Is it supposed to be some sort of feeling you get? Are you all of the sudden supposed to realize how to act and have this real sense of self?
I like to think that I got a late start in the “real world.” I always idolized people on TV who seemed to know who they were early on and didn’t have to meander that rough patch. Growing up in a large church in a small town I think I learned life the hard way. Always too eager to please others I didn’t begin to learn who I was or what my real interests were until I turned 18 and could make my own choices.
(Above image taken at a church event at about age 15)
Life smacked me in the face and hard. I’m not sure what was harder; learning all life’s lessons all at once or loosing all my friends at the same time. When I started to realize that the church life wasn’t really for me I hadn’t realize that my whole world was about to; as Will Smith said, “my life got flip-turned upside down.”
I had always counted myself lucky to have had the friends and family that I did early on, until I didn’t have them anymore. I lived a very sheltered life as a teenager. My dad was incredibly protective (and rightly so) and I wasn’t allowed to do what the other kids were doing. I spent most of my free time at church or with the other kids from church. For a very long time it was my routine and I thought I was happy; that is until my first boyfriend. This boy turned my whole world upside down. He taught me things about life and really opened my eyes to the world around me. With my lack of dating experience and real world-life skills; this relationship didn’t last forever like I dreamed it would. I loved him more than I knew how and that meant that on top of losing all my friends; I would lose him too until I could figure out this new world.
Leaning on yourself when you have no one else is tough to learn to do; but it is a necessity. If you can’t love yourself who else is going to want to. The next few years I spent learning how to be alone and being happy alone. I got to a point where I loved being alone more than dating and having to waste my time with people who wouldn’t matter the next week. I really was able to strengthen new friendships and figure myself out. One of the best things about really knowing yourself is being able to say “no” to something (or someone) you really don’t want to do. It’s seriously a glorious feeling.
Sometimes I wonder even to this day who I would be if I had stayed. Stayed in the church, stayed with that first boy, stayed young and naive. And then I think about all of the amazing and wonderful (and not so much) people that I have met in the past seven years. Each and every one of those souls touching mine and teaching me something I may have not learned had it not been for them. Seven years is a long, long time to grow up; to make mistakes; to learn to be happy. Not everyone gets the opportunity to grow up to be as young as I am. I may not be proud of all the stories I have, but they are mine and they are who I am.
Life is the most beautiful and painful experience you could ever imagine. NEVER take it for granted, you’ll never get another try.
(Just a few months ago, finally figuring myself out and happy with that girl)