I’m reading a memoir that has been incredibly challenging for me. There are parts of it that are really triggering to me because I read the experiences of this woman and I feel empty. She is sharing her story with the most beautiful vulnerability but all I find myself thinking about is what I missed out on at the age she discusses. I tend to feel this way when I read the experiences of women who went away to school and who lived on their own in their twenties.
I was too scared to learn how to make it happen at that age. I didn’t think I could do it. I was so used to being dismissed in nearly everything I tried because of the way I looked—even the things I attempted to do seriously. I always looked years younger than what I really am because I am super short and I was blessed with my mom’s genetics. When people saw me enter the room, they would literally and figuratively talk over me. I struggled to have my voice heard. This resulted in me developing a nasty (but self-preserving necessity) habit of always having to be right. It also led to the habit of needing to do things myself because people didn’t take my input and if I wanted certain results in my life, I needed to do it on my own. So then people had the excuse that I was a know it all and that I wasn’t contributing, I was controlling.
I didn’t know how to speak up for myself and articulate what I wanted because I was trained that my demeanor was wrong and that I wouldn’t be capable of doing anything. I allowed myself to manipulate the circumstances rather than develop my strengths to get my way. On top of that, at the time I allowed myself to disappear into my relationship because that was all I thought I had.
It took me the best part of 20 years to understand where my strengths were, who I really am (still a work in progress), and how to take the power back that I willingly gave up. So reading this memoir has been an intense experience for me because, while our stories are vastly different, the emotions were the same. I read these stories and I feel disappointed in myself. While she is using her stories to convey the emotions I felt at the time, I find myself with a sense of longing and regret for not taking more chances. I sometimes regret not having the experience to find myself as other people did.
Part of my emotional healing is working on accepting that what has happened is what happened—there is no changing it. The point of the work I am reading and the work I am creating is that we all have a common humanity. While our stories are different, we made different choices, and we ended up in different places, we had the same emotional experience. Our common language is how we feel. It doesn’t matter what makes us feel that way, we always have common ground in what we feel.