It’s funny how much a person has the capacity to grow and change in the span of just 5 years. I recently celebrated my 23rd birthday and it got me thinking about the girl that I was when I was 18. It’s amazing how little I can relate to her now. I mean, fundamentally I am the same person I suppose, but I feel so different.
When I was 18 I was in a pretty bad relationship. It wasn’t abusive in the physical sense, he never hit me, but it was very emotionally abusive. We started dating when I was just 15, a child still. I was with him for basically all of high school, and all my teenage years. That is a critical time for a girl, when you really start to build your identity and figure out what you like and who you are. It is a very impressionable time.
I had always been plagued with very low self esteem from an eating disorder that I suffered with all through grade school and high school. He took advantage of this, and played upon my insecurities. I was made to feel like I was not special, that I was boring and stupid. He had convinced me that all I needed was him and that all my friends were against me. In doing so, he got me all to himself. Because of course I believed him. He loved me, why would he lie? Ha.
But dependency is not love, and it took me a really long time to figure that out. I finally ended the relationship when I was 20. 5 years of my life dedicated to him, to his needs and making sure he was happy. In those 5 years I slowly lost almost all my own personal identity.
I’m not sure exactly what my breaking point was. I just woke up one day and was done. I realize now that it had been a long time coming and I only stayed with him because I was afraid to be alone. Even still, leaving him was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. But you know what? As I was driving home from his house that last day, I didn’t feel sad. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, like I could breathe again.
You know that saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”? That day was it for me. Once I was free from his influence I was able to be myself. The only problem was that I had no idea who I was. For 5 very long years I had been “XXXX’s girlfriend” I didn’t have my own identity. I barely had any friends left either, most of the friends I had before didn’t want anything to do with me. And I really can’t blame them, who wants to be friends with a doormat?
I had an opportunity to start over, to get to know myself again. These past few years I have been able to do just that. I changed colleges, moved 2 hours away and started discovering what it was that interested ME. It is a strange feeling after so long just trying to please myself and not anyone else. And even 3 years later, I still hear his voice in the back of my head sometimes, telling me that I can’t do anything, that I am weak. It has been an uphill battle replacing his voice with my own.
I have a loud voice now. I know what I like and don’t like. Don’t get me wrong, I am still growing and changing, we all are. But I am more sure of myself that I ever have been in my life. I realize that I don’t have to like something just because someone else likes it. I don’t have to be afraid to try new things. I have learned that I am awesome just because I am me, and not because someone else is dictating my actions or thoughts.
That relationship left some big wounds. But in the process of leaving and finding myself, I realize that wounds heal with time and that I am a stronger person because of it.
I like the person I am now, and can’t wait to see how much I grow and can improve in the next 5 years. Life is an adventure and I am finally living it.