In an attempt, to help me, he asked me to identify the root causes of my problem. I hesitated as the images in my head flashed back to memories in middle school… Could it really go back so far? The common pattern was rejection. I swallowed and took a deep breath. I hadn’t voiced this out to anyone in a while.
My mind brought me back to the twelve year old me that cried in confusion in the girls’ bathroom of my middle school. I was nibbling on my lunch with no desire to join the lunch room. Let me back track. I had lived in the same town for ten years. At age nine, I saw the destruction of my parent’s marriage, but I never quite understood everything. They only lived about a 20 minute walk from one another, which didn’t make me feel like my own familiar and well-known family foundation was crushed. I had noticed that things were different. It seemed that sometimes dad forgot to do the groceries, there would be a milk quart, some olives, and maybe butter. I only have short scenes in my memory, nothing really made complete sense because no one really tried to explain it or talk about it.
I must have been between nine or ten years old when I picked up the phone to call my dad’s cell number. “Can you come home?” I was almost in tears and I vaguely remember if I ended up crying over the phone. I sensed the confusion in his voice, but there was worry too and without much of a question he came home. And then I had asked “What happened between you and mom?” To this day, I don’t quite remember his reply, it must not have been satisfying or anything I didn’t already know. But I saw concern in his eyes, perhaps he had noticed that everyone feels the rip when a family divides.
Another memory. My sister was dressing me, she had just gotten off the phone with mom who said she would come pick me up. I was not feeling well, a severe stomach ache. My older sister packed a small overnight bag and my backpack for me. Dad wasn’t home and Mom seemed mad about it over the phone. We walked downstairs, Mom waited in front of the parking lot. My sister was still with me, I got in the car, she went back to Dad’s apartment, the one that had been our home for years, and Mom drove off. That night she took care of me, the way my Dad couldn’t have because he was busy, at work, I think. I slept in her beautiful wooden bed with her, an antique I think, the one she had shared with my father for twenty years. It was placed in the living room of her beautiful, new, hard-wood floored apartment. There were only two rooms, one was painted yellow and the other purple, she had prepared them for us, one room for the girls, one room for the boys. Dad had asked about me, I think. I heard Mom talk about it or speak to him over the phone, I’m not sure. I don’t think he was happy that she was mad at him. Maybe dad hadn’t been at work that night?
Another memory. “I think I’m leaving at the end of the year.” I had told a girl at my new school. “I dont want to be friends with you,” she replied. Puzzled, I asked “why not?” and she responded “because you are leaving at the end of the year.” We had made it to the United States and we were trying to rebuild a new foundation. In France, my hometown, I had left my father and oldest brother, all my childhood friends, and a new boyfriend. I began every morning with a silent tear on my cheek as we sang the National Athem and said the pledge before classes started. Every night, tucked in my bed, often ended the same way because I could hardly bare the separation. At the time, we lived in an RV placed in my aunt’s backyard.
I made some friends in my class, but I was also heart broken and torn from the distance. Our life took another turn when Mom mentioned a return to Europe. I had not built a strong foundation in America, so it was not as difficult to say goodbye because I knew I would be returning closer to the ones I missed dearly. I had no idea it would be so difficult to readjust. In a new school, in Europe, but not France, I tried to give it a shot.
Memory. “No, I don’t want to go out with you!” Luca had yelled, a boy that I liked a lot. “That’s not what I was going to say…” And it was true.. I was calling out his name, but not to ask him out. I knew he had no feelings for me. I walked down the hall of the ski resort, we were on a fieldtrip in the mountains of Italy. The door to his room was open and I saw that he was locked outside, on the balcony, I unlocked it to let him out and left. He had come back that day to talk to me when I stayed on my own balcony, thinking about all the things that troubled me, that I understood very little. “I like you as a friend,” he explained “I just don’t want to be more.” And I replied “I’m not mad. I just wasn’t going to ask you that earlier.” I didn’t really even desire to be friends with him… I was hurt.
Memory. “No, she’s not here, she went to sleepover at Anna’s house,” had answered my friend’s mom on the phone. Oh. My heart sunk. A friend of mine, or who said to be my friend, had declined my sleepover invitation earlier that day or week, without having the decency of either telling me that she already had plans or that she just did not want to. I thought I deserved honesty at least, not hypocrisy. If there is one thing I cannot stand is to be lied to in order to be “protected” from negative hurtful feelings. Ouch. This continued. I heard of sleepovers among the group of friends that I had made at my new school as a 6th grader and they never invited me. Eventually, tired of being rejected and lied to, I gave them a piece of my mind and to this day only one of them has actually forgiven me for my harsh sincere words, and she happens to be one of my best and my oldest friend. However, I was not granted forgiveness until 7th grade. Needless to say most of 6th and 7th grade were pretty lonely. At least I had my older sister and we would bond over how much we didn’t want to be in a school full of fake brats.
At the time, I focused on my studies because if you work hard you can make good grade and feel that sense of accomplishment. It doesn’t matter how hard you work for a friendship, it only works if there is effort on your friend’s side too. But grades never disappointed me, it was in my full control and it made me feel great when I could prove to myself that I was worth something, an A or a 100%. I felt very little satisfaction from social interactions and let myself be a quiet, disciplined student.
