Here come the tears again…but at this moment, I really don’t care. Just heard the news. I’m sitting here, feeling absolutely helpless, and trying to make sense out of something that makes absolutely NO sense to me. The cancer’s back. Poor little Lena. Things were just starting to get back to normal for her. She just started 1st grade. She was happy and healthy. And now this…I don’t understand why things like this happen. I don’t think I ever will. All I can think is what now…where to go from here. Everyone says to keep praying and to keep the faith, but I don’t think I can pray to or believe in a God that could put Lena–this beautiful, amazing little girl–through this living hell again. I’m sorry, but I just can’t. She’s just a little girl. This shouldn’t be happening to her, but it is. I know that I should hold on to the fact that she’s one of the lucky ones. To remember and be grateful that she beat the odds once already, while so many others weren’t as fortunate.They said she couldn’t do it. The statistics were against her. But she did it. She proved them wrong. And I have to believe that she’ll do it again. She will. She has to…
So I had a little chat with my brother dearest today. Just to get it out of the way, can I just say…wierd. Yeah, um…him and I, we’re not exactly the best of friends. In fact, we’ve been more like arch enemies for well…for as long as I can remember. Which is a little ironic, I guess, considering how everyone is always pointing out how much we’re alike. Although, family-wise–I think that’s mostly been said and meant in a negative way. But still, when I stop hating him for long-ago piled up transgressions long enough…I can almost see where that might not be so far from the truth.
He and I…we are alike. In a lot more ways than I would have ever thought until now. I mean, we’re both stubborn and willful and we tend to let our tempers get the best of us–well…most of the time. When that happens–he tends to lean towards the vocal, physical way of letting out the anger and frustration. Whereas I–I’m more the broody, sit-in-my-room-and-cry-while-pouring-my-heart-out-into-a-dozen-pages-of-some-serious-journal-and-me-time. Whatever the choice of venting outlet, we both ultimately end up turning the pain and the anger inwards, on ourselves.
He has this tough guy/can’t-touch-me exterior that he puts up for the world, but I think that–like me–it’s just a front we put up to convince the world we’re fine, when in reality we’re anything but. He’d probably kill me if he knew I said this, but I honestly just think that underneath the cool facade, he’s just a scared and lost little boy. It’s not his fault that he is who he is…not really. He didn’t exactly have it so good growing up—hell, none of us did—but him especially. He didn’t have that father-son connection that I think all little boys need. As far as he’s concerned, our father walked out on us; that he abandoned us. End of story. Whatever the case may be…if that’s what happened, I don’t think he’ll ever forgive him for that. Or forget. I don’t think he even can. With no father in the picture, one of our uncles stepped up and sort of took him under his wing, so to speak. They were inseparable, and in so many ways, like any other father and son. That is, up until my uncle got married, and everything changed. To this day, I still have no idea what caused the rift in the family, but whatever it was, it had to have been pretty bad considered it’s been over 20 years since we’ve spoken. We were so young when he got married and walked away from everyone, including his family, that I don’t even remember the guy. I’m actually glad that I don’t. After all, you can’t miss what you never had. Right? Even after all these years and him turning his back on his entire family, they still defend him. I can’t do that. He was the one who left us; who left my brother. It crushed him, my uncle leaving. He took it really hard. Then, if that’s not bad enough, we lost our grandfather.
That’s when it all started to fall apart. He started rebelling and acting out—skipping school, drinking, doing drugs—basically doing whatever the hell he wanted to. I don’t know how many times my sister and I got loaded into the car in the middle of the night and go with our mother to drag him home from wherever he was partying. He got kicked out of school and dropped out. For years, it was a constant battle with him with the PINS program and his frequent problems involving law enforcement. It was crazy. The more you held on, the more he resisted and lashed out. He was drinking and doing drugs. He was out of control.
