I’ve deceived myself my entire life, well maybe not my entire life. I’ve been wearing masks ever since I was a 6 year old child, going into my dresser every morning and donning on a new mask. It became a daily routine: get up, brush teeth, get dressed, wear mask. It was a defense mechanism, a way to protect myself from what I believed would hurt me – other people.
A free-spirited young child, I was light-footed and truly free until I started being contaminated by the real world. “太胖”, “You’re too fat”, “Look how fat she is”, after a while I stopped listening, but the seed had been planted. At gatherings with family friends, I would always be targeted by the same woman, a family friend, my friend’s mother. She would give me a menacing glare, and in my presence, repeat the same hurtful words over and over again, but in different ways. Over time, this little seed grew uncontrollably and wreaked havoc on anything that came its way.
How can such a free, unadulterated child lose her freedom so quickly? The same girl that once stole away into the park on sunrise and tiptoed back past dusk and picked pink flowers from trees had started to lose herself. She had lost control. From lying to stealing to bullying, this young girl did not know how to cope with her emotions in a healthy way.
Like anyone else, I was a product of my environment. Growing up, all I knew was chaos. My parents are in a codependent relationship. My mother, a natural caretaker, keeps on giving until she has nothing left to give herself. Neither my mother nor my father are spiritually whole. Their past unresolved wounds would grow to be vacuums, that sapped their spirit and cast a permanent raincloud over me, the child that would bear their burden. I too, became a codependent.
As I grew up and went through the school system, I had trouble making friends. I was a misfit, a weirdo, that quiet girl that never spoke a word, and I was reprimanded for being “too quiet”, “not participating enough”, the list goes on. It’s like people could sense that I was wearing an invisible mask, a self-imposed facade to hide my hurt. I had my heart closed up, and each emotion that I didn’t know how to deal with, I shoved it deep down and bottled it up.
High school was a difficult four years of my life. I cried myself to sleep every night, but I didn’t know what I was crying about. The only reprieve that I got was through an online multi-player fantasy game, RuneScape. RuneScape was my release from the real world, a place that I would call home for all these years. Ironically, I felt like I had taken off my mask when I entered this virtual world of warriors and magicians. I felt at peace. It was a form of therapy, but I was chastised by my parents for wasting time, getting verbally, emotionally, and even physically struck. They feared that RuneScape would destroy my academics, ruin my chances of getting into a “good” college, effectively ruining my life. Ironically, my college essay was actually on RuneScape and its therapeutic effect on me, and this essay got me into Carnegie Mellon.
Freshman year of college will always be a cherished memory. It was a year that I finally started opening myself up to the world and developed strong friendships. I was starting to heal, being more in-tune with my true essence. I was at peak shape and self-confidence the summer after sophomore year. I actually liked myself, but at the time I didn’t know that buried deep down, there was a malicious seed, dormant and waiting to grow.
I didn’t believe in fate until recently, but as fate would have it, I met my now ex at a music festival the summer after sophomore year. It started out innocently enough; a girlfriend and I were dancing around to the music and somehow, of all the people there, we danced into him. Inexperienced and naive, I quickly got his number, we started hanging out, and the relationship went on an accelerated path. My inner compass, my intuition was setting off all sorts of red flags, but I chose to ignore it, for 3 and a half years.
In the beginning, things were going great. I was in a long distance relationship with him for the remainder of the time I was at school, but I just felt extremely unsettled since the start. My intuition was trying to warn me, but I had already been so far removed from my true essence, that I didn’t trust myself. I quickly got sucked into a soul-destroying codependent relationship with a narcissist.
Overly trusting and naive, I had no idea what a healthy relationship looked like. He knew exactly what I was, knew what buttons to push to manipulate my emotions, to unleash overwhelming guilt and responsibility that wasn’t mine to deal with. Every time I said “yes” but meant “no”, I lost one more piece of my already shattered soul. I sunk deeper into the grave that I was digging for myself. Every time I let him walk right through my non-existent boundaries, I ventured deeper into my self-imposed hell.
My heart that was just starting to open quickly closed itself, painting itself shut with layers of tar. I closed myself to love. I had alienated everyone that loved and cared for me, including my parents and all of my friends. I had relegated to nothing but a shell of what I once was. I had truly lost myself, spiraling deep into depression. I was irritable all the time, triggered by everything. I felt disrespected, unworthy of love, unworthy of kindness. I hated everything about myself, my body, my mind, my spirit. I was finally sinking after trying to support the weight of two people in a turbulent ocean for so long. The water was seeping into my lungs. I thought I was going to die.
Just as I closed my eyes and surrendered to the ocean, I felt a powerful force pull me out of the depths. It was an unexplainable and profound force that brought me to the surface. As I gasped for air and opened my eyes, I saw a radiant light, such clarity that I had never experienced in my entire life. I was awakened. I surrendered to myself, to the universe.
An overwhelming wave of bliss, compassion, and wisdom washed upon me. I finally found myself. I finally loved myself unconditionally. My heart finally opened up permanently, the tar was gone. I finally understood who I am, what I’m here to do in this lifetime and in all future reincarnations. My soul came home. I am free.
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