Something Needed to End, So That I Could Begin Again
I am fully aware that beginnings, just like endings, are beautiful and for me to experience a beautiful beginning I should be content with something to end.
Yet, time and time again I have held on to things – whether that be relationships, career positions, material possessions, grudges and hurts – way past the due date. I believe it’s the conditioned woman in me who society taught to work on things, even when those things cannot be repaired. As women, we have all held on to that one partner who has cheated on us, lied to us, given us excuse after excuse. We have told them time and time again that we can’t go on with this relationship, yet we have forgiven them time and time again and wonder how we got there. Or we have that friend who never shows up for us when we really need them, who always talks about themselves and downplays our achievements by trying to one up us. Or perhaps the company or boss who does not respect us, who does not value our work and refuses to promote us. In all these situations we have stayed for far too long, simply because we are afraid of letting go and starting over.
Once Upon A Time
Once upon a time, I was that woman and in some areas in my life I am still am. As I reflect on this, I wonder why I stay with people and in places where I am not valued. I have thought back to childhood and wondered what happened to me back then that now manifests itself as this “ugly” trait in adulthood. I can think of nothing. From the time I was a little girl, my mom told me I never liked to stay anywhere for more than 20 minutes; I would start to get restless and cry and she would have to take me home. As the saying goes, “my mom could take me no-where.” This was largely due to my introversion and still continues to be this way up until today; I just wish that this would transfer to other areas in my life.
As with many stories, it all began with a boy. I was madly in love with this one guy for the first 10 years of my adult life. Within the first year of my relationship with him, I already knew that this relationship would not work, yet I stayed because I told myself that he would change and become a better person. As the years progressed and the cheating and arguments - that would at times translate to verbal abuse - continued, I made excuses to stay; such as, I had invested so much in this man and this relationship that I did not want to leave. After building him up, my thought process was that I did not want some other woman to come and reap the benefits of all the hard work I had put in. Coupled with that, I was raised in a society that was so easy to call women sluts or loose for having more than one partner, so I was determined to have a one-man policy for my entire life. Even though I spoke with other women and told them about my grievances about this man, I was told that this is as good as it gets, and all men are the same so I might as well stay with him and make it work.
That I did. I stayed and became a shadow of the woman I wanted to be. I dimmed my light so that his light could shine, and I maintained that I would be a trophy wife and allow my man to be macho. I justified my actions because I was still able, in some way, to maintain my independence. I was going to school and I was making my own money, so I still felt like my own woman.
Some women who knew of my situation suggested that I have a child with him or convince him to marry me, as marriage and child would change him. Luckily for me, my grandmother grilled in my ears at a very young age that marriage and children do not change men, especially if those men did not want to change.
With every single woman he cheated on me with, I changed my self. When I pursued a Bachelor’s degree, he told me the women he cheated with had Master’s degrees. When I pursued a Master’s degree he told me that the women he cheated with had their own business or went on the pursue PhDs. (I eventually realized that these of course were all lies, by the way.) He told me that the women wore weaves, and did their nails, and wore make up, and were beautiful inside and out, and even though I was never a girl who cared about these things, I did the occasional make up and nails because I wanted to keep my man. Every time I spoke up and threatened to leave, I was blamed for being too rude, too ambitious, too independent, too motivated, too smart - and so I changed my ways. What I failed to realize was that he was too insecure for me.
Fast forward to 10 years later, while I didn’t leave the relationship, I did start to focus more on me. I met a new group of people who were finally telling me what I already knew, that I needed to give this relationship up because it was not serving me. I would love to say that I broke things off, but that was not happened. I was so afraid of being a statistic – a woman who left her man in the Caribbean, came to the US, married another man for papers and forgot where she came from. And to be honest, I was so afraid of a new beginning. While I knew who I was, I was afraid that society would not accept me for who I am; as I had always been told by this guy that men don’t love bold and fearless women like me who acted like they did not need a man. I wish then that had I had known the value of beginnings.
