When J hurt me a few months ago, he reawakened a lot of the trauma I experienced from my mother’s hands as a child. I had a brief phone conversation with him last weekend, which hurt me a lot, because in several implicit ways, he blamed me for what happened. As I gripped my new smartphone in my hand and heard his callous tone, a flood of questions and doubts raced through me: am I just a product of my mother’s abuse? Does my compassion for others only stem from a need to distance myself from her? What does this mean for me, for my personality, for all of my good deeds? After that conversation, I deleted a post I wrote on this blog – a decision I regret – so I want to re-share a quote I included in it, about how people misrepresent love as a bond free of conflict:
“Love is possible only if two persons communicate with each other from the center of their existence, hence if each one of them experiences himself from the center of his existence. Only in this “central experience” is human reality, only here is aliveness, only here is the basis of love. Love, experienced thus, is a constant challenge; it is not a resting place, but a moving, growing, working together; even whether there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness, is secondary to the fundamental fact that two people experience themselves from the essence of their existence, that they are one with each other by being one with themselves, rather than by fleeing with themselves. There is only one proof for the presence of love: the depth of the relationship, and the aliveness and strength in each person concerned; this is the fruit by which love is recognized.” – The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm.
While J has been the only friend to do something horrid to me this semester, others have abandoned me, and I realize I cannot control that. Continue reading
Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Thomas,
Hi, this is your nineteen-year-old self. How are you? I want to start this letter by saying that, yes, you still write embarrassing super personal blog posts three years from now. You do not write as much on your blog, because college keeps you busy, but you still do. Congratulations: no admissions officers take the time to Google your blog and reject you because of it, so keep writing.
So I guess I will start on the whole college thing: you get in. You really, really do. You get into William and Mary, the University of Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania. All your hard work pays off. Almost three years ago, you wrote this post about optimism, about how you would not let a B- in Physics Honors keep you down. Guess what: not only do you end up with an A- in the class, but you graduate high school and enter the university of your dreams: William & Mary. This might blow your mind, so feel free to take a moment and listen to Lady Gaga (you later get super into Ariana Grande and her song “Break Free,” but that can wait) or read a book.
Even bigger news: you escape your mother. No, not 100%. You still have to go home and see her, you still have to put up with her mood swings over the phone. But for the most part, you leave. You highlight your hair, you wear whatever you want, you study all the subjects you care about, and you have your freedom. At college, you feel the happiest you have ever been.
But I want to tell you some bad news. Continue reading
I faced a lot of abuse as a child. To this day, I still feel an ounce of panic when someone raises their voice, and I still flinch when anyone raises their hand, even if just for a high-five. One of my most vivid adolescent memories centers on the first time I saw a friend’s parents interact without shouting. It proved to me that non-dysfunctional families did exist outside of fiction, that some people did get along without hurting one another, and that maybe one day, I would find someone who understood me, too.
I do not want pity for my past, but I do want to talk about how I coped with my abuse: I developed a huge internal locus of control. Continue reading
A little less than three weeks ago, I had a rough day. Memories of J kept pulling me under, even though I knew he never spent a single second thinking about me. After hours of staring at walls and pretending to have my life together, I walked to a dorm in the middle of campus, where for some reason, I started reading my old blog posts. Then, I found this:
The cheesy and heartfelt words of seventeen-year-old me, from my blog post “Things Change.” Dang, time flies.
After reading those words, I ran to a bathroom stall, played the Teen Titans scene from my blog post on repeat, and sobbed for twenty minutes. I felt every tear like a shock of electricity running down my face; as I crouched down on the cold hard tile, my cheek pressing into the cool granite, every nerve in my body sung, as if all my emotions just then ripped through my body. Because reading my old blog post and watching that scene made me remember an important lesson, one that gave me hope: things change.
I loved the old J, the one who cared about me, the one with an honest calm, the friend who worked hard to improve himself. Continue reading
One month has passed since you ended our friendship. 28 days have gone by since you took my heart and shattered it in your hands, smiling the whole time.
I could write about anger. I have every right to hate you for the horrible way you treated me. This past month has been a whirlwind of emotion, in which some days I sing “Break Free” at the top of my lungs and others in which I spend hours in a dark haze of memory and regret. You hurt me, and though I do not often feel frustration, I still get upset at myself, for trusting you.
But the idea of anger brings me back to a quote from Jane Eyre, in which Jane’s friend Helen says “life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity.” Every second I spend thinking about you means one less thought given to my true friends, to the issues I care about, and the causes I fight for. Continue reading
I have never felt so empty before.
A few weeks ago, J tore me apart. They told me that our friendship meant nothing to them, that caring about me made them feel like they lived a lie, that they would enjoy college more if they could forget about me. J meant so much to me, and they used that knowledge only to bludgeon me, to break me apart.
I had so much to accomplish today, with over 15 things on my to-do list. But just a few hours ago, I got a text from someone with bad news. I tried to reach out, but everyone I knew had something occupying them – a train ride, a week full of exams, their own issues, etc. – so I made the worst mistake.
I called J. Continue reading
This past week, Virginia state senators have passed a bill that would require public colleges to create policies on parental notification if their children show “suicidal tendencies,” unless a mental-health professional states that alerting parents would cause harm. As a William & Mary student involved in mental health activism, as an Asian-American who comes from a family that stigmatizes mental illness, and as a human who values his autonomy, I write this post to demonstrate just how much this bill disturbs me. I aim to prove that we need to treat and discuss mental health with the attention and nuance it deserves, instead of assuming that we can cure the complexities of the human brain with shallow, inefficient legislation.
I understand that these senators have good intentions; I get that they want to do something to prevent school shootings, to help people who suffer from mental illness. But they – as well as everyone else involved in this conversation – need to realize that introducing family into the equation will not aid students. Continue reading