Since my early teens, people have asked a lot from me and I have done a lot. I have always been the kind of person who’s available to everyone. The kind who appears as strong as an old tree, ready for people to comfortably lean on.
“Only you can get this done,” used to be the best compliment I could ever receive from someone.
Feeling tired, physically in pain, messing up my sleep schedule, and missing out on life-changing opportunities—this was the result of prioritizing others over myself. None of these mattered to me or the people around me.
Being useful felt like enough of a reward, and it made me ignore all the physical and mental pain I was experiencing, until life eventually had me face to face with it.
I have been used and abused for years.
I was led to believe that was how life was supposed to be. And it was easy to believe that. Because every time I was the available and reliable daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, or girlfriend, I was praised or made to believe I was doing what any “good girl” does. However, the few times I put myself first, it was met with passive-aggressive (sometimes just aggressive) reactions. Selfish, lazy, inconsiderate, and even mean were some of the names I would be called.
As me and my brother grew up, I began to realize a stark difference in how our family treated us.
At 16, my brother is allowed to be a teenager and doesn’t have anyone forcing him to learn how to cook and clean. But I was forced to learn these chores. My family never gets him involved in “difficult adult conversations” because he is too young. But by the age of 13, I was expected to give perfectly wise advice to my broken mother every time she opened up to me about my cheating father. From physical to emotional work, my family always does their best to not overload him, which, don’t get me wrong, is the right thing to do.
But why were things different for me?
The baggage only got bigger and heavier for me to carry as time passed.
Realizing the differences in the way my brother and I were treated allowed me to look at what was happening from the outside. It was heavily related to how misogynistic my culture and family beliefs were.
Taking the time to do some introspection, I observed the people from outside of my circles. I narrowed my research to women with whom I can identify with, namely African black women. Then I made some healthy comparisons, ultimately realizing what was happening to me.
That is when I decided I would quit the struggle of life.
I don’t want to “work hard,” as in, put my physical and mental health on the line for anyone, or for the sake of feeling like my achievements will be more meaningful if I do.
I don’t want to serve as a pillar for people to lean on while my life breaks apart, and I am not even allowed to pick up the pieces.
I don’t want to be strong all the time.
I don’t want to feel ashamed for having and showing my vulnerabilities.
I don’t want to feel like I am only worthy of love when I am useful.
I want to sit outside and look at the blue sky and the traveling white clouds without feeling anxious that I could be doing something more productive instead.
I don’t want to be “productive” all the time.
I don’t want to be anyone’s superwoman but my own.
Those were some sentences I wrote in my journal as tears trickled my chin and stained the pages.
I’m not going to lie, I still feel guilty when I say no. I still feel lazy when I am not forcing myself to be productive when I feel burnt out. I still feel bad when I can’t be there when people ask for help. And of course, even when it isn’t just me doing that to myself, people around me try to make me feel those things.
But I am pushing through and putting myself first without looking back.
No matter how that makes me look to those who surely don’t know my heart and don’t care about my well-being.
So I invite you to think about it.
Do you want to do it?
How does it make you feel?
Is it worth the pain? The time? The effort?
One of the hardest things about quitting the struggle of life is how familiar it is. Familiarity can lead to comfort, and comfort isn’t always good.
A new and healthier life with people who care about you and make sure to show it can be overwhelming at first. It’s unfamiliar, and it can be uncomfortable because it’s new. But I promise it is 100% worth it, and you deserve it regardless of what you think about yourself.
You deserve to be happy.
You deserve to be loved.
You deserve to be cared for.
No one is here to suffer.