Walking In My Truth
A few days before my 29th birthday after accusing me of cheating for the millionth time, he dropped a bombshell on me that he had gotten another woman pregnant. Of course it was my fault because I was stressing him out and he was lonely, and this other woman comforted him when I was too concerned with pursuing my own interests. (Ah the audacity.) If that was not enough, society had its own way of dealing with me. First, I was called stupid for staying with a man who cheated on me for so long. Second, I was told what did I expect since I decided to choose myself and career over this man (never mind when he went to school I supported him, but when I went to school he did not support me). And third, people who I thought were close with me started distancing themselves and calling me a slut. By now you should have known that this guy would not go down without a fight. Turns out he told everyone that would listen that I cheated on him and because of that he had no choice but to cheat.
My life was shattered. Here I was for almost 30 years old, living the way society expected me to. I was faithful to this guy, stood by him through thick and thin, and yet still society turned it’s back on me. The same slut I did not want to be called, I was called for allegedly cheating on this dude who cheated on me for 10 years of my life.
It was a rough year. A year of tears, depression, and wrestling with who I was vs. who I wanted to be. I was broken and shattered at rock bottom and I had no choice, but to go back up. So I did just that.
At the time I was so annoyed with God. I was like “God, how could you? You who know how hard I worked to maintain this relationship and to have it shattered from under me – it’s not fair.” To make matters, worst this guy was living his life unbothered while I felt as if I was dying. It was only years later that God revealed so many things to me about the beauty of endings and beginnings. See, in that same year I started a PhD program. The person I needed to be during the PhD program, could not have been the person I was. The people I was surrounded with, could not be the people I brought into this phase of my life, I needed to be surrounded with new people who had the same vision and values as myself. The following year was my 30th year. I cut my hair, decided to go fully natural, and be unapologetically me as I began walking in my truth.
What does this mean: I was no longer confined by the things society expected of me as a woman. I was a woman who valued a career over a man and I would not apologize to any man for that. I realized that I needed to be with a man who fully understood that mission. Similarly, I needed to be with a man who would never allow me to dim my light so that his light could shine. At a very young age, I realized that I was destined for greatness and that greatness did not include not speaking up. I was no longer afraid to let people know that they hurt me or to hang on to broken relationships. I surrounded myself with people who truly knew me and could vouch for my character and integrity. I fully embraced being a black woman, which meant that I was not angry but rather passionate, and I decided to pursue that passion through advocacy around race, gender, immigration; and now fight for equality. And since that moment, I have continued to refused to be confined to what society expects of me.
I will not end this by letting you think that this happened over night. It was definitely a work in progress. I had some good days and some bad days, but I kept taking little steps. I built up my confidence first. I read blogs from women who were hurt and did not want to feel sorry for themselves, but rather knew that they deserved better in life. I saw where my mistakes were and I learned from these mistakes. Along the way I lost even more friends. People were uncomfortable with the new me, truth is it was never a new me, it was the me who was buried so I could make other people feel better. I had to fight with me to let them know that women were indeed treated fairly, and now that I had entered a predominantly white space, I had to fight even more to be seen and heard. I did it though, with time and with trust in God.
I could beat up myself and say that I regret the 10 years that I spent with this guy, but I don’t. I am 100% thankful for the lessons I learned during this time. As a result of that relationship, I know what I do not want, what I will not tolerate, and have been able to find myself. I advise my friends who go in and out of relationships to take a break and learn to love themselves – which to me was the most important lesson of all. It hurts in the moment and you might think that you will never fall in love again or find yourself again, but remember it is a beginning and beginnings are beautiful. Trust me, when you look back you will see that it was all worth it and orchestrated for you to get to where you are today. I have learned to forgive myself and use my lessons to grow and propel me to be the unapologetically woman that I was destined to be. None of this would be possible if I something did not end, so that I could begin again.
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