I’ve been having similar dreams throughout the last week. The same people. The same town. The same mistakes and truths and hopes and lies. I read somewhere once that your dreams are a portal to your reality. That when you lay down at night, your dreams are a way of giving you insight to the real things that are going on in your life. If so, then I just had a huge wake up call. You know, I’ve done some thinking lately and I’ve been thinking about how we say we’ve forgiven, that we’ve let go of the past and mistakes we’ve made and people we have hurt and people who have hurt us. But have we really? I don’t know. Honestly. I struggle with accepting the past for what it was, the past. And I struggle with letting the past go and not letting the past influence my future.
I was cleaning my room this week and I found these old journals. The pages are worn and filled with words I wrote when I was in middle and high school. As I read through them, I noticed how my handwriting changed throughout the years. My I’s look like lollipops and my handwriting is sloppy at the beginning but the further I go, my handwriting changes into the neat writing I have now. And when I got to the last entry, May 18, 2013, the day I graduated high school, I realized just how much of my life I’ve let slip by. I’ve let the mistakes others made control how I look at life. And what I’ve realized even more in the last week, is that I don’t want to let my life slip by. Maybe the only way to fully let go is to completely put myself out there and take down my walls for once.
I’m sorry. There I said it. And I realize now, that years later, my sorry means close to nothing to you. I would stand on the rooftop of that high school and shout it to the sky and the birds and God and anyone who would listen just to make you believe me. I’m sorry that I valued the attention of people who didn’t really like me more than our friendship. I’m sorry that I thought the way to people’s hearts was to lie about who I am. I’m sorry that I’m an attention seeker. I’m sorry that when you needed me, I wasn’t there. I’m sorry that I spent years trying to be something I wasn’t just so people would like me.
But what, I am most sorry for, is wasting time. Yours. Mine. And everyone around us. Sometimes I wish I could get a do-over. Rewind to the that day in fifth grade, being the new kid and first in class. Sitting at a desk and when three girls came and sat next to me, I moved to the other side of the room, by myself. I find this moment to be the one of the turning points in my life. As I was going through my room, I found my transcripts and in them, I had teachers comments from kindergarten to my senior year in high school. Up until fifth grade, the comments were similar. “Kathleen is very social and we have to remind her to get back on track. She’s a smart student but talks a lot. Kathleen enjoys getting praise from her peers and teachers and is a people pleaser.” But then my comments through fifth grade, middle, and high school changed to “Kathleen is a smart student but very quiet. She doesn’t socialize with her peers. She beats to her own tune.” And I was reading these I thought of that moment in fifth grade. If I hadn’t moved my seat, what would have happened to the girl with glasses? I can think of the other moment too, that changed my life, the moment that caused my comments to go from outgoing child to moody and quiet girl.
When you see love end right before your eyes, it changes you. And sure you may be a nine-year old girl whose definition of love is sharing your cookies at snack time but when you see the two most important people in your life flip that switch, it changes you, forever. I don’t think enough people realize the terrible effects divorce has on children. We live in a world where divorce is normal and marriages don’t last and long marriages are almost unheard of now and the pieces of the broken kids get swept up under the rug. It changes you. All you remember is the fighting, the crying, the arguing, the leaving, the moving, and shuffling and trying to be a girl who just makes her parents happy.
It changes you because you don’t see love the way others do anymore. What you thought would be another Disney fairytale doesn’t exist in your world anymore. Love and leaving. Leaving and love. That’s all it is to you now. You see two people together and think it’s not gonna last. He’ll do something and she’ll do something, they will fight and decide it’s not worth it anymore. Love and leaving is synonymous now. Those you love will leave so don’t even bother with love.
And then you think, “well how can I fix this?” You want both parents and you want to be happy but what you fail to realize is that you’re just a little girl. Your hugs and words can’t change their minds and that hurts you more than you let on. I’m not one to play the blame game but if I could pinpoint one moment in my life that really set the way I am now in motion, it would be my parent’s divorce. When all you are used to is yelling and fighting, it becomes normal to you. You think, “Well that is what love is, you have to fight for what you love.” And you save that in your mind for whenever you enter a relationship. When all you’ve been taught is to leave, you don’t know how to stay. When all you see is people leaving when things get tough, when people give up because the light to fight is extinguished, you think “nothing is worth anything anymore.”
