As I sit here on this rainy, cold, fall Saturday morning, I am thinking about where my life is now. And I realize something very important. I am not the scared girl I was 21 years ago. I always had a rebellious side. I always wanted to be someone that I was told I couldn’t be but when it came down to it all, I did what was expected. Do I regret doing what my family wanted? For a long time, I thought I did but for all the wrong turns my life, I am still right where I need to be. See, if not for those obstacles, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today – strong, successful, determined, capable, and flexible but as stubborn as ever.
I have spent a lot of my life struggling to do what is expected of me especially when that is not what I wanted for my life. In hindsight, I never expected the lessons that came with life. August would have been 21 years since I married my first husband. I sometimes I feel like the men I married took away 21 years of my life I can’t get back because neither marriage was good for me – especially for my emotional health. But then I remember what I got out of those marriages. I got my kids, and then, I realize that all my regrets don’t really matter.
At the time I was thinking about leaving my second husband, I was struggling with my chronic illness diagnoses, my brother’s illness, and then his death. Shortly after, my mother had a stroke and I was taking care of her. Then one day, I woke up and I realized how severely depressed I was. Depression was far worse than anything I had ever endured. It was lonely and scary, but somehow, though the grace of God, I made my way out of the darkest hole I had ever found myself in. With therapy and medication, I find a part of me that for so long missing. The strong me – the “me” that hated defeat, that didn’t need acceptance, and the one that felt enough for herself and for God, and didn’t need to be for anyone else.
Sometimes, I would love to go back to a time when it was just me, young and not stuck in my life but seriously, that was 21 years ago and 2 husbands ago. I will never be that girl again and while looking back is bittersweet, I wouldn’t trade that girl for the woman am I today (although I wish I had her health). I recently spoke to a former teacher of mine who was not the least bit surprised how much I have overcome. He said that he always knew that I had it in me to rise above and make the best of difficult situations. He reminded me that in the end I am still me, just all grown up and upgraded.
The truth is, I just took the long road to get to where I am today. I have struggled to get here and I have questioned myself, God, and my faith many times. I still struggle, have setbacks where I second guess myself, and I still struggle with my God and my faith. The only difference is I don’t struggle for as long. I don’t second guess myself as often, and I don’t let people get into my head. And while sometimes, I wonder where God is I still lean towards Him especially during hard times. The reason that I have changed is because I have learned to know who I am, what I stand for, and mostly that I am enough. I will never be the girl I was 21 years ago and 2 husbands ago and I accept that.
And for all the times I have wondered where God was when I struggled and fell, he was right there by my side lifting me up. How else would I have gotten up? I don’t know what God sees in me but He sees something, and He has made me believe that everything is possible, especially when I believe in Him and myself.
I spent a lot of my life trying to be accepted by others. I have taken blame for things I didn’t do by simply not responding or defending myself. I have forgiven even when I have been hurt so badly. I have learned that I have to forgive if I expect to be forgiven. I have given people help that turned around and stabbed me in the back, or that forgot my constant kindness no matter how many times they hurt me. In those moments, I question my choices and then I remember that the reason that I bounce back from setbacks is because of the person I am, and that is what God sees. He sees me hurting, struggling, stumbling but trying even when I have nothing left to give. But He also sees something in me that I don’t see. I don’t know what that is, but who am I to question the Almighty?
I am not the girl I was 21 years ago, or the woman I was 5 years ago. Both were weak, self-sacrificing in the name of acceptance and thought that people cared about their tears. But I was sadly mistaken. The girl I once was grew up and while she is still willing to help others, she is cautious and no longer lets anyone in. She kept secrets for others, even though they didn’t keep hers. The people she thought she could trust with her secrets reminded her that no one can be trusted, and that her secrets should be kept to herself. She now bares little no resemblance to the girl from 21 years ago and 2 husbands ago. She is gone and you know what, the woman she became, she is done looking behind her, and she is focusing on looking forward. The past is the past for a reason, right?