I was never meant to be soft. Not from the second I came into this world.
When I first came out of my mother, I didn’t even cry. I wasn’t still, I wasn’t blue—I just wasn’t making noise. Eventually my wails took up the hallways and the doctors could pronounce me alive. But for the first first minute of my life, I held my cards close to my chest.
I tell myself that’s where my trust issues started. I needed to make sure I had confidence in these people I was going to show my weakness to before I let my guard down and my sobs heave.
Strength came easily to me. I was the littlest and the youngest but I used that to my advantage. I was never going to let my age, gender or stature determine my place in the world.
I was six months old when I started walking; pulling myself up and not allowing help from anyone within arms reach. I knew my power and I wanted to showcase it. As my seasoned parents—40 years old and two kids deep—laughed at my independence, I was beaming with pride before I was even a year. I understood that this behavior was rewarded when they clapped and squealed my name with joy.
Growing up, I had more bruises, stitches and broken bones than my siblings. I played rough. I ran with the boys. I had no interest in going slow or being delicate. I earned every black eye when the neighborhood guys pushed me off the monkey bars for beating them at their own games. I wore every fat lip with pride and looked forward to giving them back to anyone that I felt wronged me.
I was ill trusting but quick to prove myself. I grew up looking out for me. I was selfish in a way that every parent hopes their child is—I got my needs met and then met others with compassion. I knew that if I took care of myself first then I could be a better friend. I would be a more whole person, able to care and fight back, rather than putting others first.
Pain just didn’t phase me. I welcomed it like an old friend.
Delicate was never a word that was in my vocabulary. Which is probably why I nose dived into my teenage years rather than meeting them with the grace of a lady. I didn’t want to be soft so I created an invisible exterior around me out of the toughest things I mustered through.
Everything that I thought would kill me, didn’t, so I added them to the armor. The painful end of friendships, my mother’s episodes, the emotional abuse from a boy, a cross country move of my best friend, another cheating boy.
I didn’t take the hits with poise, but the way I moved on in the aftermath was done with perfect finesse.
I was never going to let someone describe me as being breakable. So I broke myself before anyone ever could. I cut and sewed myself up so many times that by the time anyone else tried to hurt me, I wouldn’t feel it. I was working smarter not harder by the time 13 rolled around.
They teach navy seals to hurt themselves when they get captured; this way, they’re able to focus on the pain they inflict on themselves rather than the kind that’s being inflicted on them. It alters their brain to process fear differently.
I was adapting. I was teaching myself my own military training. Though it may have been wrong, there is no doubting that it did, in fact, make me stronger. I was both my own aggressor and healer.
Coursing through my veins was a feeling of independence. I relied on quite literally no one besides myself. I was a better person for it. Perhaps I let myself slip into the unconstrained a little too far when college found me. I looked out a little too much for me and let the people I cared about slip out of focus.
So I changed.
The disappointment I felt in myself was too heavy to not make a shift in my being. However, the pendulum swung too far to the opposite.
I went soft. I went against every bone in my body and adapted a new set of beliefs: to look out for the other person more than I was looking out for me. I stopped getting my needs met. I stopped being the selfish person I needed to be in order to survive. The person that I always knew. The one that I created.
Post college I changed because I didn’t like who I let myself become, but then I forgot to swing back to my center. To who my core is. I found myself being taken advantage of. I thought I deserved it. I thought I was punishing myself for my past transgressions. So I stayed in it, in this place, in this mind and body that I didn’t know.
I fit myself into a box that I wasn’t comfortable in. And when things didn’t work out, I wondered why the change didn’t work. I evolved. I made myself more digestible for the world. More like those other girls. I was genuinely confused why things didn’t turn out.
Now I understand. It makes perfect sense. I wasn’t me.
I had lost my strength. I had lost my selfishness. I had lost my power. When I evolved, I forgot to take the things with me that kept me whole.
I am a better person for myself and the people around me when I’m looking out for me first.
I didn’t live through everything I did to be stripped of the powers that got me through it. My mom didn’t allow me to fall on my ass time and time again at six months to have me forget about the independence that I so badly demanded. I didn’t stick around the boys when I was growing up to lose the strength I gained both mentally and physically. I am bigger than these bones I have adapted to. I have always been larger than life even if I tried to quiet myself down for the past handful of years.
I’ve been watching those girls. The ones that I grew up with. The ones that I used to be best friends with. They’re all married now. Living their uncomplicated lives. Maybe if I were more like them, I’d be in the same boat. If I could keep my mouth shut, I would be just as ignorantly happy.
But there’s a reason those friendships didn’t last: I was not like them.
I was not the kind of girl that could sit down and look pretty. I was the kind that was getting kicked out of the gym for getting in a fist fight. I was the one who was always commanding more from herself, from her relationships, from her friendships. I was never satisfied and I never fucking settled.
My father always insisted that all my needs and desires could be completely fulfilled by myself. He constantly reminded me that I had all tools to create my own success; I didn’t need to search for them in other people. He instilled in me the whole person that I have always been, because that’s how he always saw me. Complete within my own mind, soul and body.
The only person I should ever be in competition with is myself if I wanted to evolve. And I should change, I should constantly question and become more. I should never be satisfied with being as good as the boys, I should always want to be better. He did not demand my strength each and every day for me to squander the lessons that were learned.
So the universe gave me another lesson—that I’m not done evolving and I was a fool to think I was.
I was naïve to think that my final form was a girl who didn’t think she was her own sun, moon and stars. My hard exterior is crystallizing again and I am remembering the strength that has always been inside. The brawn in my bones that I discovered when I was barely a year. The power in my voice that developed when I was still younger and smaller than everyone around me. The vigor that I injected into my own veins as a teenager. And the unapologetic self-sufficient woman that I’ve grown into.
I am constantly striving for better. Looking for more things to add to the armor. Another reason not to be soft; to defy delicacy.
I thought I was supposed to suppress my chaos to be more palpable for people. I now understand that that’s what draws people to me.
I am unlike the normal. I am the outlier. And I will die before I ever conform again.