I fought for a long time. I fought to be equal. I fought for respect. I fought to survive. I fought for success and to keep moving forward. I was full of fight. Everyday, for most of my life. I fought as hard as I could.
Starting in elementary school, I fought to get through each day of relentless bullying. From 1st through 5th grade I cried everyday and had to fight just to get to 3pm. No friends, just enemies. Torment. Every day! I existed only as a victim.
Middle school was less traumatic, though still painful. The bullying continued, but it doesn’t stick with me as much. Maybe it was less frequent. Although in 8th grade, I actually fought back to a bully for the first time and it was incredible. I actually got into a fist fight with the bully after he pushed me too far. I snapped and jumped on his back and started hitting him. He punched me in the face, but I didn’t feel it. I hit him back! The teacher broke it up, but I was energized! I was the only one who stood up to him and it was amazing. From that point, no one bullied me again. I learned what it was like to take control and fight back. No more being a victim. I had earned everyone’s respect. I was beginning to learn more about who I was.
Around this time, I gravitated towards the male crowd and blended in as an athlete. This is where I first found success. I played basketball. The boys harassed me and made fun of me. Called me a stupid girl who couldn’t play “boys sports”. This gave me my first surge of determination to be as good… no, BETTER than the boys. I picked up a basketball and didn’t put it down again for years. I practiced everyday! I dribbled the ball on my walks to and from school every day to improve my dribbling skills. I learned tricks like dribble between my legs, behind my back, quick spins, etc. I’d stay late after school to practice my shots. I practiced even while the boys stood on the side and laughed at me. Their laughter fueled my determination. I was gonna be better than all of them and make them feel stupid! I was gonna earn everyone’s respect with my skills! On weekends I went to the local park and practiced some more. Being a great basketball player was all I could think of.
High school was a very strange time for me. I continued improving my basketball skills and worked more on gameplay at that point. Again, always having a basketball with me, dribbling to and from school each day. After school (when I wasn’t working), I’d go straight to the park and practice until it was too dark to see. I’d challenge all the men who thought they’d have an easy win. Soon, I went from the skinny little girl trying to play basketball to having everyone’s respect. I became “the white girl with game”. I played hard like a man and was actually pretty good! It was street ball, so lots of elbows to the face, bruised ribs, skinned knees, twisted ankles. It hurt, but I didn’t care. I was doing something I was good at and it gave me power! I was unstoppable! I had dreams of being a professional b-ball player as an adult. It was possible. …Then life got in the way.
Around 16 years old, I was on my own and had to work to take care of myself. I always had someplace to live, but never really had a home. My friends called me a Nomad because I never really belonged anywhere. My parents got lost in their own mental health and addiction issues so I was on my own with no parental guidance, support, or security. Again, having to fight to survive my teenage years. Most of my memories from that time were pretty good though. I was free and happy. I came and went as I wanted. I made all my own decisions. I answered to no one but myself. It was hard, but it taught me responsibility, independence, and determination. If I didn’t work and earn money, I didn’t eat. A simple lesson really. My time in high school was challenging because of this. I spent an extra year in high school because I stopped caring about my grades and failed my whole first year. I was about to fail again when I realized that I didn’t want to live the life I’d grown up with. My elders didn’t graduate from high school and they lived a life of poverty and struggle. I didn’t want that! I made up my mind at that point that I wasn’t going to be like them and fail out or drop out. FAILURE WAS NOT AN OPTION! I did whatever it took to graduate. I doubled up my classes and did summer school to make up what I missed. I busted my ass in school while working full time. I went to work straight from school and worked till midnight everyday. I’d then do my homework, shower, then sleep. Everyday! My laundry was often done at 1am during and after my homework. At this point, I was staying at a friend’s house. His parents were kind enough to let me stay in a spare bedroom for a few months. It wasn’t always a comfortable environment, but at least I had a place to stay. Eventually I had to leave and move in with my dad, which was no picnic. I stayed with him for about 2 years. This was very hard for me because during this time, my dad was in a very dark place with his mental health and addiction. I hated every second of being home. Luckily, between school and work, I was only home to shower and sleep. Again, I fought very hard to keep going and stay focused. I worked hard to not let his harsh words break me. My goal was to graduate high school and move out. I had to get on with my life. I also changed to a new job during this time. This is where I met my husband.
