The other side of sadness.
A coming of age story still being written.
Is there really one defining moment that transcends us into adulthood? One single event that takes us from an awkward teenager and thrusts us into a full-blown responsible adult? I don’t know about you but my answer? Absolutely fucking not. It has taken an abundantly large number of events to make me into the person I am today. I am 29 years old and still trying to figure out this grown-up thing. On most days I'm not even sure how I ever thought that at this age people actually had their shit figured out. If you do – kudos. However; this may be slightly more relatable if you feel like a train wreck and still don’t feel like an actual adult.
I guess my story starts at the age of fifteen. One very normal day while getting ready for my first ever keg party in the woods I got a phone call that changed my life forever. My father had died. I know – sad. At the time I don’t think that I fully processed what had happened. I didn’t cry for a full year and from an outsider's perspective I was probably handling it all pretty well. I wasn’t. On the inside I was screaming for help and nobody noticed. I turned to self-harm, self-medicating and started fooling around with anyone who would give me a sliver of attention.
Over the next few years, I went through quite a few heartbreaks. Each one a little worse than the last. The common theme was that everyone cheated and so I started too. I was cheating on everyone I wound up with. I started abusing drugs, drinking every day and I looked for anything that gave me a temporary escape from reality. I thought that the people I hung around were my friends and over time and some serious traumatic events I came to realize that they weren't. I was sexually assaulted by two people I considered my friends. I was betrayed by someone I had known my entire life. I lost a friend or two to overdoses and I almost died myself. For years this went on until one day I met someone.
Fast forward and we had a baby with each other – and then another. Happy ending? Hardly. For six years I was physically and emotionally abused. Well, why didn't I leave? I wish I could answer this. You see, the person I was back then is not the person that I am now. Why didn’t I leave? The hell if I know. I was growing and I was still broken. Love probably would have been my answer back then but love does not do those things to you. Please remember this.
After my second child I had a complete mental breakdown and was institutionalized. On a scorching hot July afternoon, I swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills and thought that all of the pain I had kept inside for so many years was finally going to end. Did it? Nope. I got released about a week later, got drunk and got myself re-institutionalized. The pain of having to go back to my life was too much to handle. This time I would spend two weeks there. I learned a lot about my own mental state while being there and realized that something inside of myself needed to change. When I was released this time - I left.
Oh well this must be where my life takes a positive turn right? well, it was start. I moved in with my best friend and quit my job that I absolutely loathed. I applied for some fancy restaurant gigs with no experience and actually wound up landing a pretty decent job. Over the next few years, I met some pretty incredible people in the industry. From these people, I learned a great ordeal about myself and life. I grew... a lot. You know what though? It still wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I got my heart broken a few more times, almost lost my kids, was robbed at gunpoint and just a year ago I lost one of my best friends to an overdose. Since then, I started going to therapy , got a new job, made some friends and met a man I love more than life itself. A man who shows me every day that the things that have happened to me are not who I am and that I am an incredible woman. A man who only lays his hands on me in the gentlest of ways and reminds me that I am worthy of the love I had always searched for. My life still isn't perfect, but I can honestly tell you that I am happy.
So now what? I'll leave you with some coming of age advice. Love hard. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that it makes you weak and don’t forget that there is platonic love. Love everyone while they’re here. Don’t wait until a funeral to say the things you want to say. Try to remember that love is also a choice. Real love is hard. Learn forgiveness but also learn boundaries. Real love doesn’t leave bruises and broken bones. Walking away is hard but it will save your life in more ways than one.
Life is fragile. In the blink of an eye the people you think will be in your life forever can leave us. No matter how much you plan; life may have other plans for you. Learn to let go. Let go of toxicity whether it be your significant other, your parents or your dead-end job. You must let go in order for new things to come into fruition. Remember that the family you make is more important than the one you come from. There will be more jobs, more friends and more lovers. Let go.
Chase things that make you feel alive. Try new things. Find new hobbies. Eat strange food. Make a fool of yourself. Talk to strangers (yes, talk to strangers) I promise the people you meet along the way will teach you things that it would take a lifetime to figure out on your own.
Lastly, everything is temporary. People will leave whether it be by choice or not. You will lose jobs. You will change homes. You will rediscover yourself more times than you can count. With this however, remember that all of the hard stuff is temporary too. Growing up is a hard thing to do. I am still growing. I am still learning – and that is alright because my story (your story) is still being written. There is no one size fits all way of doing this. It takes a whole lot of trial and error. I hope that anyone who is living a difficult coming of age story right now takes one thing away from my own – keep going. No matter how hard it may seem - There are wonderful things waiting for you on the other side of sadness.