Yesterday Facebook popped up with one of those ‘8 years ago today’ memories. Eight years ago was a turning point in my life. Eight years ago today my dad moved out of my family home. Eight years ago today I was about to go on a first date with my husband. Eight years ago was when I realized that I wasn’t immune to life’s bumps and that being privileged doesn’t exclude one from pain.
When I looked at the photo that popped up o thought ‘man I looked good’. I looked so refreshed and fresh faced. I didn’t have bags under my eyes or wrinkles. I was skinny. In the photo I was wearing one of my favourite sweaters that I had to give away when I gained weight.
Looking at the photo I felt nostalgia for a younger, more beautiful me. A more independent, dreamier, world-traveller version of me. Now I feel tired. I think I look tired too. I feel like each day is a struggle.
Yet when I think back to eight years ago – I was a mess. Probably more if a mess than I am now. I was really upset about my parents divorce. I was crying all the time. I was trying to be everything to everyone. I no longer understood my place in the world. I still don’t know if I understand my place in the world.
That photo was still a year before I ever went to therapy. It was still five years before I got married. Seven years before I started trying to have my own family. It was a time when things were bad but I was blissfully unaware of the fallout that would follow. I had still never experienced anxiety. I still thought my mom would ‘bounce back’ from the divorce. I still thought my parents might be the type of divorced couple that communicates. At 25, I was beautiful and innocent.
25 years is a long time to experience one reality. 25 years of family suppers. 25 years of tension without conflict. 25 years of feeling like I was one of those very special people from a perfect nuclear family. Two parents. One daughter. One son. 25 years of the other shoe never falling.
For the past 8 years I have been trying to regain my sense of safety in the world. Trying to accept that bad things happen but that there is no point spending your life anticipating hurt and disappointment. I have found love – a deeper love than my parents ever had. I have also learned to start voicing my needs and not to view conflict as the beginning of an end. I have learned to meditate. I have learned to take deep breaths. I have learned that my parents aren’t always right. I have learned that I need to set boundaries with them and that love doesn’t always mean blindly putting others first.
I have hurt. I have loved. I have learned. Eight years later, I’m still trying to make sense of what family means. I look at my fresh faces 25 year old self and wish her well. For my even at 33, the journey continues.