2018 was kind of a big year for me. I did a lot of new things that made me uncomfortable, and it really paid off. I proved something to myself this year; that is, I realized I only needed to prove it to myself, and no one else. The ultimate task of my life these last fifteen years has been learning how to love myself like a parent would. Like my mother no longer can, like I never had when I was small.
Learning to take pride in myself and my accomplishments was the first step. The next was taking greater risks, reaping greater rewards, and finally feeling confident enough to reach even farther, to end this life as I know it and build a new one, entirely on my own terms. I feel like an honest-to-goodness Grown Up.
To me, a Grown Up is someone who takes responsibility for themselves and the things they love. They know themselves and they remember their own worth. Grown Ups construct a foundation of life experience to assemble a platform from which they may do good things in the world. They don’t just own up to their mistakes, they learn from them, and they do better. Grown Ups aren’t possessed of a victim-mentality, because they know that even when terrible things happen, they are capable facing it head-on.
After a literal lifetime of feeling like the picture of helpless and vulnerable, this sort of matter-of-fact, unapologetically self-driven, Carpe Diem attitude is a very welcome reprieve.
A lot of this growth has come as a result of getting treatment for PTSD, the result of childhood trauma and inevitable subsequent traumatization. I had been broken for a long time — not an excuse, but an earnest explanation — and I made a lot of mistakes in that time that I haven’t had the opportunity to apologize for. After leaving an abusive relationship in 2017, I came to understand in retrospect that, quite to my surprise, I had been a toxic influence in a loved one’s life at one time. It was unintentional, and it masqueraded quite effectively as love. I learned the pain I’d caused my lost friend while I was being victimized by someone else, and I came to respect their choice when I too had to walk away from someone who truly, honestly believed that they were loving me right.
People aren’t perfect, and even decent people can do horrible things. In adolescence, I learned this lesson as children do when they are confronted with the limitations of their caregivers’ great and terrible power and realize, quite intractably, that these Goliaths are merely human. I survived a childhood in the care of flawed humans and thus became a flawed human myself. Now exiting my unfortunately prolonged adolescence, I’m realizing that the best thing I can to do is confront my mistakes and then deliberately stop repeating them. Somehow, I have to dismantle the core beliefs behind these maladaptations.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the next chapter in my life will be all about how I navigate that path. I’m ready. I know I’ve got this. After all, I’ve already come so far.