Monday, August 14, 2006

August 14, 2005 will always go down in my book as the worst day in my life. Because I don't feel like dredging up bad memories, I'm going to let the past stay in the past. But a year later, I look back on my life and realize how truly blessed and lucky I am. Not many can claim to be blessed with the multitude of selfless friends I am fortunate enough to find myself with. To the so many of you who took the time to help me, to be wtih me, to be my unfailing support system when I couldn't support myself--thank you. I would not have managed to make it through the past year without you. I am who I am today because of your kindness and you inability to let me give up.

They say that you cannot truly begin to help yourself until you hit complete rock bottom--August 14, 2005 represent the absolute rock bottom for me. And a slow climb it has been, yet one that has forever changed me and given me a new appreciation for life, kindness, beauty and happiness. When all else was broken, I thank God every day that I was able to keep a mostly sunny disposition and not let the circumstances make me bitter and angry. Each sunrise, each sunset, each small child, each rainstorm, each rainbow--things that may have gone unnoticed before--all are reasons to thank God for the gift of life and the love of family and friends.

I can't count how many times people told me, "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger." And as sick of hearing it as I became, it is unfailingly true. I find, a year later, that I have become less trusting, less open. Yet I also find that I have more self-confidence, a strength and inner peace that I didn't have before. Strength is born of adversity.

I lost myself.

I found myself.

I am, for the first time in my life, completely at peace with myself. I am happy with me. I now know that someday I will find the deep and meaningful fairy tale romance that I've wanted all of my life. And I refuse to settle for anything less. Yes, I have fun. Yes, I laugh. And yes, someday my prince will come. I don't know what form he will take, and I don't know what his name will be, but someday. Someday.

The bruises have faded, the scars have all but vanished. But my heart will never forget. My heart will never forget what happened that night. I still find myself having to fight not to flinch when a man raises his hand, even if it's to give a high-five. I struggle not to cringe at hugs. But every day is a new day. Every day is another chance at life, another chance to touch someone else's heart. Another chance to say thank you to everyone who has been so amazing over the last year.

I urge anyone who reads this to educate yourself against domestic violence. Know the signs. Be aware. I never thought it would happen to me. You never think that you'll be "that girl." You never think that the person you love can turn against you. But it happens every day, and most women aren't nearly as lucky as I am. Volunteer, donate your time and money to your local domestic violence centers, and know the signs. You may save the life of your sister, friend, mother, classmate, cousin, neighbor. It happens in every walk of life, in every ethnicity, in every economic bracket, in every neighborhood, in every culture. Don't think that it won't happen to you or to someone you love. Ignorance is a death sentence.

Today, I'm not afraid to be who I am. I'm silly, I'm clumsy, I'm goofy, I'm a bookworm, I'm a music nut, I'm a dreamer, I'm a wisher, I'm a little kid at heart, I'm a hopeless romantic, I'm halfway retarded, I'm not always the brightest crayon in the box. But most of all, I'm me, and that's something I'm comfortable with.

This poem was on the back of Mr. Threadgill's door when I was in high school, and it's one of my favorites. Find peace.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.