I thought…no wait, I hoped, that with a daughter on the way, he’d change his ways. That he’d settle down a little. If for no other reason, than to prove he was a better father than ours turned out to be. He wasn’t even there for her birth. Rather, he was in a jail. I know he would have been there if he could have, and he’ll always regret that. Or he will…eventually. Now he’s a father of three and he still hasn’t changed. He’s still out every night, drinking, doing drugs…
And thus, we come full circle with this post. I asked him if he ever got tired with it…with the going out all the time and nursing a hangover every morning. He said he didn’t. He’s a lair though because I know that it does get tiring. That he’s getting tired by it. I mean, he’s going to 29 in a few months. I know that this is NOT the life he planned out. I mean, there has to be more. I know he wants it. I just think he’s too damn stubborn and maybe a little afraid even to actually come out and say so. I think he thinks it’ll ruin that tough guy persona he’s convinced everyone that he is. Not to mention that he’s been doing it for so long that he it’s all he’s ever known. We talked about him starting classes next semester. I think it’ll be good for him. I really do. It might even make him grow up a little. To do some settling down. Maybe some prioritizing while he’s at it. It’s time.
Anyhow, when we were talking, out of nowhere he asks me why I don’t go out partying anymore—not college, but in general. That was a loaded question, if I heard one. My answer…well, it’s complicated. I have several reasons. First, there’s the obvious. I’m way too busy right now with school and getting my career on track. I’m so close to getting what I’ve always wanted, and what I’ve worked so hard for…that I’d be an absolute fool to mess that up. Secondly, I’m 25 years old. I’ve had my fun. The partying, the going out, the drinking and getting wasted to the point where you can’t even remember your name, the drugs, the mistakes, the pulling in strangers’ driveways to outsmart the cops…it gets to a point where it’s all just exhausting, you know? Besides, I long ago realized that, at some point, the drinking and partying went from being about having fun, to being just a way to escape from the reality of my life. From the memories; from everything. I may be like my brother in a lot of ways, but I don’t want to be him. I don’t want to drown my sorrows in a bottle of liquor every night. I don’t want to keep running from my responsibilities because I’m afraid of failing or that I’ll disappoint those who need me most.
But more than anything, I don’t want to become my parents. I don’t want to be like my father and decide that the open road is more appealing than being there for my own children. Granted, there’s a lot more to my father leaving than just that, but still. I know that, in his defense, he tried to do the right thing by my mother and us kids—at least at first. I know that my family interfered and complicated things so much to the point where he no longer deemed it worth it. I know that when he got remarried and settled down in Indiana that he tried to do right by my brother and have him go out there—and that my mother refused to let that happen. I know that, for years, my mother and my family told lies about him and why he left, and led us kids to believe that he wanted nothing to do with us when it wasn’t true. I also know that if he’d tried harder than he did, than he could have made that happen. He’s not a bad guy—our father—but he’s not father of the year material either. No amount of excuses or miles away can justify him not being there for us. He knows that and so do we. As for my mother, I don’t want to be like her either. I don’t want to end up resenting my children, like she did us. I don’t want my daughter looking back when she’s 25 and wondering why she wasn’t good enough, like with my mother and me.
It’s ironic—this situation with my brother. I mean, he resents our parents—our father especially—for not being there for him growing up, and yet—he’s doing the exact same thing with his own kids, my niece and my nephews. He thinks going to one of my niece’s soccer games here and there, or taking my nephew for the weekend now and then—is the equivalent of being a good dad. But he’s wrong. So wrong. It’s sad. Unfortunate, really. He just doesn’t get it. That, or he just doesn’t care. Either way, it isn’t right. If nothing else, it’s down-right hypocritical. I love my brother…but it’s true. And I just wish he’d wake up and see that. And soon. Before it’s too late.
As for the rest of it, I guess it’s just a matter of having been there, and done that. I had fun. I made some great memories that I’ll cherish forever. But with the good, also came the bad. That same fun also cost me so much. It cost me my childhood and my innocence. It cost me my morality, my sense of right and wrong. It cost me my ability to trust, not just in someone else, but in myself. Having fun led me to my first heartbreak and brought me to my first absolute breaking point. It turned something that was once beautiful and special, into one of the worst periods of my life. It cost me my ability to feel anything; to care at all. I was numb and empty and broken for so long, that I honestly believed I’d have been better off dead. But more than anything, it cost me something that I’d wanted more than anything in the world. It forced me to make a decision that I’ve spent nearly the past 2 1/2 years regretting completely. Having fun changed me. Some for the better. Some not so much.
