It’s the Way I Grew Up…

(paraphrased)

“Do you know how many people I’ve told about you? About your story? You came from nothing and here you are…”

(end paraphrase)

It’s the way I grew up. The fights. The yelling. The hitting. The name-calling. The hurting. I thought it was the way everybody lived. I never doubted even for a second that my dad loved me – I knew he did. I doubted if anyone else did.

As a child, all my extended family either died or disappeared from my life. By the time I was 11, everyone seemed to have left. Our family was dysfunctional at best. My dad tried – he tried to be the peacemaker, tried to take us to church, tried to turn us into a functional family – but the damage was already done. Everyone had left and I didn’t understand why. I hated being home – it didn’t feel like home. Yeah, I survived and I’ve even learned how to deal with my family as an adult, but some scars don’t heal quickly. 

I didn’t really have friends in elementary school. I was smart and I knew I was smart and I held onto that. There was a group of girls I would play with outside at recess – until the day they told me they didn’t want to play with me anymore. I remember walking away feeling heartbroken – these people I thought were my friends really weren’t my friends. I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. I cried and tried to have fun at recess, but my feelings were too hurt. I didn’t really make friends after that. I stumbled across one around the fourth grade – we had known each other in preschool and I feel like God brought us together when we both needed it. We both needed a friend at school and so He gave us each other. My mom would spend the rest of my school years comparing me to her. Everything was a competition and I had to win over my best friend. It made me feel like she wasn’t my friend at times – she was someone I had to win against. But she was my friend. Was being the key word – I lost her in October 2012. She’s fine – don’t worry – but I made some bad choices and we grew apart. Part of me wishes I would have reached out to her and told her what I was going though. Part of me felt an overwhelming need to protect her from my life. In the end – I lost. 

I remember wanting to try out for volleyball. I remember my mother’s words. “You’ll never make the team – only the rich kids will make the team.” Way to crush my hopes and dreams. Everything was always about money – my family didn’t have enough, we were poor compared to other people, we were in debt. However, we never went hungry. There was always food in the house. We stopped going to the doctor and the eye doctor and even the dentist annually, but at least we never went hungry. 

All the relationships around me were rocky. My dad’s relationship with my mom was rocky – to the point that I remember the day he asked me if I thought we would be better off if he divorced her. I remember the tears in his eyes – he was scared that if he divorced her that he would never find someone who would love him. I question sometimes if my parents ever truly loved each other. Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful they met and married or I wouldn’t be here and my little brothers wouldn’t be here – but I question what their marriage was built on. My mom’s relationship with everyone was rocky – there were more arguments than I could count. I remember the hitting and kicking and yelling. I remember the day I realized I was big enough to fight back. Most of the time I just wanted everyone to stop. The relationship with my brothers changed as often as the time on the clock. The relationship with extended family didn’t exist. I grew jealous of my classmates who talked about spending the weekend with their grandparents or aunts and uncles or cousins. I may not have had friends in school, but I hung onto every word my classmates spoke.

I remember my first crushes. Some of them went on to become really amazing guys. Others not so much. In sixth grade this boy asked me to the dance – I was crushing on someone else (hoping he would ask me) and so I said no. The whole class thought I was mean and that other boy never asked me. In seventh grade I asked an eighth grader to the school dance after art class one day. It had taken me days to get up the courage to ask him. He said yes and I was so excited. A day or two later he came back and said that he couldn’t take me because he had to take his girlfriend to the dance instead. Then I moved onto someone else who I would spent the majority of middle school and high school crushing on. He liked just about every other girl in school – except me. We became friends and we studied together. He started to attend church with my family. I admitted how I felt to him. He didn’t feel the same. We stayed friends for a while and then slowly drifted apart. I gave up on boys after that. Three strikes and I’m out. About halfway through college someone new entered my life. I wasn’t sure if I liked him or not – but he gave me attention and at that point in my life, I was craving some attention from a boy. We were good friends and I knew he liked me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. He would give me my first kiss. He would become my biggest regret. I guard my heart to this day because of what transpired.

Sometimes I drive people away before they can hurt me. It’s what life has taught me – that people will leave you and people will die and then I will be left heartbroken. The people who haven’t been driven away are the special ones – they’re the ones I realized were worth fighting for and will continue to fight to have in my life. The guys I’ve dated here and there though – those are the ones I tend to drive away before they can hurt me by leaving. My heart can only take so much heartache. 

Losing my dad ripped my heart apart. I didn’t know it was possible to be in so much emotional pain until he died. It all still haunts me. I would give anything to wrap my arms around his neck once more. To tell him I love him. Sometimes I feel guilty when I laugh because he’s not here to share it with me. Other times I’m relieved that life is working out okay. It’s a struggle.

