On my last day as a 29-year old, I had to cry. Not because I’m getting older, but because I realized how long the road to becoming a grown-up has been. I looked back and cried for the girl I once was. I cried for the memories I never made, and for those that shaped me into the person I am today. I cried for the innocence of a child, for the fighting-spirit of a little girl that never lost hope that one day she’d be an independent woman and leave all the pain behind her, trusting that no pain lasts forever, and that things would be alright one day. And that’s exactly how it turned out.
I don’t talk much about my past, my childhood or youth. I prefer not to, as this long period is littered with memories I’d rather not have. I buried some of them so deeply, that sharing them requires a major effort. The truth is, I didn’t have a particularly happy childhood. It wasn’t brutal or dramatic, either, but certainly not happy. My parents got divorced when I was still in primary school. My father, who I loved more than anyone, and who had been an amazing dad to me up until that point, suddenly disappeared without a trace, and I didn’t hear from him for years to come. He just went up in a puff of smoke. He left me with my mother, who herself was overwhelmed with the situation, to put it mildly. A short time later a stepfather appeared on the scene, who treated me with a distinct lack of empathy, and who always gave me the feeling I’m just a disturbance in his relationship with my mother. It wasn’t always easy.
Feeling safe, secure and cared for, emotions which form the essential frame of a healthy childhood, were rare for me. How much I longed for a normal family, one like those my friends had, who I so loved to visit. I never felt welcome in my own home, and it didn’t help that we moved every 2 years. I had beautiful rooms to love in, I wasn’t wanting for anything on the surface, but our flats felt stark and empty. There was no living room, just an empty space. We sometimes didn’t even have wallpapers, let alone decorative items or plants, nothing to signal that the space we lived in was a loving home. I think there wasn’t even a table at which we could have eaten supper together and talked about the days we had. Something so natural today just didn’t exist for me back then.
I spent a lot of time alone, also played a lot by myself. I used to imagine entire worlds, which I filled with life. Sometimes I went out, picked up free newspapers and read through the “for rent” sections, imagining what it would be like to live alone, to be free. I filled days, weeks and months creating such parallel lives.
Independence eventually came faster than expected. Even as a teenager, I lived practically by myself, also cared for myself, while my mother, after finally separating from my brutal stepfather, pursued her own professional and private fulfillment abroad. With all these changes, my life took a turn for the better: yes, I was living on my own at only 15, but at least I experienced a feeling of growing independence. I had long stopped battling the inner feeling of loneliness at that point, a feeling that had been my constant companion for as long as I could remember. And who would have thought? With a few thousand kilometers between us, the relationship with my mother improved markedly over time. Today I know well that this period was everything but easy for her. She did her very best, and she gave me much more love than she had ever received, even if that wasn’t enough for me at the time. I understand her much better today than I ever could back then, and I have a different perspectives on some of the decisions she took. I know now how limitless her love for me was, and I understand that she was away so much to work on a brighter future for me than had been made possible for her. She wanted me to grow up in a country in which I wouldn’t go hungry, in which I’d be safe, in which I could grow and unfold into the best me. That’s what I tried to do all my life, and the process has made me strong.
These are only snippets of memories today.
Snippets that remind me of the different life I once lead. Snapshots, etched into my mind.
Conjuring up these emotions and images, I feel like an observer of my own history, as if I’d be looking on to a life I didn’t actually lead myself. My childhood seems so far away, it resonates like an old movie I saw ages ago, but the details of which have long become blurry.
Has any of it ever really happened? Yes.
It happened, and it passed. What does our past mean? What remains of it? A handful of memories and the occasional, vague suspicion in the back of my mind that I’m inadequate, not lovable, somehow worthless. I am still fighting for the understanding that I have a worth as human being and personality, just because I am. It is ok to be loved, I remind myself, without having to earn that love. Maybe that’s one of the main reasons why I love blogging. I expose my inner world for all to see, and receive comfort in return. The past has largely sunk into oblivion, but still being here makes me feel strong, and sure of my strength.
I am turning 30 today, and the main emotion I feel looking back on my life is pride. I am proud to believe in love, in the good in people, in humanity and in myself. I am no longer a slave to my fears, I broke those shackles and learned to fly. If that’s not a reason to celebrate, what is?