There is more than one kind of independence this Fourth of July (or any time). You can assert your independence by doing something on your own. And you can gain independence — liberation — from something or someone which has power over you. This week, I hope you will join me in promoting both. I ask you to share this and all the stories — part 1 and part 2 — this week while using the hashtag #HopeLetters.
Today’s letter comes from Make Me A Sammich blogger Rosie. Rosie blogs at Make Me a Sammich, a ranty, sometimes funny, sometimes dead-serious blog about being a woman in the USA (and beyond). Follow her on Twitter at @MMASammich.
When you were little, you had this vague vision of what your life would be like based on experience to that time: You would be popular, pretty, lauded for your brains, loved by all, chased by boys, and occasionally chastised by teachers for letting them kiss you.
By now you know that this snapshot of first-grade life was not meant to provide a model for the future. Brains mean less and less to the world as years go by, looks more and more, and you don’t quite measure up, do you? From the mega-crush on Joe O. in the sixth grade (keeping hope alive in spite of the fact that Marie E. was just the cutest thing anyone had ever seen and she was his—and everyone’s—first choice) to the first day of seventh when Diana D. walked into English class, her hair a cascade of golden waves, her clothes expensive, her attitude that perfect blend of friendly (to the right people) and aloof (to everyone else), it’s become more and more clear that you are not going to be the girl everyone loves and lauds and asks to the dance.
And bad things have happened. A lot of them. And you’ve survived, but you’re in shock. And that shock—and the failure of the system to help you deal with and recover from it—means that you’re coping in the only way you know how. You’re out there searching for someone to love you—for that one person the movies and books have taught you is out there waiting. Right now you are wasting (I’m sorry, but it’s true) all your love and kisses and beauty and dignity on a guy who will use you when it’s convenient, ridicule you when it suits him, and eventually participate with other “friends” in utterly humiliating you in a statement that says loudly and once and for all, “You don’t belong. You never did.”
And in your darkest hours (this being one of many life will bring) strangers will appear. Not the kind you’ve encountered in the past who want to “help” you back to their place so you can “help” them. But kind, caring people who will find you alone and soaked to the bone clutching a duffel of the stuff your “friends” tossed out onto the lawn and covered in toothpaste because it’s all you have, and they’ll take you home and treat you like a child again. They’ll bathe you and feed you and surround you with love and security, and they’ll give you hope you’ll carry with you forever.
And in other dark hours, when people have hurt you, it will be people who help you. Friends, family, strangers. People you love. People you don’t even like. People you will never meet in person. Friends you might never touch. Strangers you might never know exist. You’ll learn that you’re an introvert who needs time to herself, but that ultimately it’s people—not things, never things—that make life worth living. It’s love felt, imagined, or hoped for, even among the pain and disappointment and downright heartbreak.
None of it comes easy—not for us, anyway, but I suspect it’s true for most people. But the trials are made bearable—and the victories more triumphant—because of the people we allow into our lives. And while there will be those who hurt and disappoint, your life will be full of so many wonderful people who inspire and support you, who buoy you up when you’re sinking beneath the waves, who love you and make you feel worthy of that love—and who are worthy of your love and energies.
So that’s my message to you today: You will find the love you seek, but not where you seek it. You’ll find it by letting it in—even when you feel like you don’t deserve it. One of the hardest things we can do is to learn to love ourselves and to feel like we deserve love, and as I write, I’m still working on those things, but you? All you need to do is sit back and let it happen. Let them love you and love them back and delight in all that results.
You’re going to be ok.
If you or anyone you know is in crisis, please seek help in your area or get help online from RAINN or by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.