As soon as I saw the ten year challenge pictures on Facebook, I knew I was gonna write it. The photos show the physical change. What it doesn’t show is the emotional and mental changes, and those are so much more important than the physical. I did start the post, but when I did I was still struggling with stringing words together and after a couple paragraphs I gave up. The work was mediocre, and not at all what I wanted to say.
Ten years ago, it was me and Matthew against the world. Chase wasn’t even a thought yet, his father and I hadn’t even met yet. Ten years ago I was 25, and Matthew was four. Some drastic changes had occured – I had decided to make shit happen.
I moved to Toledo very pregnant and very reliant on other people in 2005. I came here with a box of books and a bag of clothes – nothing tangible to my name. No car or license, even. 2009 brought drastic changes. I got sick of being reliant. I got sick of having to ask people for rides and I got sick of being broke. I got sick of people’s shit, too. 2009 brought everything I needed to free myself from all of it. 2009 was our beginning.
It began late in 2008 actually, when Matt’s dad and I went our separate ways. Shortly thereafter came the license, the car. The new job that gave me wiggle room financially for the first time. It sounds so simple in those few sentences, but really it was terrifying. I look back and see a scared girl. And I look at who I am now and wonder how I was ever that person.
That person ten years ago was very used to just letting other people worry about the details. I had essentially gone from living in a disfunctional home to being reliant on a disfunctional relationship. I can’t sugar coat that, and I won’t. Matt’s dad and I were not healthy together, and that’s the black and white of it. Between the two disfunctional situations I had a year break where I started to get a glimpse of who I was, and I rather liked who that woman could have been. But I pushed her into the back of my mind as I tried to make a life for Matthew. I put who I wanted to be on the back burner, and tried to be someone I was not in the name of having an unbroken home for Matt, and for what I thought to be love.
Ten years ago I discovered that the life I was trying to live was making me a basket case. That I was not happy and I needed more. I needed something different. Ten years ago I decided I liked the woman I was in that year of solitude better than the one I was in that moment. Which is to say a rather submissive, scared, unconfident woman.
I remember looking in the mirror at a broken woman. A woman who was overweight and had no passion for life. I lived and breathed for my son, no doubt. But that was the beginning, and the end of who I was.
People who did not know me ten years ago probably read that and had to read it again. Those words do not describe who I am today. Not even a little. There is nothing submissive, scared or unconfident about me today. There is nothing impassionate about me now. But trust me when I say, it was a reality ten years ago. And only by me taking a chance at change in the name of my own happiness was I able to change who I was becoming, into who I was meant to be.
We cut ties and I got my shit together. License, car, new job, each step scary but so exhilaratingly freeing. The lady at the license bureau handed me my paper license and I stared at it in awe. I had done it. First step in self reliance. And again, buying tags and plates for Christine, my first Buick. Holy shit, its really mine, pile of shit or not. Telling my boss at Subway that they needed to cover my shift because I wasn’t coming in and I quit – that felt so fucking good I cried real tears. The months that followed were scary, because I was essentially jobless. But it freed me up for the next opportunity.
I remember losing the extra physical weight I was carrying as I lost the emotional weight. I remember how freeing it was to do things that I wanted to do and not having to ask permission – dying my hair dark, getting a tattoo. Wearing clothes that I liked and not being worried about what anyone thought because I liked how they looked on me. Buying makeup and actually wearing it. Going to the bar and getting drunk and having fun with no guilt. . . Realizing that I had no one to answer to but my damn self. I remember finding my passion for life again, passion for myself. I remember realizing that it did not take a two parent household to make a happy home, all it took was dedication and happiness, and I could do that on my own, too.
The years that followed were not easy. I’ve written a lot of that. Matthew’s diagnosis of ADHD, the multiple cars and jobs, the moves, the losses. . . . In ten years I started my life over again not once, but twice. I added another wonderful child. And I’ve rediscovered who I am half a dozen times, as each change seems to awaken a new part of me.
But none of it would have happened had I not made those first few scary steps. Had I not got sick and tired of being a door mat. Had I not looked in the mirror one day and saw an unhappy individual looking back.
And truth be told, I do still have a ghost of the woman left who is scared, the woman who is not confident. I sometimes look in the mirror and see all of the physical flaws. The lines forming on my face, the extra weight, the grey hairs popping up. . . There are times when I cannot see my own worth and my own strength. There are times when I don’t know why anyone even bothers with me, and times I want to hide away because I don’t think I deserve to have all that I do. I have moments where I want to block everyone out, and push everyone away, and God forbid someone show me that they think I matter! That’s when my demons show their faces the most, when I feel the most unworthy. Once upon a time I was broken, and that part of me will never go away.
In reality, I have busted my ass and I have worked hard for all of this. For every ounce of who I am. I look at my children, and see happy boys. They aren’t afraid to be themselves. I love that so much about them. And I know that they wouldn’t be who they are if I had stayed where I was ten years ago. I look at Scarlett, my new Buick and remember my first Buick and smile. I think of living in an apartment and smile as my kids play in our backyard, and know. I look at my paychecks and know. I stand in the crowd at a concert, I dig my fingers into freshly turned dirt in the spring, I laugh with the people I can confidently call my friends, I feel the tattoo needle hit my skin, I write these words for you all, and I fucking know – I couldn’t be all that I am had I not taken those first scary steps ten years ago. I would not be who and what I am had I not taken that leap of faith. And I could not realize how blessed I am if I didn’t remember who I once was.
Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let the unknown keep you from the possibilities. Make your happiness and your sanity a priority. You’ll be so glad you did.