What did you post this day four years ago? If you’ve ever looked through your On This Day on Facebook, you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
Facebook Memories are equal parts fun and annoying. On the one hand, they offer great remembrances, images of Logan at a younger age, my own comedic exchanges with friends. Other times, they grate. On my day, on my nerves, on my heart. Showing me images of memories I’d rather forget, of a Justine I’d rather forget, someone who makes me wince with every flashed memory.
Once upon a time, I was a very different person. These days, I am very cheerful, a generally happy person, who goes with the flow, and while I can be a bit neurotic, a bit panicky, that genuinely happy person is exactly who I am. Overall, I am good. Life is good. I love my family, my friends, and I am holding myself together, even when it’s difficult, even when I’m not at my best.
If you knew me even seven years ago, you wouldn’t recognize me. If you knew me before that, good luck.
I have not spent my life as a happy person. Don’t get me wrong, there were many times where I was happy, very happy, living in the moment and enjoying myself, and if you experienced any of those times with me, they were true, never doubt it. However, if you got the feeling that I was faking it, I probably was. I didn’t realize it, not outwardly. I was simply playing the role I’d always been cast in, that I only partly was–“The Sunshine Girl”. And I couldn’t quite let that drop, even when it didn’t make sense, because it made me feel better to continue being that person, to hold on to the image of happy that people expected from me.
I never wanted to be the bad guy, because I’m The Sunshine Girl. It means I stuck it out with abusive people for far longer than I should have. It meant that I clung on to people because even the slightest hint that I wasn’t entertaining and fun meant that people were abandoning me (that particular version of me is the one that embarasses me the most, although the ‘deals with abuse’ one is the one I hate the most by a long shot). It meant that I smiled through terrible situations because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Buck up, and keep going. It meant that I forced myself through situations and I didn’t FEEL. It meant that the private me was either angry or sad much of the time, but couldn’t accept it.
And then, one day, as facades you try to hold up tend to do, the whole thing collapsed. It took an inciting event, one that I will not go into, not because I don’t want to talk about it, but because it drags a whole lot of other people’s private business out into the open, which is something I won’t do. But that inciting event validated things I’d been thinking. It confirmed the absolute wrongness of a version of events I had been told repeatedly to buck up and deal with–and suddenly, I was free.
I’d spent a lot of time in a bubble of self-denial, listening to people tell me things I was going through weren’t really that bad, and then, one day, like magic, all the gaslighting in the world couldn’t make me feel that way again. Suddenly, I accepted my reality. And once that one bubble had been burst, they all started popping.
It took a minute for everything to change. Some time. A change of scenery or two. But after years of therapy, things started coming together. And suddenly, I was comfortable in my own skin. I made decisions for myself, for my family, and they were good ones, strong ones. I took over my career. I made a name for myself and I stopped caring what anybody else thought. I made a decision to be me, warts and all, and I’m running with it.
A friend at work calls me her “little ray of sunshine”. And I always respond with a wry, “right, I’m a f***king ray of sunshine.” It’s a joke, but one with some truth. Because I’m not a ray of sunshine. Not all the time. I smile when I’m happy, which, since the bubble burst, is a large portion of the time. But I don’t try to smile through my depression or my anxiety. And I’m better for the fact that I allow myself to feel my emotions. I don’t cling anymore, even to the good people in my life. Because I’ve realized life is a series of connections, intense and lax, and they are meant to be how they are.
Facebook Memories are embarrassing things, because they remind me of a time when I took crap from people I should have never allowed past the front gates of my life. Because they remind me of trying to smile when I was dying inside. Because they remind me of a time when I didn’t understand what I had, because I was too busy worrying about what I didn’t have. Because they remind me of a time before I grew up.
But I’m a bit older and wiser now, so I suppose that’s a good reason to look back. To remember how far I’ve come. So, maybe they aren’t so bad. My only regret is that I didn’t figure things out sooner. But then, who doesn’t feel that way sometimes?