This new job was at an electronics store called The Wiz. It was like today’s Best Buy. Again, I was faced with comments about how I couldn’t do certain things because I’m a girl. Of course these comments fueled me to work extra hard to learn things and challenge myself to be as good as the men. I lifted tv’s myself. I learned to setup and wire large entertainment systems. I stayed overnight and did inventory jobs in addition to school and my cashier and sales responsibilities. I was motivated to work as much as possible and gain respect. It worked until it didn’t and I had to leave that job eventually. At this point I was already living with Eddie and we were dating. I moved in “as friends” then realized I may as well give in and start dating him. Fortunately, it all worked out.
During the early years with my husband (then boyfriend), there was plenty of fight too. We were flat broke and we each took turns losing our jobs. We were in debt, hungry, and discouraged. It was very ugly for a while, but we figured it out. I also went through a few months of feeling very sick, and nearly fainting each day. I pushed to go to work every day even though I was convinced I was dying from some horrible disease. I struggled big time during this. I eventually lost my job due to poor work performance. IT’s hard to be a good worker when you feel so sick all the time.
Fast forward a few years and I was in and out of college while working a 9-5. This time going to school till midnight, Mon-Friday. I was exhausted, but I had no choice. I had to work extra hard to make it work. I burned out a few times and had to quit school. I went back 3 different times until I got it right. This time I knew exactly where I was headed. I had a specific goal. I wanted to be a Funeral Director. During this time I’d gone through a few different jobs and finally was a bookkeeper for a CPA firm. I’d work 9-5, then go straight to school and get home around midnight. I did this for 4 years until I graduated. During the 2nd year I decided to start a family. I was pregnant with twins, keeping up my busy schedule. I’d also work part time on weekends in a Funeral Home to gain experience and make some extra cash. It was absolutely exhausting, but I was motivated. Nothing was gonna stop me! Although I was forced to take a semester off when I was put on bedrest, then had an early delivery. My babies were born at 26 weeks and spent 3 months in the NICU. During this time, I lost my job and had to stop working, but I continued going to school until I graduated.
Once I was a licensed Funeral Director, I worked many hours in my residency which lasted a little over a year. I’d regularly work 60+ hour/week. My longest week was 72 hours. My sister moved in to help my husband take care of my babies who were 18 months. There were times I didn’t see my babies for days because my hours were so rough. Still I continued to fight and push as hard as I could to make it work. At work I was still the girl who couldn’t do a man’s job. So I worked extra hard to prove myself worthy. I’d lift bodies myself. I’d transfer, embalm, dress, and cosmetize the deceased. I’d plan and run multiple funerals alone. I was running on all cylinders and I was near my breaking point. Still I continued! Towards the end of my residency I decided it was time to have another baby. During the first few weeks of pregnancy, I continued to work like a man and do everything that was asked of me without complaint, even though I dealt with terrible morning sickness and exhaustion. It was then determined that I was too much of a liability as a pregnant funeral director and was fired. It hurt, but it was a relief. Now I could stay home and focus on being a mother. I was exhausted and welcomed the break.
During the next 10 years as a stay at home mom I struggled. Any mom of babies knows how hard and exhausting it is to live the life. On top of all of this, I was started to show signs of sickness again. I’ve had bouts of sickness on and off since my early 20’s but nothing ever came of it. I’d just push through and wait for it to pass. Now, it was back and worse than ever. I barely functioned each day just to take care of my babies. I didn’t know there was anything actually wrong with me and I believed what I was feeling was normal. I beat myself up everyday trying to understand why I couldn’t function like everyone else. Again, I fought. I fought so hard I was nearly killing myself. I’d push myself to take my babies to the park. Or to to go on playdates. I’d push to take care of my babies, my husband, myself, and keep up with the housework. I was defeated by my diseased body, but still I pushed. I pushed and fought with every ounce of my being. This is where I finally met my match. My illness defeated me. I was broken.
Once I received my diagnosis, everything changed for me. I eventually learned that I CAN’T fight so hard anymore. Accepting my illness… my limitations, and eventually giving in was such a relief. I stopped trying so hard. I stopped fighting my hardest at everything. It was time to give up and just give in. Sweet relief!
Now at 40 years old, I’m tired. I have nothing left. I have no more fight in me. What a relief it is to give up the fight and just BE. I have nothing left to prove. Nothing left to accomplish. Just exist and enjoy what I fought so hard for. Its a peaceful place to be. I can just be.