One of the tricky things about overcoming tricky situations is whether or not this was ‘meant’ to teach you a lesson. It’s hurtful in some sense, because it assumes I’m born for suffering and all growth and potential comes at a price.
For the last few years I’ve been hiding out, camped far out in unvisited territory, intentionally mending my wounds away from the judgement of the world, because I was some sort of freak for having experienced abuse of this sort. I watched a video about Oprah talking to Reese Witherspoon about abusive relationships and how every single woman they knew experienced it closely. I saw the pattern of insecure men in relationships with strong women, at a time in history when women could really be somebodies. Now it just seems inevitable that I would collide with the male species in this decisive way, because I was strong and smart and brave and I have a light.
I had a history of getting the best of other’s insecurities for being exactly how I am. In high school it was a competitive race to keep proving the ‘fan club’ wrong. When he turned on me and sabotaged my world, at first I interpreted it as hubris. Who was I to have thought I was amazing, brilliant, interesting when other people straight-out hated themselves? Who was I to break the rules and bet intensely on myself, desperately and furiously searching for the spark of passion in life that my peers told me to give up on? When his words and actions tore me down I thought, maybe I soared too high, everyone else was right and I was wrong for believing I could make a difference. My sky-high trajectory became a confusing and dark scribble into existential angst, or worse, an oblivious void.
Like the tortoise in Aesop’s fables, I moved forward one step at a time, each foothold into unknown territory measured and intentionally taken in stride with my internal values. Like the beam of light radiating from the lighthouse through the storm, there was a guide only I could feel. It took me into the dark and it took me out as simply as gliding through a foggy sea.
In those years I felt lost and I had no plan at all, except to keep going and see what comes next. I knew there was an exuberant joy waiting for me. In the years I spent numb and afraid, I believed, oh I believed like Gatsby believed in the green light.
I don’t think pain or pleasure is the right way to frame the story. It was about struggle, overcoming that, and mostly about strength. Yes I suffered, but what did I suffer for? It was for me.
In my search for freedom and independence I came across the most ubiquitous obstacle of all, and it wasn’t the glass ceiling. The glass ceiling was part of a glass house and it was built on fragile expectations deep inside the caverns of my heart. In my emotionland I was a captive since birth, and in that abusive relationship I slammed myself into those cold, hard walls, and even cut myself and bled on the glass I shattered to escape. But when the dust cleared, I looked up and saw that I was free. And I’ve been roaming the uncharted land ever since.
If you ever find yourself like me, staring with shame at the shattered glass in your arms, the dreams of the perfect woman you hoped you’d be, that you were expected to be, but somehow failed at because you refused the abuse and violence, I hope you have the courage to take one more step further, because the shards mean only one thing, that you’re free.
I hope the glitter of the world never eludes you – and I hope you don’t follow false gods, even some men don’t know what they’re looking for. Despite all my ambitions, if I’m being honest, my first and greatest ambition is to take one breath as a free woman.