And it brought me here. I’ve grown up so much and I’ve come so far. I’m not entirely proud of the process, but I am proud of the person that I have become. I realize now how foolish and wrong I had been. I know better now. I know what I want, and more importantly what I don’t want. And I know what matters, and what doesn’t. The drinking and the partying—that isn’t me anymore. I don’t know if it ever was. Either way, I’m glad that it’s not. Everything is so much clearer now, so much better. Maybe it’s selfish, but I’m not willing to give that up. Not right now. Not yet.
Now…if only my brother could realize that. Hopefully, in time, he will. After all, he and I are supposedly so much alike…
I don’t belong here, she says
To the girl in the mirror.
A reflection of herself.
Staring back, silently pleading for help.
She’s tried, but she can’t do it by herself.
When she’s on the inside, looking out.
She’s begging for mercy,
From the pain that never seems to cease.
But they don’t hear.
And they can’t see.
What this world has done to her.
What it has done to me.
Okay, so I’m a tad bit peeved at the moment. I got into with my mother earlier and it was not pretty. She makes me so damn mad sometimes. Today was one of the times. It had to do with me finding out that she’s been talking to that loser ex of hers…the one that used her, took advantage, treated her like shit, and openly admitted to have cheated on her with several women while they were still together. For use of a better word, the guy is a total douche. He’s had nothing to do with her for over 2 years, and now he’s suddenly had a change of heart? Please, the guy is a cold bastard. After everything he put her through, I can’t believe she’d answer his call, let alone actually talk to the jerk for over an hour.
I don’t get. And I sure as hell don’t get her. I never have. I’ve tried, but I just can’t figure out why—or how, for that matter—she has and will always put a man in front of her children. She’s been that way for as long as I can remember. When I was little, she did it with my father. She’d leave us kids with my grandmother, sneak out, and take off with him all the time. After my father, it was her now ex-husband. The guy was a jerk who made no secret out of the fact that he couldn’t stand us kids. To him, we were just added baggage that he didn’t want. They didn’t last long—though it had nothing to do with us kids. Rather, it had to do with the fact that my mother went and had an affair with her boss WHILE they were still married. That guy—he wasn’t much better than the others. He wasn’t too thrilled about us either. As far as he was concerned, he’d raised his kids and that was it. She was with him for a number of years—and all the while, she made it clear that he came first. She was always with him and never around. Granted, my grandmother picked up her slack and practically raised us herself, but that’s not the point. The point is that she wasn’t there. And she should have been. She was our mother. We needed her. However, she apparently didn’t need us. It wasn’t right—any of it. Growing up, I questioned why she’d even bothered to have us kids at all. She didn’t want kids. She wasn’t mom-material. She told us that all the time. It’s a horrible thing to say, but I think everyone would have been better off if she’d aborted us instead. After all, she didn’t want us. I know that in her own way, she loves us. But that’s not good enough. Not for me, anyhow.
We needed more. Hell, we deserved more. She missed so much and what’s sad is that I don’t think she’s ever been sorry or felt guilty about that. It’s like she doesn’t care. A mother should be there for her child. But she wasn’t there. She wasn’t there for my soccer games, my chorus and concerts, or award dinners. She wasn’t there to see me off to college…or to even go to all my campus visits with me. Not once in the two years that I was at Colgate did she ever set foot on the campus. Not once. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive—let alone forget—her for not being there. It sucks, but I’ve accepted that she’s never going to change. She’s always going to be this way.
It’s one thing for her to have done what she did with us kids—but it’s been that way for so long that it doesn’t even matter at this point. What makes me angry now is that history is starting to repeat itself and she’s doing the same thing to my niece. And I’m sorry, but I refuse to just stand back and watch her do that to that little girl. It isn’t right. She tells her she loves her, but you’d think that if she did love her—then she’d want to be around for her. But that’s not my mother. I know damn well that if this last guy—the one she’s talking to again now—asked her back…she’d leave in a heartbeat to be with him. It’s just who she is. And my niece—she’s too young to understand. And she’s too forgiving. I just hate that she’s eventually going to grow up and realize the truth…like my siblings and I realized growing up ourselves. I just don’t want her to get hurt…but I think it’s going to happen either way. I don’t know, maybe my niece is better off figuring it out now, just to get it over with save herself from more pain down the road. I don’t know.
