go ahead and free yourself

10 years ago, i was busting my ass trying to graduate from college. i had dropped out at 21 and gone back at 23. because i knew i could finish. i knew i had to, because i had started it. and i like to finish what i start. i was told i wasn’t going to graduate by the chair of my department, that she was going to do everything in her power to keep me from walking across that stage. so when i did walk across that stage i looked for her mouse faced ass in the crowd and gave her a deep and real #byromshrug.

10 years later, and here i am. tomorrow i will defend my masters thesis. i’m excited and nervous and low key indifferent. in counseling yesterday, my therapist asked me how did it feel. i didn’t know. i kinda shrugged it off. but then it hit me. see, even though i am in touch with emotion, bc empath, i’m not always in touch with my emotions. i was reared like that. ignore how you feel because it’s not important. it has no value. so when i graduated from college, i couldn’t enjoy the moment because i would have had to acknowledge the fact that i had gone back to school after a mental meltdown, and finished two years worth of work in 3 semesters. that’s major. and maybe the words mental meltdown don’t mean much to some, because we throw mental health terminology around like dirty clothes. let me just tell you that during those moments, i couldn’t read, i couldn’t write. i either ate too much or not at all. i was usually intoxicated or high and my sofa had a permanent indentation where i wallowed on it every day for months on end. i had flunked about 5 or 6 classes because i would enroll in classes trying to make myself “snap out of it” and then not go because being outside, around people, made me sick. physically and emotionally. all of that had taken a toll on my gpa and my confidence. all around me, people had discounted me, discarded me. i was told that i’d never be anything or anyone. i was sentenced to nothingness by people who couldn’t or wouldn’t understand what had happened to me.

but

i had friends that loved me enough to wait it out. to love me through. and i had mentors and mommies to nurture me back to health. i owe them this degree. thinking about them yesterday made me break down. i cried like a baby. here’s why.

no one has to love you. not even you. it’s easier if you love you but hell, sometimes that shit is hard. especially if in your developmental stages someone is always telling you that you’re worthless and showing you they don’t value your life. it destroys you. it kills your ability to identify your own self worth. i felt like everybody i met was always out to watch me fail, because failures were proof that i was nothing. i thought everybody was judging me because i grew up in a space where my every move was scrutinized. i believed that no one would ever be willing or able to love me. because the people that were supposed to couldn’t. wouldn’t. but these other people, who weren’t privy to the narrative that had been used in my sentencing, loved me. they supported me. they wanted to be around me. they missed me when we were away. they thought about me fondly. they knew i needed love. and they gave it. that is beautiful. words fail me in describing how this revelation feels. but yesterday when i thought about them, and the sacrifices they’ve made for me, and the love they’ve given me so freely, oh the tears….

sometimes family members are offended by how much i love my friends or just other people in general. i’d love to say that i’m sorry they’re offended but i’m not. we all have choices to make. i tell the truth as i see it. as i believe i lived it. that’s what we do. so from their perspective, as i’ve been told, i’m unfair to them because they do love me. they do support me. they do care about me. i just don’t behave the way they think i should. i don’t live my life the way i should. and in that answer, i was always stuck. why can’t i just do what they want me to do so they can love me and i can have a family? i was stuck there for a long assed time. sentenced to be tethered to an idea that sought to destroy me. listen. you can only be who you are. anything else is a black assed lie. you will struggle and find no peace in that existence. you’re welcome.

so yesterday, on that couch in my therapist’s office, layers and layers of foolishness were washed away by my tears. and for a moment i felt …. redeemed. like 24 year old me saying thank you for pushing through all that shit and finishing what she so desperately wanted to start. and 27 year old me saying thank you for finally taking a chance and moving to my own apartment where i could learn to take care of just myself. and it was 34 year old me saying you’re welcome.

i picked up my cap and gown today. and i looked at it. i haven’t taken it out of the plastic but i just looked at it. i wanted to run back to my car and scream and cry and hug myself. but instead i took a picture and sent it to the people who i knew would celebrate the moment with me. one of my sisters said “i’m laughing so i won’t start crying”. listen.

i know when people read this stuff or talk to me in person they always assume i’m a hard ass and i don’t have feelings. i am a hard ass but i do have feelings. and right now they’re all on 10. i’m free. and most importantly, i’m okay with it. i did something i never thought i’d do. i’m happy about life. i’m excited about the future. i’m redeemed. i’m worthy. and tomorrow, i’m going to go into that conference room and defend every keystroke of my 98 page thesis.

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