Over the past few days a f*cebook friend has been encouraging her readers to “like” her employer and post our greatest accomplishments on their “wall”. In exchange for this modest act, the employer will donate a dollar to a wonderful charity.
I’d love to make a (free) donation to this particular charity but I can’t bring myself to swallow the bait. Aside from feeling co-opted into boosting the FB credibility of business with whom I’ve had no particular experience, I don’t want to publicly post my greatest achievement. It’s far too personal for the FB world. And if I post something “lesser” and most socially acceptable, I feel like I’m denying my authentic self. So, with that in mind, I’m going to post my greatest achievements here, and then make a donation to another very worthy charity – a scholarship fun for the kids I work with in the summer. Having been in some of their shoes in the not-so-distant past, I know how much it means to have people believe in you.
1. Surviving years of trauma, abuse, and abandonment and coming out the other side as a compassionate human being.
2. Going to therapy and facing my demons.
3. Going back to school to finish a degree and find a better life for myself. And succeeding more than I thought possible.
4. Choosing a spouse who is more than “not abusive and mean” but is kind, thoughtful, and endlessly supportive. Not to mention funny and handy around the house.
5. Writing letters (and sending them) to my mom that hold her accountable for the sh*t she put me through. Even if she never responds.
6. Learning to knit. And getting pretty damn good.
7. Going to work on a farm, even though I was terrified and no idea what I was doing. That job changed my life and helped me find loves that have sustained me.
8. Travelling around the world on a shoestring. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I never, ever regret doing it.
9. Not owning a car until I was nearly 30. This one is just for fun.
10. Trusting myself enough to love others. And letting myself love the kids in my life. I don’t know how to say this without sounding weird, but here it goes: as a young child, the “love” I got from the most prominent adults in my life was perverse and harmful. So learning how to be around kids has been hard for me. How do I interact with them without being perverse and harmful? I do not, in any way, consider myself a threat to children, but sometimes I worry too much about what to do, what to say, how to be appropriate. Thankfully, this has lessened with time and exposure to other adults who are really good with kids. I think I’ve learned a lot, and now I feel pretty comfortable with them, but it’s been a hard-won battle.
11. Learning to cook. And being a great bread baker.
12. Moving forward even when I want to stop. Refusing to surrender to the anxiety and depression that haunt my mind. Trusting myself and the future enough to keep moving ahead, even if it’s only a small shuffle.
13. Learning how to garden and identify plants. This gives me so much pleasure.
14. Allowing myself to dream. Dreams are considered dangerous when you’re poor with no future, but I let myself dream anyway. And many of them came true.
15. Walking away from a faith that had, at one point sustained me, but wasn’t working anymore. When it stopped being real and started being a facade, I swallowed my fear of hell and damnation and decide to try life as an agnostic. I haven’t looked back.
This list, by no means exhaustive, is the current surface layer of which I am most proud. To be sure, there are kinks and imperfections, and I haven’t achieved perfection in any one of these. But they are the building blocks of the better life I live everyday. Sometimes I weep, hard and long, when I contemplate my life had I succumbed to the statistics and uncertainties. But for reasons I don’t completely understand, I didn’t. In part it’s because I couldn’t, because a few people loved me and pulled me onward, because strangers whispered encouragement in my ear when I couldn’t stop crying. In part it’s because teachers worked patiently to teach me, because pastors gently encouraged me, and because the when the sun shines it’s so very warm. It’s because of nature and nurture, because of biology and mystery, because I had to keep moving for fear I’d freeze to death if I stopped. But mostly it’s because a few people believed in me. And for that I thank them daily, even if they can’t hear, even if sometimes the words get stuck in my throat and my breath is caught in my lungs. But thankfulness, despite it all, is what feeds and sustains me. So thank you, thank you, thank you.