An open letter to the person hurt me the most:

Dear W,

It has been more than seven years since you left, and I still remember the time in my life where I could not go a day without thinking of you and the world of hurt you left me in. I remember spending many nights awake, my eyes pleading with the ceiling for answers to the questions I couldn’t quite form: Why did things turn out the way they had? Where do we go from here? How do I forgive you? Do I want to forgive you?

Years passed before I found the answers I was looking for. I had a lot of rebuilding and growing to do before I was prepared to accept the reality that you were not, in fact, the monster I had become comfortable with making you out to be. I was not ready to embrace the hard truth that sometimes we can be broken by ordinary men, and that sometimes even the deepest of wounds can be inflicted accidentally, unknowingly. I held onto the pain and the sadness for years after you were gone because I had allowed it to become my entire identity; I forgot how to be the person that I was before you filled me with hatred and despair. I was afraid to forgive you, because if I forgave you, the wake of your presence would become just a part of my story instead of the punchline.

The best decision I ever made was the one to finally forgive you, to accept that you were not a monster and that you will never know how badly you hurt me, and to know that that was okay. That gave me the power to change the story and make it my own. I told myself that I could not change what had happened to me, but I could be there for others and make sure that they wouldn’t have to face —alone — the horrors that I had. In breaking me down to the mere shell of a person, you allowed me to rebuild myself as someone better, someone stronger. I owe you everything I am today, and I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to flourish that you afforded to me without even knowing it.

I am sorry for how long and how bitterly I held disdain for your very existence. Now that I have a better understanding of our bruised and broken world, I see that you were just as damaged as I became. You simply dragged me down with you on your search for safety and solutions. You didn’t know any better and there was no way you would ever have understood what you were doing to me, because I could not fully comprehend it myself. It turned out okay in the end, though, and that is all I feel the need to focus on now.

I forgive you. I really, truly, deeply, compassionately forgive you. I spent a long time telling myself and telling others that I had let it go because I realized how pathetic I looked still holding a grudge; I told the world I forgave you for years before I truly had, but I got there in the end. I ultimately forgave you in an almost biblical sense — not simply because you deserved to be forgiven, but because it was what needed to be done in the name of mercy, in the name of love.

With years separating us from the last time we spoke, I know very little of your life now. I don’t know where you are or what you’re doing or who you’re with, but I hope you’re well. I mean that with my whole heart. I hope you find the peace that you so desperately needed nearly a decade ago, and I hope you’re living a life that you can be proud of. When I reminisce about the period of my life that you occupied, malice no longer drips from my words; instead, I speak of you with tenderness and empathy for the struggles you have faced and what they meant for us. I hope that everyone has that opportunity one day: to take the pain the world has brought to them, to grow, and to forgive in a way that is comparable to love.

Thank you for teaching me how to love broken people. May your soul someday find the same grace that I did because of you.