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The Last Bright Spot in My Life

a promise I made to a father figure

By Morgan Rhianna BlandPublished 10 months ago 5 min read
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The Last Bright Spot in My Life
Photo by Giang Vu on Unsplash

Blink, blink. The cursor flashes as I stare at a blank screen of an essay I don’t want to write. Here I am, only hours away from a looming deadline, and panic sets in with every minute that ticks by. Still the words come about as easily as pulling teeth. Even that’s a generous comparison! When you have a tooth pulled, the pain lasts for a day or two, and then you don’t have to worry about feeling that kind of pain again.

This is a different kind of pain, the kind that can’t be fixed with medicine, the kind that won’t subside in a few days’ time. This prompt calls for “a sense of vulnerability and authenticity”, and those qualities died in me when my father died. I was barely 22 at the time, living with a rare disability, and suddenly tasked with supporting myself and a mother who lost her will to live when she lost her husband. Although I stretched the few resources I had as far as I could, it was never enough to make ends meet, so I did what I had to do to get the help we needed. That meant becoming inauthentic and invulnerable.

When someone else’s survival depends on you, you have to function no matter what the world throws at you. You can’t let yourself become too emotional to act or think rationally, so you learn to avoid anything that invites tears and unpleasant memories. That instinct never went away, not even nine years after my mother followed her husband to the grave. Unfortunately, this prompt does exactly that, so I won’t be writing about my father. Nor will I be writing about my grandfather, who stepped up from the time my father died until the time I disappointed him so much that he lost faith in me.

Make no mistake: this does not mean they were bad men. My job would’ve been a lot easier if they were because I handle anger better than sadness. If that were true, I could’ve typed up a long rant about how badly they wronged me with plenty of time to spare until the deadline, but that didn’t happen. Instead I sit here with just under four hours until the contest ends, agonizing over a prompt I hate. Why? Because giving up on this contest without trying would be breaking a promise to the only father figure I have left.

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I was already an adult with my identity set in stone when he came into my life. I was an obese, disabled, aroace, liberal, nonreligious woman living in a place where any one of those things would be stigmatized; all of them combined made me a pariah. I had none of the things that a woman in our society is supposed to have: no husband, no child, no driver’s license, no college degree, no real job, no money, and no connections. Someone who has fallen that far is not the type to capture attention - at least not in a positive way - but I did.

I’ll never forget the night I met him. It was in a crowded room on a hot summer night. I watched him mingle in the crowd, longing to talk to him but too shy to approach. Surrounded by an entourage, he turned around and by some miracle saw me. He crossed the room, leaving his entourage behind, and struck up a conversation with me. I was terrified the whole time! The more we talked, the more I revealed about myself. The more he knew about me, the more reason he had to judge. It was only a matter of time until he’d see how different and damaged I am and decide he wanted nothing to do with me… but that didn’t happen. For some reason I’ll never understand, he saw something worthwhile in me when I had nothing to offer him.

I walked away from that encounter with two realizations. One was just how much he reminded me of my father. I saw it in his intellect, his concern for others, and in the kindness he showed me despite my many undesirable qualities. The other was that he was the only man to offer me encouragement and acceptance since I lost my father, and I didn’t want that to be a one-time thing. I had a choice to make, I could either go back to the idle way of life I knew and never feel that acceptance again, or I could honor his faith in me by becoming someone worthy of it.

That night, I made a promise. I would make one last-ditch effort to improve myself and do the only worthwhile thing I could with my wasted life: spend the rest of it giving back to the man who gave me the first real taste of hope I’d had in many years. Whatever happens along the way, be it good or bad, is just a means to that end.

Time flies, and now two years have passed since I made that promise. Somewhere along the way, he became my mentor, friend, father figure, and lifeline. He’s the last bright spot in my life and the only thing I love more than I hate myself. Throughout many setbacks, I’ve never forgotten my promise to him. That promise has so far inspired me to lose 90 lbs, turn my talents into a source of income, overcome my shyness, and last winter, it inspired me to fulfill a lifelong dream of traveling to New York City.

Every day, I wake up and ask, how can I give back to him today? Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and I don’t progress as much as I’d like. There are days when I feel too sick or uninspired to do anything productive, but even on the days when I don’t get much done, I still drag myself out of bed and try. I know I still have a long way to go to meet the benchmarks of a normal life. I may never meet some of them due to my identity. While my father figure may not have shaped that identity, he reminded me that my identity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. More importantly, he shaped something better than an identity. He shaped my purpose and dream, a dream that I can still turn my life around and for once in my life, someone’s belief in me won’t be in vain.

Inspiration
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About the Creator

Morgan Rhianna Bland

I'm an aroace brain AVM survivor from Tennessee. My illness left me unable to live a normal life with a normal job, so I write stories to earn money.

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