said “NO”. I walked away. I made the right decision.
My past enabled me to get to know myself on a level I never could. It’s become a part of me now that I’m proud of. I came home and I hugged my mother and told her that I was so thankful that she raised me to be a strong, independent woman, because she’s the one who stood by me for all those years of trial and error. All those years of building up my baggage. But the beauty of all of this is that I no longer have baggage. My past is still my past, and I still have secrets to keep, but am I dragging anything? Am I afraid of rejection? Am I fearful of sharing the “shameful” parts of myself? The answer is no, I’m not. If I hadn’t dealt with the abuse, negativity, emotional incapacity, and love the way I did, I never would have had the nerve to stand up for myself yesterday. And that is what life is about. That is why I’m here and why I’m so thankful that everything I have done in my life has caused me to be who I am today and I am PROUD of the woman I have become.
What I’m trying to say is, if there is anything I can pass on to all of you from my own experiences, it’s to stop shying away from your secrets and your baggage like it’s something to be ashamed of. IT’S NOT. Your past is a part of you. It’s your identity. EMBRACE it. LOVE it. Hug it tight and wear it like clothes. Do what you need to do to accept it, learn from it, and realize that you are an absolutely perfect person, past included. You are EXCEPTIONAL and you can never let anyone tell you otherwise. STAND UP for yourself and FIGHT for everything that you want and need in your life and never, EVER give up, because you deserve a lot better than what you give yourself credit for and you need to understand that you never needed someone to accept you in the first place.
You see, my lovely readers… the person who ended up loving me for my ripped apart heart and soul… was me…