All I’ve been taught is to leave. To not let people get too close to me because they will leave. And I think these lessons came to life that day in fifth grade. I left that seat because those girls would’ve left anyways. I wanted to be first. First to leave. First to say I don’t care. First to say I’m fine. First to be the better person and to hide the pained smile of a 10-year-old girl who was forced to grow up too quickly. First to hurt others before they hurt me. And to those I knew and hurt when I was younger, in that little town, I am so sorry that I always had to be first.
It’s a learning process for me, to let people in and not be first. Nights are the worst. It’s when everything settles down and your mind has time to run and race about all the things you try to hide during the day. Sometimes I still wish I could get a do-over but I’m glad I can’t because everything happens for a reason. If my parents hadn’t gotten divorced, I would’ve never been in that town, moving my seat away from people and beginning my years of self-imposed isolation. I would have never spread rumors about people because I liked to watch others suffer. I would have never locked that girl in a bathroom in sixth grade and made her bark like a dog just so I could laugh at her. I would have never been the mean girl, the girl who threw friendships away like they were trash, the girl who shut everyone out and lived in her imaginative world. The girl who said no to every guy who asked her out because she knew it wouldn’t last and she wasn’t going to put herself through that. The girl who saw absolutely no value in having friends or relationships or being close with her family. Everyone leaves. But I also never would have been reformed. I never would have been saved and I wouldn’t be sitting here typing these words onto my little corner of the Internet because I wouldn’t have anything to talk about. Looking back, I hate how I was and acted and treated people but now, I am thankful because here I am.
It’s hard to talk to people about my childhood. I know there were good moments but I can’t remember them. I only remember the bad moments and when I hear people talk about their childhoods, I feel like I missed out. I missed out on the carelessness, the freedom, the wild-eyed whispers with best friends. Late night sleepovers gossiping about boys and summers by the pool & at the beach. Children don’t have to worry about if there will be a fight again at home or when the end really will be here. But I did. Because I was a girl who grew up too quickly and missed out on the freedoms that being a young and innocent child come with.
You are more than your circumstances. You are more than your circumstances. You want to beat the system that us “broken kids” are supposed to be in? Refuse to be broken. You are not broken. No matter how many people try to tell you you are, remember you’re not. Do not become the mean girl I was. Don’t shut people out. Don’t hurt them. And sure it is easy for me to say this and it is easy for you to treat people the way that your circumstances should let you but listen to me, as a girl who lost all her friends and pushed everyone away. Listen to me as the girl who knows what you’re going through and you will be far more rewarded for treating people right than treating them wrong.
And to the people I personally know, in that little town, if you’re reading this, I hope you know I am thankful for knowing you because whether you know it or not, you have all impacted my life. I hope that wherever life finds you, that you are happy and well and doing something you love. Remember love always wins. Every. Single. Time. I hope you don’t let the mistakes of yesterdays change the way you live your today’s and tomorrow’s. Most of all, I hope you realize that at the end of the day all you’ve got is yourself. Your integrity. Your faith. Your worthiness. Your wisdom. Your morals. Your standards. The things you believe in. Some battles aren’t worth compromising yourself for. Remember that. Wear it on your heart, wear it on your sleeve. Put it somewhere safe and take it out when you need it.
I was never taught to stay. It’s hard to unlearn the things you’ve been taught but I want to learn to stay. And maybe I will make up for my childhood now. I’ll laugh and love fearlessly. I’ll be me shamelessly. I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud and I don’t want to get to the end and realize that my life is a collection of missed moments and words unsaid and things I never got to do and places I never got to go to and people I never got to meet. I want to run fast down a street and throw a dart at a map and go to wherever it lands. I want to throw parties and fall in love passionately and meet people who make me want to be better than I am. I want to read books so good they make me jump up and down and I want everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that He gave life to someone who loves the gift.