Anyhow, that’s what we argued about tonight. I told her she was being selfish and a fool. And she’s both of those things. I get that she’s an adult and can do as she wants—but she fails to realize that it’s not just about her anymore. She fought for custody of my niece. She wanted her to be loved and raised in a stable, happy household. If she didn’t want the responsibility, then she never should have gone to court in the first place. Granted my brother and my niece’s mother aren’t the greatest role-models, but then neither is my mother…not when she’s starting her shit again.
I called her out on what she’d done to us. And what she’s doing with my niece. She didn’t appreciate that obviously because then she lashed out on me. She made some nasty comment about how no one stuck their nose in my business or told me what to do when I was doing drugs and drinking and sleeping with Mr. Should’ve-known-better. It was a cheap shot. A low blow. Of all the things she could have thrown in my face…did she really have to pick that one? She knows damn well what that did to me. The hell I went through. She was there when everything fell apart. Hell, she was there that day in the courtroom and afterwards in the elevator when I broke down. She knows damn well that I didn’t win, or get away with anything. I paid for what I did and the mistakes I made. I lost everything. I suffered. Hell, I’m still suffering. I have to live with the shame and the guilt. I got my heart broken and my world turned upside-down. I lost my self-respect, my dignity, my reputation…not to mention my inability of trust anyone or anything anymore. I had to keep secrets and hide the truth and push my friends away for over a year. I shut myself off from the rest of the world so I could do what I thought was right. Hell, I nearly died because of it…because I honestly thought it’d be easier to just give up and end it all, than to go one more day in the living hell that had become my life. I punished myself for my recklessness and foolishness. For my horrible judgment. I made mistakes. I know that. And I have to live with them. What I did isn’t the same as what she’s doing. Unlike her, I learned my lesson. And unlike her, there’s no chance of history repeating itself on my end. That, if nothing else, I do know.
But compared to her, I did nothing that measures up to what she’s done. She’s done a hell of a lot worse. I may have been young and foolish, but you’re supposed to make mistakes when you’re young. It’s the only way you’re ever going to learn. But she’s old enough to know better. To know that what she’s doing isn’t right. I don’t know if she cares or not, but she will. There’s going to come a day when she realizes what she’s done and all that she’s sacrificed just to please a man. She’s going to regret not being there for us, and for my niece. And when that day comes, when that happens—it’s going to be too late. The damage will have already been made. She’ll be on her own, and have no one to blame for it but herself. I may have to live with my burdens, but hers will be even heavier. This is on her. Not me.
Anyhow, now that I’ve vented, I feel a little bit better. Time to do some work.
Since I have a free minute—and because these days, those are very few and far between—I thought I’d do some writing. Though, I must admit—I’m a little written out, so to speak. That is, I should be…especially when I’ve done nothing but write these past few weeks, what with school starting back up and my insanely hectic course-load. Speaking of school, the semester seems to be going well so far. My schedule is pretty balanced between media-related writing course, photography, and web design. Though, I must say the latter is driving me near-crazy at the moment. I’m taking this online Internet Publishing course…which is getting to be a pain in the you-know-what. For one, I have an immense dislike towards online courses. Granted, it’s nice—convenience-wise, but for this type of class, I think I’d prefer to be in an actual classroom. Basically, the purpose of the course is to pretty much create/design your own working website. The design part isn’t a problem. Rather, it’s the creation of the page itself that I don’t much care for. The whole Dreamweaver Interface and writing in hmtl code—it’s tricky. The text that is supposed to guide you through how to do it all—well, I might as well be reading Chinese for all I understand about it. Seriously. Then there’s the whole content aspect of the assignment—what I want the site to be about, in other words. I’ve got a few ideas in mind, but nothing that’s really caught my focus yet. I was thinking of doing a sort of advice/consulting page…a Dear Abby sort of thing. I always thought it would be cool to have my own online advice column. In high school, I volunteered for a teen talk/help line—and I loved it. So this website seems like a good start, I guess. I ran the idea by my best friend the other night and she seemed to approve. She thinks it’d be quite fitting for me—seeing how I’m often the go-to girl when it comes to giving and getting advice. Then again, I’m not sure I’d say that for myself…I’m just really good at the whole “what NOT to do” kind of thing. Ironically enough—while I may be great at giving good advice—I totally suck when it comes to following that advice in my own life. Even so, I think I could make it work. After all, I have plenty of life experience.