Memory. “Why aren’t you like this at school?” my sister had asked me… “It’s like you are so quiet at school and then you come home and you open up, you giggle, and you’re talkative.” I can’t remember my reply, but it is not too hard to see that I was just molding in the position that I had been given. I didn’t want to be popular, I just wanted a group of reliable friends and I didn’t find the comfort among all the insincereness and back-stabbing.
8th grade rolled around and I was well settled. A friend from 6th grade has come back after a year of being back in the U.S. New students from the states had arrived and a new atmosphere was created. Like every middle school, there was drama, but I felt that I had finally found my niche. It was a great year with some of my closest friends at the time and a couple short relationships. I was known as the biker because I biked to school every morning (it had been since 7th grade). By some teachers, I was jokingly feared for beating up a girl that had punctured my bike tires and repeatedly called me a bitch for about as long as I could tolerate it. Once in a while, I still had somewhat unbearable moments of sadness as I desired to see my father, or hoped my mother would return from work earlier. But I knew I could count on her, she made it even to my low profile school plays that happened in the middle of her work day.
And then the change came along. Another foundation crumbled. I was excited to move and even start in a new school, but it is always a challenge to make friends among people who have known each other since age zero. It was also my first experience in an Italian school, taught in Italian, a language I did not master. I could quickly introduce myself, buy a bus ticket and that was it. I was certaintly not prepared to have oral exams on Mitosis.
However, after a year at this school, I felt that I belonged a little more and had a solid group of friends. I no longer felt like an outcast. The end of that first year had certainly had its surprises. Memory. “Who do you like?” We played truth or dare during a school field trip and the guy that I had liked for a couple months was sitting in the circle. I didn’t want to ruin what was then a really good friendship; therefore, I cowardly said “between you two.” Everyone misguessed who I was truly interested in dating, and I was doomed to spend the night with him. I couldn’t say “no I actually don’t want to kiss you because it’s not you that I like.” That would give away my secret, so I caved. We were freshmen in high school, but I didn’t let him get passed second base… The next morning I checked my phone to see a message from him “sorry, you’re not the right girl for me, I didn’t want to be an asshole.” That was probably the first time since 6th grade that my heart sunk again, not because I had wanted to be with him, but because I had been pushed aside and discarded like a one-night stand.
Sophomore year had new and better expectations. In the first couple months, I fell in love for the first time and we spent four wonderful months together.. until.. the day my mother asked “France or the States?” and I knew we were to move again. She held me in her arms as she knew that this meant my world was falling apart again. And she whispered “you’ll be okay!” in such a reassuring tone that to this day it has marked me. Immediately, I told my neighbor, who had become like a sister despite being three years younger than me. We walked together to the stables of the horseback riding center near our house. I blasted the music on my iPod and she said nothing, just walked with me. She was heart broken, as I was. Once there, we walked, cried some, and then returned.
As I boarded that plane, for the first time ever, I considered turning around and refusing to get on, but I knew mom couldn’t afford for me to have a fit. Once arrived in Texas, for the second time, I made no effort to rebuild a foundation. I protested and refused to be placed as a freshman, took all the tests necessary, insisted to graduate a year early and only spent a year and a half in that small town. All my efforts were focused on returning to the foundation I had built in Italy, but 6 months before graduation, the long distance was not working. He had changed. I told myself, he was 17 years old, it was understandable that he was not loyal or committed to me. As he pursued a relationship with another girl, I told him goodbye on my own 17th birthday.
A couple years later, I found myself in the same situation. In 2012, I was breaking up with my ex, ending a two year relationship because I didn’t want to give him a fourth chance. There comes a point where you just cannot trust the person anymore, especially when they do not allow you the time to heal. Throughout those crucial years of development, I had seen my foundations collapse, I had been rejected by boyfriends, friends and I was confused regarding the divorce.
So it all made sense. It wasn’t love, affection, or comfort, per se, that I was truly searching for. It was just stability, a foundation because I have reached a moment in my life where I simply cannot continue to build, destroy, rebuild, destroy. I want a kingdom and it will only be created if the foundation can remain solid and still. The instability from my parents’ divorce, my mother’s career, and the social rejection had taken a toll on me. That is why I spent 2012 and spring 2013 just searching for acceptance, for flattery and temporary stability. I became somewhat fearful of letting people into my mind, especially when it led to being messed with on a psychological level for this one guy’s pure entertainment. I made a few very good friends, and was saddened when I saw the experience come to an end. Of course, it was only a thin foundation, but nonetheless I had a set footprint in Sevilla.
When I returned home, I wanted stability, and for this reason I decided it would be in Houston that I would found my life. Why travel miles away from my mother, when I could enjoy the same success and greater cultural diversity than in most other cities in the States?
To make one very long story short. The root cause of everything was years piled up of rejection, undealt feelings, a divided family, and more importantly the collapse of all my foundations and the fatigue/lack of strength to rebuild emotionally each time.
Yes, just realizing that, frees me on a level I can never truly express. That is enough to forgive myself for the mistakes I made.