The Family Favorite

I was the good one. I followed the rules, kept quiet, did well in school. I was the peacemaker. I made sure I chose the right side, and I was never angry. I was always told I was calm, cool, and collected. I advocated for everyone to respect and cherish their parents, no matter the mistakes they made. Everything I did, I did it for them.

I began to hate it. I hated when I was mocked for being “perfect”. I hated the way others knew the truth but I was too stubborn trying to keep the peace. I hate that I denied the way I felt, and what I thought about myself was always based on the actions of others. It just wasn’t worth it to me anymore.

I began to realize how imperfect I wanted to be. I didn’t have the desire to cause trouble. I didn’t want to be selfish, rude, or loud, I just wanted to stop pretending everything was alright.

The more I thought about the things I have experienced, the more I realized how much I had kept inside, and the more I realized how okay I wasn’t. From then on, I became reluctant to accept the decisions my family made. I loved them, but it angered me that I had to put up with it so often.

After my first year of school, I went back home. I loved being home, but I started to recognize patterns of enabling, guilt-tripping, and ignorance. I left for school early that summer because I knew if I stayed longer, I would get upset and say something I wasn’t supposed to. It was like I was a bottle of pop that had been rolling around in the back of the trunk, waiting to be opened. I decided not to open that bottle.

And then that December happened. While on my way home for Christmas, there was yet another conflict. I became upset, angry, sad, I felt everything all at once and I drove back to school because I was sick of putting up with it. After a phone call and a few guilt-trips, I made my way back “home”. Once again, what happened was swept under a rug. I overreacted, the way I felt was wrong, and I needed to support my family.

I went through the rest of my sophomore year of college not knowing who I was, or what I stood for. I made decisions I would never usually make, and surrounded myself with an attitude and with people who I never would have before. I had no idea what I was turning into. I was nothing like the person I was when I began school, and part of me missed that person.

It wasn’t until after that year of school, while I was at home that I realized who I wanted to be. Well, everything I didn’t want to be.

The way conflicts were handled in my home enabled them to happen again. The ones I love became the ones I tried to avoid. Nothing phased them, and if it did, it only lasted for the night. The next day, it was supposed to be okay, and we’d forget what had happened the day before. It was unhealthy in a way that it did nothing. There was no solution, because after a day or two, the problem no longer existed. Maybe they could see the problem,  but even if they did they were too scared to say it out loud. I was tired of being scared, so I began to pay attention. I was tired of ignoring the bad. It physically made me ache to hide it.

Once again, I was in the constant loop of other people making decisions that impacted me more than they could know. I realized during this time that I was almost not allowed to feel. Because when I did, it wasn’t right. I realized that this is why I stayed neutral. I stayed calm, and I swept it under the rug. When I felt, and when I refused to accept the things that were happening, I was disrupting the cycle. The conflicts lasted more than one night, because I refused to forget them.

I became the problem child.

I became so tired. I was exhausted. I no longer wanted to be the perfect daughter that hid evidence of wrong-doings. I no longer wanted to be quiet. I no longer wanted to keep the peace, because there was little peace to keep.

I was angry, moody, loud, and I overreacted. I punched holes in my door, and I yelled. There was a moment where I became so angry, I threw a bottle of vodka at the bookshelf in my mother’s room. I reacted to everything because if I didn’t, it would go unnoticed. And yet, I still felt guilty for it. In my family’s eyes, I was selfish, spoiled, irate. They were shocked. They didn’t like it. At first, I didn’t know why I was so angry all the time, and I felt guilty. I apologized for it. I was even told that rather than throwing the bottle at the bookshelf, I threw it at my mother. They made me feel as if nothing I said was valid. Nothing I said was true. That bottle never came close to my mother, and I knew it, but once again I felt guilt. I questioned everything. I felt like I was the one causing the problems.

After one event that I will never forget, I finally understood.