Granted, I’m only 25 years old—which is still fairly young in terms of life experience years…I’ve still seen and done a lot. In terms of target demographics—I think I’d want to aim the site towards my own age group…say mid-teens to mid-twenties or so. It’s no state secret that in today’s world, it’s pretty damn tough being a teenager. Hell, it’s still pretty tough…even at 25. Fortunately, I’m not too old that I’ve forgotten what it was like to be a teenager, which I think is an immensely helpful factor. In this case, I think it might work to my advantage that I’m not an expert. The fact that I’m able to remember what it’s like being a teenager means I can empathize with the issues that teenagers these days are facing. I know what it’s like to be young and dumb and reckless. Having to face pressures from family and school and peers. I know what it’s like to be pushed to that breaking point, and to feel like your entire world is spinning out of control. I’ve been there. I was the girl who got all straight-a’s and did exactly what I was told and what was expected of me. I know what it’s like to have to live a double life—to appear perfect and to have it all figured out on the outside, while being a total mess on the inside. I know what it’s like to feel trapped and to feel like you’re suffocating—and to get to a point where you just don’t want to do it anymore. I know it’s not exactly P.C. to write about such things as suicide and whatnot, but it’s my choice to share or not. My first attempt was at the age of 13. An overdose. Trust me when I say that getting your stomach pumped is not a pleasant experience. It sucked actually. I spent a week in the hospital having to take this vile medication and being watched like a hawk 24/7 just in case I tried something stupid again. I almost died. Not that it justifies what I did, but I was going through a lot at the time. I’d just moved to a new school, having had to leave to town I grew up and friends that I’d known since pre-school. As everyone knows, being the new kid isn’t a fun position to be in. In addition to that, my grandfather had passed away shortly before from cancer. His death was a pretty hard blow for me. He’d been in and out of hospitals for a couple of years before, so my siblings and I were constantly going here and there and whatnot. It was especially hard in that he was pretty much the only real father-figure we’d ever had. Our actual father was off in Indiana with a new wife and second family. We were lucky if we saw or heard from him once a year. With him not in the picture, my grandfather pretty much took his place. I still remember him picking us up from school in that beat-up old Chevy of his and loading us up on ice cream and sugar before dinner. I remember him taking me to auction after auction as we built up my collection of Beanie Babies. It didn’t matter how far of a drive it was, how long of a line we had to wait in, or how much those exclusive ones cost…he’d do it all for me. A couple of weeks before he went into the hospital that last time, he took me to this big Beanie Babies convention that was being held. We waited in line for over 4 hours—despite the fact that he was on oxygen at the time and couldn’t stand for long periods of time because the cancer had messed up his circulation. I remember telling him a dozen times that it was stupid and not worth it, and that we should just leave—but he insisted that we stayed. He was amazing and generous and loving. Losing him was by far, one of the most devastating things I have ever had to go through. All of that combined…I was a mess. I didn’t know how to cope with the death of someone so close to me. After all, I’d never had to deal with something like that before then. I was 13. Should I have done what I did? Of course not. But like most confused 13-year-olds, I didn’t know any better. At least not then.
