“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” -Nelson Mandela
“I always knew I wanted more.” This was my standard response when people asked me why I left home at 17 and out of state just after turning 19. Time away from someplace or someone will show you how you have changed or not changed, whatever the case may be. Have you ever experienced this? I can’t tell you the number of times I have experienced this throughout my life. Have you gone back to your favorite old hang out only to discover what a dull, dreary sight it is and you feel completely uninspired and just want to get out?? Or back to your home town to visit and only remember why you left? It was a great place to grow up, but not a great place to grow!
Change is hard for a lot of people to understand and accept, especially if they are stagnant. Sometimes a lack of vision or confidence keeps people from dreaming and growing forward and they just accept what “is” instead of working toward more. I was never content to just “be”, even as a child, therefore I was always changing. That change was the source of a lot of feelings that I can only decipher now as envy or jealousy. At the time, I didn’t understand it, but as an adult looking back I recognize those feelings. There have been plenty of times that I was envious or even jealous of someone else because they had something I wanted, so I can’t fault those that had the feelings toward me, I understand! I am not referring to material items I wanted, but more of a state; a state of mind or they were living in a state I could only wish for at the time. To live in a state of comfort and safety was a dream to me. I had to leave home to find that, even before I was old enough to actually move out. In my pre-teen years, I spent a lot of time with families from our church. I babysat for a couple of them and would gladly stay for the entire weekend for next to nothing and even clean the house. There were others that I simply adopted as my surrogate families and they invited me over regularly just to spend time. For the first time in my life, I saw what “normal” was and I wanted more of it! I had no idea my family was so different before that. The dreams of change in my life began to grow like a vine that I would later climb to escape.
As I got older, I wanted even more of this change. Being away from home became my ultimate goal because it just wasn’t comfortable and often it wasn’t even safe for me, depending on who was living there at the time. When I started high school, I was in sports after school to avoid being at home. Basically, I was there to grab a quick meal and sleep. Over the summers, I worked 40 hours a week with the JTPA program to earn money to buy school clothes and do things with my friends. Once I had a taste of the independence money gave me, there was no looking back and I have worked full time since I was 14. This was the biggest change so far in my short life! From then on, I always looked for opportunity; anything to make money, better myself or get ahead, I signed up. At 15, add a license and a car and I was home free.
My new found freedom was amazing! There were changes that I would never come back from and changes I didn’t realize would ultimately ruin my relationship with Mom for the rest of her life. I was happy! I was living the life! I went to school with my friends, had a boyfriend and a few dollars in my pocket for fun; but I worked hard! My Junior and Senior years, I took college classes on the nights I didn’t work. I was very ambitious and had a lot of big dreams. At that time, I wanted to be an attorney. Some might say that was just because I liked to argue! My dad was very supportive and helped me fill out paperwork for school and grants, but Mom wanted nothing to do with any of it, or me. I had a pretty smart mouth on me, so I guess I just figured it was the usual teenage girl/mom problems, but now I know there was nothing “usual” about our issues. Mom was never proud of me for being a cheerleader, being popular or getting ahead in school. Or, if she was she never showed it. She never came go games or meets, never came to school for anything. I didn’t understand why she had no interest…why she seemed to pick at me and why she would call me awful names on the regular. I was accused of a lot of things and I began wondering if these horrible things were true and I was just selfish as she said. I have lived with that uncertainty for most of my life and while I am a strong, confident woman today, there is always that little voice inside that reminds me I might not be as great as I think I am. I have learned to quiet that voice and I know I am pretty awesome because God made me that way!
I didn’t figure out exactly why all of this went on in my house until well into adulthood. When I became a mom, I wondered how she could have treated me the way she did if she loved me. She chose to adopt me! They say you don’t choose your family, but she did! I was and still am incredibly proud of my daughter and have been there for everything she’s ever done!! So the revelation was devastating when I realized…my mom was jealous!! I was living the life she never got to. She dropped out of high school pregnant at 17 and ran off with my dad. She had very strict parents which was the norm for that time period so she never had any sense of freedom or independence until the last years of her life after Dad died. Instead of living vicariously through me, like many do, she resented me for my accomplishments. She wanted all of these things, but chose another path and as a result, she had put herself into a position that she would never get out of. She lived a life of discontent, regret and envy and that breaks my heart for her to this day. When I look back, I can see it and I think on a subconscious level I knew it, but didn’t understand it. I remember a specific argument with her where she unloaded her feelings on me and I learned how she really felt. She felt that I thought I was better than they were and nothing was good enough for me. Of course it wasn’t true, I loved my parents and I was actually taking a burden off my dad by paying for my own things. I wanted to help Dad, but I also wanted what I wanted materially as a teenager! This argument became a repeated one in my home life and I saw Mom getting more and more resentful. She was incredibly jealous of my relationship with Dad and she started taking things out on Dad when I wasn’t around to take it. The more I saw of this, the harder I worked to be certain that would never be my life. I made myself scarce and did what I had to do. My life was not peaches and cream from that point on, don’t get me wrong! There is still a LOT of story to fill in this time period, but not in this post. I simply recognize this as a turning point in my life where I realized that if I wanted more, it was up to ME to go get it. Nobody can create your success or failure except you. This has been one of the best lessons ever learned. If you get nothing else from my post, know that. You are in control of your life and you are responsible for the outcome!
Over the years, I have been through many life altering changes, some better than others. I have taken a lot of steps forward and a lot of steps back. The past few years have been some of the hardest of my life but probably the most impactful at the same time. I have started understanding some of the reasoning behind many things that happened in my childhood, but some there are just no explanation for other than evil, pure evil that comes from the enemy fighting God’s work in our lives. Those things, I just learn to accept and forgive. Some forgiveness hasn’t come yet and when it does, that will be such sweet victory. I strive for that day! I can honestly say that every bit of what has taken place in my life recently is the most positive it has ever been, though not all easy. Change is never easy; but is usually necessary and good, even when it hurts like hell. I’m used to things hurting like hell, I have a lot of experience with that. Good things never seemed to last and that is a pattern I am so happy to say, I have broken. I have learned to deal with things I couldn’t have handled very gracefully before. I have a long way to go, but I am happy with my progress. I am grateful for my life, my job, my home and learning to stand on my own again. These are all things I created for myself, one step at a time and I am proud of my progress and the personal power I now stand for! I am, as my cousin Amy says, an overcomer!