Four years ago, a man I loved broke my heart. We met as freshmen hallmates at my undergraduate college, his room at the end of the dorm and mine more toward the middle. We grew into close friends after a few intimate conversations and decided to room together our sophomore year. In the early spring semester of my sophomore year, he told me he did not want our friendship anymore, that he would never care about me as much as I cared about him. He said that I cared too much about him. He said I expected too much.
Now, I understand he took advantage of me throughout the friendship. I remember one of our conversations early freshman year, while walking down Colonial Williamsburg at night fall, the air crisp and fireflies illuminating our path. At one point he told me that he felt impressed by me because I cared so much about people, because he himself struggles to actually care about people. At the time, I found this inspiring: wow, he struggles to care about people and wants to learn how, that’s so deep and self-aware. So, over the next year and a half, I tried to teach him. He would fail and I would feel hurt. I took on the role of his therapist instead of asserting more healthful boundaries. He saw before I did that he would never meet my expectations, so he ended our friendship.
“He literally told me from the start that he doesn’t care about people, which is like, the reddest red flag that’s ever been red,” I told my therapist the other day. “I was so freaking stupid for having ever trusted him, for caring about him.”
My therapist said all the right things: that it wasn’t my fault because I didn’t know as much about abuse then, that I’m so much more empowered and self-aware now. Yet I struggled to believe her. Continue reading
My grandmother passed away last year on December 20. Sometimes I shrug off her death. “Yeah, she was like my actual mother, so it’s sad,” I’ll say to a friend, “but it’s fine, like I’m fine overall.” I like to use the word “fine” a lot, because it helps me avoid how not fine it is to lose the person who had loved you the most. Or I’ll point to my planner and say, “Yeah, it’s tough, but I did this therapy session, and this research meeting, and that class reading, so it’s okay. Sad, but okay.”
But sometimes grief and loss and mourning are not okay, and no matter how much I want to embody put-togetherness, I just have to feel that shit, that not-okay-ness. Continue reading
Two truths, one lie: Continue reading
I turn twenty in an hour and a half, and the English major within me wants to explain why I write this blog. In addition to my thoughts on society, books, and pop, this site has always served as a space for me to reflect on my personal life, as you can see from how the traumatic events of this past semester show themselves within my recent writing. Though this thesis might change, I will make it clear, as of today: I write this blog so that it can serve as a place of compassion, for myself and for others. A quick definition of “self-compassion,” provided by professor and researcher Kristin Neff:
As I’ve defined it, self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness – that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate. – Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion.
Two themes run throughout my life: the depth of my emotions and the struggles I have encountered. Continue reading
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