Hi there, if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’ll have gathered that I’ve started a blog for my “Branding of Me” class in the journalism school. Starting a blog is scary, because as much as I’m not afraid to share my thoughts with anyone who is willing to listen… there’s something about a blog that seems much more vulnerable. So, in the name of this vulnerability, I’ve decided to go ahead and put everything on the table. This is probably some pretty important stuff to get out of the way if you’re going to get to know me anyway.
I’ll preface all this by first saying, I believe that most of us grow up thinking that whatever familial environment we have is “normal.” Now, I know the idea of normal is totally subjective, and that this standard doesn’t really exist, but when I was younger I didn’t realize any of this. So, when my parents had some heated fights behind closed doors after my dad came home after his deployment overseas, I thought that was normal. When I started noticing they were more and more distant from each other, I thought that was normal. And when my mom would sometimes try to denounce my achievements in school, or try to change my solos in church to a duet, or buy the same shirt I picked out in a store, I thought that was normal.
Basically, you can imagine my surprise in 2008 when my parents called me home early from a friend’s house and announced that they were getting a divorce. I thought my life was over because in my mind, we were the picture of the average American family. I didn’t want to choose between my parents. I didn’t want to live with one and not the other. But that’s what happened. I chose to live with my dad and stay in my house, while my mom and little sister moved 20 minutes away into a townhouse. I only got to see my sister on weekends, when we would stay in one house or the other. It was exhausting, not to mention my mom’s anger when I wouldn’t leave any clothes or my things from my house in her new townhouse. It was hard to always feel stuck in the middle of some huge argument that wasn’t my fault.
It got harder. Skip forward about a year of doing this, and a few months before my 16th birthday, my mom announced to me that she had met a man online, and was moving to Canada to be with him. She was leaving my sister and me, and it didn’t sound like she was coming back any time soon. I was distressed. I asked her, “How can you be so selfish and stupid?” My sister was going to need help in the near future as puberty hit, as she entered middle school. My mom was flippant with me and basically told me that I was being immature and self-centered, and that I didn’t want her to be happy. It hurt to hear her say this, and for fear of hearing her say it again, I kept my mouth shut. I let her Skype her new beau during her birthday dinner, even though having a camera on me while I ate felt uncomfortable. I agreed to speak with him on the phone, and was polite when he asked me about my aspirations, and didn’t come back with a retort when he suggested that I eventually come to live with him and my mom so that I could go to college in Montreal. I was perfectly civil until she left.
It was after she left that our relationship got more and more strained. I felt pressured by her every time we spoke to move with her to Canada. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. She was feeling more and more snubbed by my refusal, and she would show this with angry remarks about my dad. I started to feel stuck in the middle again, and this time, I shut her out. I spoke with her one day and told her it would probably be one of the last times she heard my voice. And from then on, it was only my sister who would Skype her or visit her in St. Anthony over the summer. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that it got worse, again.
My mom had taken it upon herself to write an email, falsely accusing my dad of horrible things like abusing my sister and me, and sent it to her parents. She copied me in it for God knows why. There is not a lot that hurts more than seeing ugly, untrue things written about the one parent who had taken it upon himself to take care of me. He was working hard, trying to put food on the table, helping me when he could with school, and giving my sister everything she needed. A job, really, meant for two. What made it worse was that in the email, she threatened legal action. She thought my dad was purposely keeping me from speaking to her, instead of realizing that it was completely my choice. The email turned into multiple emails, the emails turned into an entire website, and the website turned into a big area of anxiety in my life. I would constantly check it, worrying about what libel she had published against my family and me. I was on edge, and I was embarrassed when friends would ask me about it. Like, look at what has happened to my perfect family. Look at what we’ve become.
But, as things tend to do, one day something changed. I decided that I wasn’t going to let this take such a big toll on my life. I wasn’t going to make this into a situation where I am a victim. I have a sassy 16-year-old sister, a dad who takes care of my every need, and the best friends I could ask for. If you’re one of those people who needs for there to be a lesson in order to justify reading this long, it’s this: you are resilient. Don’t let your weaknesses get the best of you. And if by any chance you manage to turn them into your biggest strength, there is no better feeling in the world.