I had bottled everything up. I had lived my life following every rule, obeying every command, sweeping every little bit of anger, resentment, wrong-doing, and conflict right under the rug where I stood every day. The bottle was not just opened, but all of its contents were spilled, staining the rug where I hid everything.

How I lived was not normal. How my family lived was not normal. I loved them so deeply and maybe that’s why this frustrated me so much. I loved them and they saw that I hurt but they didn’t like the way that I hurt. They didn’t like that I couldn’t let it go. They didn’t like that it hurt me. I understood that I was a grown adult, but they didn’t understand that I was still their child.

So I left and I never went back.

And this is why I write about it. Because even still, after seven months, no explanation is good enough. No reason is a good enough excuse. They still don’t understand why I ached, why I hurt or why I was angry. They still don’t understand that my life is not meant to revolve around them. That’s not what we are here for, the ones we love so deeply and intensely, are not always the ones we are meant to hold on to. If we are lucky enough, we get to keep these people near us, but that’s not always the case. I wish so badly that I could, but I don’t think I can.

And there are so many days and nights where I fight that homesickness. Where I’m one button away from apologizing to my mother. Where I want to get in my car and go “home”. There are days where I think that I should have kept pretending to be the perfect daughter, that maybe I did deserve to feel that guilt.

But, there are even more days where I can breathe. Where I don’t have to choose sides, and where I can feel so much all at once. There is no bottle or rug. I am in an open space that I have the potential to fill with all of my anger, my sadness, my conflict, my wrong-doings, and every bit of feeling that I have. And although this room is crowded, and I keep filling it, nothing is hidden. Nothing is trapped or collecting dust or housing spiders. These things can breathe and so can I.

And no, I don’t have everything figured out. I don’t know the answer to everything. But I know that right now I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. I know that I am not being selfish for wanting to breathe. Although I love my parents, my mother who came back for me and my step-father who raised the bar so high, they still don’t understand, and I’m not sure if they ever will. I left. And I don’t think I will ever go back, because that is not my home.

I am my home. The space filled with everything that makes me is my home. I wish so badly that they could understand. That they could see how badly I was hurt. How I ached. That I don’t hang onto these things on purpose, or to cause guilt, that I don’t hang on at all. Theses things are permanently attached, because they made me. The things that have happened, everything followed me. When these things happened, as much as I tried to stop it, I was suddenly that twelve-year-old girl again, left, confused. And I think that no matter how old I become, these things will continue to be part of who I am and shape who I have yet to become.

I hate it. I hate knowing that the decisions of others have such an effect on me, but that’s just how it is. No amount of counseling, time, laughter, crying, or forgetting works. It never does. I don’t think it ever will.

I miss them. I miss the fun times when there was nothing to hide. When I did forget. I miss the smell of my mother’s baby lotion, and my stepfather’s hugs. I miss when I could look them in the eyes honestly.

But I miss me more. I’ve never had a chance to be the home that I needed, but I knew that I eventually could. I missed someone I never met, but I knew them deeply. I knew their desires, needs, and fears, and I missed them. I missed myself so much.

Maybe that is selfish. Maybe everything I swept under that rug should’ve stayed. Maybe I have absolutely no clue what happiness means. These things could all be true, but if they were I don’t think I’d mind. I am nowhere near being a perfect daughter, but I can’t remember the last time it felt so good to admit to having flaws. Because in my eyes, in the room filled with the things that make me a home, I am not selfish. I am not self-absorbed, self-righteous, or naive. I am homesick.

Not the kind that makes me miss the tiny blue house in the middle of nowhere, but the kind that hurts my chest when I think about losing myself again. I miss myself so badly, and I just want them to understand. The love I have for them will never go away, but the love I have for myself has grown. I don’t think I will ever go back, but I have found a home within myself.  As clustered and crowded and as messy as it may be, it is my home. I built it, and I’ve rebuilt it over and over again. I sometimes miss the homes that weren’t really mine, but I’ve missed me so much more, and I think I’ve almost found her.

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