Anyhow, things just seemed to get worse after that. I was under a lot of pressure. With my sister away at college, I was expected to fill her shoes and take her place, so to speak. Everyone was constantly telling me how she’d done this or that and that I should do the same, but better. She was the golden child. Miss Goody-Two-Shoes with a capital “G.” She was perfect. She did nothing wrong. It was exhausting, always having to measure up. Of always having to be so damn perfect, all the time. I hated that. I was so sick of being compared to her. I mean, I love my sister to death and all…but she’s meticulously boring. It wasn’t that I couldn’t measure up. In fact, I over-measured her—mostly without even trying. Grades were easy for me. I didn’t have to study or work hard—I aced everything. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I almost resented my ability to do that. There were times when I actually wanted to fail but I didn’t. But the one characteristic I did share with my sister, was that I hated to disappoint. So I went through it all and did what everyone expected.
Then came the year I turned 16. Everything was so crazed at home. My niece was born and came to live with us. Everything changed once there was a baby in the house. Then there was the custody fight over her that went on for months. When my mother and grandmother won custody, it meant that everyone else had to help with her as well. Not that I minded having to do that, because she is and always has been a complete joy in our lives, but still. It was hard. I had school and AP courses and SAT’s to worry about and focus on, extracurriculars, and an after-school job. It was a lot to deal with and so I chose yet another unhealthy way of coping with the chaos. I started cutting. I don’t know how to explain it in a way that doesn’t seem irrational, but somehow it seemed to help. Once it stopped helping, I fell victim to an eating disorder. Bulimia. Believe it or not, it had nothing to do with food or weight or anything like that. For me, it was a way to control a world that was, in so many other ways, out of my control. It wasn’t serious at first. It was mostly just when things got too stressful, I guess. Then there was that horrible night. The rape. Finding out I was pregnant and deciding to have an abortion. That’s when it all started to get out of hand. I was desperate. I was lost. I had no idea how to deal with what had been done to me, or with what I’d done. So instead, I chose to ignore it. To act as though it had never happened. The bulimia helped, I guess. I couldn’t control what happened, but I could control something else. It got bad. Really bad. I passed out in school a couple of times. There were teachers and guidance counselors and school nurses that eventually got involved. And my family, of course. It went on for nearly two years before that point—before anyone actually noticed what was going on. While I realize their intentions were pure and that they meant well—the added involvement only made it worse…made me want to do it even more…if for no other reason than because they wanted me to stop. I was hospitalized a couple of times. Sent to half a dozen different shrinks. Therapy may work for some people, but it’s never worked for me. I guess that’s because I could never see the point in pouring out my heart to a complete stranger who thought he/she knew all the answers simply because they had an M.D. or Ph.D. at the end of their name. As far as I was concerned, they hadn’t ever experienced those things themselves—therefor they couldn’t truly understand.
Anyhow, the point is—I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve literally been where thousands of teenagers are standing right now. I know what it’s like. I know how difficult it can be and how confusing it all us. I’ve lived. I’ve succeeded. I’ve failed. I’ve loved. I’ve lost. I’ve had my heart-broken and been through hell and back more times than I can count. And yet…I’m still here. Somehow, I’ve managed to move past all that and to get to where I am now.
My life is far from perfect, and I’m far from being where I thought I would be by now. But I’m getting there. Next spring I’ll have my degree and my summer magazine internship in New York City…and possibly even a permanent position doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing…doing what I’ve worked all these years for. Maybe, in a way, this site idea might make a difference. Big or small…I’ll take it either way.
Sweet sixteen, better light another candle,
just for luck.
This year is going to be a fun one.
A license to drive and her high school prom.
Smile for the camera, girl.
This way you’ll never forget.
Years from now, you’ll look back.
And be glad you did that.
But for now, you might as well say goodbye to innocence.
Better put on those boxing gloves,
prepare yourself–this is going to the fight of your life.
Sweet sixteen, just another year, just another damaged life.
A girl with a dream–
you don’t know it now,
but you’ll learn to fly someday…somehow.
You’ll be a heartbreaker with that phony smile you wear so well.
The one that hides the secret,
of that dark autumn night.
Looks in the mirror,
horrified at what she sees.
Runs to put those fingers down her throat–
to be all that she can be.
What the world expects,
what they really want to see.
It isn’t her. Just an image they’ve created.
She cries, but no one cares.
They want to ask, but they don’t dare.
She’s breaking inside,
trying her best not to let them see,
the burden that she carries–
the shame of being sweet sixteen.