Let’s play the blame game: on aging, sexual assault and loving yourself

Yesterday I turned thirty-one years old. Thirty-one. Ooof. In the long term, I know that’s not old but the fact that my mother had me at twenty-nine makes me really reevaluate where my life is at this very moment. No pressure.

Every year, I get the general sense of impending doom when my birthday approaches. Despite being a prototypical Leo – dramatic, loud, generous, genuine and attention seeking (duh) – planning my own birthday gives me anxiety. I naturally want to control every aspect of an event and ensure that everyone has a good time – can you tell that I’m also the first born in my family?

Something about turning thirty-one felt much more depressing than turning thirty. Thirty is a landmark – the new twenty, the next chapter and true, honest adulthood. Thirty-one is just another year closer to more Retinol, wrinkles and debt. I’ve been preaching to my younger friends that your twenties are for making all of your mistakes, your thirties are for learning from said mistakes and growing and hopefully, your forties are for perfecting it all and making real money. But a week before my birthday I felt like I had receded back thirteen years – had I learned nothing? Was my growth stunted? In my favourite city in the world, where I feel most like myself – I lost it all.

But I love to play the blame game, I love you more

Let’s play the blame game for sure

Let’s call her names, names, I hate you, more

Let’s call her names, names, for sure

My crash was inevitable, now that I look back at the past few months. I pushed myself to complete exhaustion – financially, mentally, emotionally, physically. I had to explain in a focus group what made me happy and inspired the night before and I could only offer canned answers. The next day, in my friend’s bed that she lent to me not far from my original apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn that I rented five years ago, I let myself cry and feel something for the first time in awhile. I cried because I let myself down and only solace was torturing myself. It took a week for me to realize that the evil I went through earlier that trip broke me for a reason but the doom wouldn’t last forever. Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes – or Britney Spears shaving her head and Kanye’s Hennessy fuelled truth at the VMA’s – I had to hit rock bottom to grow better, stronger.

You weren’t perfect but you made life worth it

Stick around, some real feelings might surface

The first time I was sexually assaulted I was seventeen. It took me almost ten years to realize what I went through that night and understand consent. I eventually began to acknowledge it both to myself and to a few others. There’s nothing quite like losing your virginity in a sexual assault that skews your perspectives of relationships. To say that I’ve developed trust issues is an understatement. In hindsight I would have changed everything after that night, but who wants to be seventeen again? Not me. Like many victims of assault, I pretended that everything was okay. Burying the pain, blame and confusion deep down made it impossible for me link emotional and physical connections together and to never believe the concept of love outside of romantic comedies. As I began my twenties, I was still confused, still learning to acknowledge what was wrong and still blaming myself. I still rationalized what happened – it was my fault for drinking, for being outgoing, for having a good time. Even before my assault, I was the strong one. When friends were going through something it was my job to ensure that their depression didn’t get the best of them or that they had a shoulder for them to cry on or a protector when they drank too much. My coping mechanism was always to work and help others with their issues rather than acknowledging my own. When you run your own business, you can hide behind spreadsheets, business trips and photo shoots. Building an image isn’t just about branding – it’s survival.

Now who to blame, you to blame, me to blame

For the pain and it poured every time when it rained

Let’s play the blame game

On my most recent business trip I set out tasks to push myself to the next level in my career. I want it all and it’s never good enough. A new column in a magazine is fine, but what about a new contract? Everything started compounding – deadlines, legal fees, unpaid client invoices, event invites, sleeping on couches, social life, actual adult relationships – I needed a break. I let myself go out to a party for more than an hour and socialize, much like I did at seventeen. Except that instead of going away to college, I was going back to Canada determined to finish my visa application. But just like seventeen, I ended up alone and assaulted. no phone, no friends, no nothing. Had I learned nothing in thirteen years (my lucky number too)? I let someone take my hope, my spirit and quite frankly – my energy. And that Wednesday as I cried in a bed that was not my own, searching for the fastest exit home to affordable healthcare – I felt like I had receded far beyond control. I had lost myself that took me almost thirty-one years to grow.

Fuck arguing and harvesting the feelings

Yo, I’d rather be by my fucking self

It took me a few days and plenty of family time, but I know that I am stronger, wiser and emotionally better off now, thirteen years later. I slowly told my closest friends and even a few family members about the assault. As an adult, I may share much of my life on social media (not always willingly but that’s a different story) but my most personal life and relationships I’ve tried to keep sacred and private. I was holding onto so much stress that it manifested itself in actual physical pain and loss of appetite, energy and emotional response. (If only sharing could also cure my cellulite). I’ve accepted that blaming myself won’t help me grow and become a more complete person and acknowledgement of a horrible instance like sexual assault is necessary to move on. It took me thirty-one years to accept that people can care for you, empathize with you and some will even offer to kill for you (I did not take them up on the offer, promise.) I’m thankful that I come from a country with social programs that help assist victims to get better, however I wish there were less red tape and reports to file.

Lack of visual empathy equates the meaning of L-O-V-E

Hatred and attitude tear us entirely

While I still haven’t said my rapist’s name out loud but I don’t need him for closure. I’m moving forward by accepting what happened, finding help and focussing on being a better person. I don’t miss the old thirty year old Megan because the new thirty-one year old Megan is just the old Megan but wiser, stronger and finally loving herself.

I can’t love you this much, I can’t love you this much

I can’t love you this much, I can’t love you this much

I can’t love you this much, no, I can’t love you this much

I can’t love you this much, I can’t love you this much

PS. Thanks Ye.

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