I remember the day Allison invited me to stay at her house. I didn’t know what to say or do. I had moved out of my mom’s house a couple months beforehand. Allison cared and was offering me what I needed most – stability. I remember watching how her family interacted and being amazed. They functioned like a “normal” family should. There wasn’t the fighting and kicking and hitting going on. I saw what it looked like when two people who love each other work together to raise a family. I was amazed every single day.

Later I found out that she was worried I wasn’t going to graduate college. I had shared with her everything that was going on and she spent a while worrying about me. She would also introduce me to the college therapist and I would spend the next thirteen months trying to figure out life in that office. 

I cried a lot in therapy. I tried to work through everything that had happened. I tried to figure out how to move forward. I tried to make good decisions. It was a struggle. There were so many things to talk about, so many things to work through, so many things that I needed to say.

I was a very independent person – even back then. My therapist saw it, but he also saw how guarded my heart was. I was trying to protect it from being broken again and I was willing to protect it at any cost – even if it meant being a loner. I still hear his words to this day. “You don’t need anyone to save you, you can save yourself, but someday, it might be nice.” He’s right. I don’t need anyone to save me. I can save myself. One day maybe it’ll be nice. One day maybe I’ll be willing to take a chance with my heart. One day maybe I’ll find someone who’s worth the risk. 

My guilty pleasure from high school onward was Walker, Texas Ranger. Gosh – I still love that show to this day. But it was never the action that pulled me in. In was the way that the good guys always won. The way you knew everything was going to turn out. It was the way Walker protected Alex and how you could always tell how much they loved each other. I was never drawn to the fighting scenes – I was drawn to the way Walker loved Alex and I often wondered if anyone would ever look at me the way he looks at her. I understood it was a fictional television series, but in my childhood world of wondering what it was like when two people loved each other, Walker and Alex were the example I found and hung onto.  

I’ve loved animals since the beginning of time. Have you ever looked into an animal’s eyes? You can see straight into their souls. Each one has a story and each one has their own moods and emotions and attitudes. I wanted to go away and study pandas as a child. Then I wanted to ride free on the back of a horse. I thought about becoming a vet but science and I were never friends, I decided against it. Now I have dogs with dreams of recusing and fostering more one day. 

I love writing. Inspiration doesn’t always strike, but when it does, I can spend hours upon hours writing. Sometimes it’s a story that’s popped into my head. Sometimes it’s something that someone says to me. Sometimes it’s just how I’m feeling. I drift away from writing from time to time, but I tend to always find my way back to it. It’s the hobby I won’t let disappear, no matter how much time lapses. 

I want to get healthier. I want to finally run a mile without stopping. I want to look in the mirror and love what I see. I want to see what other people see in me. Sometimes I’m just not sure how. 

God and I have drifted apart many times throughout my life. I aim to be a good Christian, but in fall short daily. I will go periods of time without going to church or reading my Bible. I haven’t prayed daily in years. Yet, I know that despite all my struggles, God doesn’t leave my side. He walks with me and talks with me. He’s my comfort when I lay awake at night crying. He protects me when I can’t figure it out. Most of all, He loves me – despite everything that has happened in my life. 

Which leads me to here – what is the point in me writing all of this now? My friend said she wanted to understand why I’m so scared – she wanted to help. I don’t understand myself sometimes and I didn’t know where to start so I figure I’d start at the beginning. Sometimes it’s hard for me to sort through all the feelings running around my head, but it’s easier to sort through them when I write. 

I’m scared of falling into financial trouble like my dad. I’m scared I’ll marry the wrong person and have a marriage like my parents. I’m scared I’ll never have kids and if I do, they’ll lay awake at night questioning if I love them. I’m scared I’ll raise them the way I was raised, despite my promises to myself that I would never do that. I’m scared that I’ll never find a group of friends who I can rely on and will always be there whenever I need them. I’m scared of leaving my comfort zone and I’m scared of falling. I’m scared that I’ll always hear the words ringing in my head that I’ve heard all my life. I’m scared of having my heart broken again – I’ve barely survived it every time before when it’s broken. I’m scared of being in a loveless relationship. But most of all – I’m scared of missing out on wonderful things because I’m scared. 

There are people around me who I know will always be there for me. I’ve discovered which family members will be there through thick and thin; and which ones I need to set boundaries with. I’ve discovered co-workers who have become family. I’ve discovered a family I never knew I needed but always wanted.

Sometimes I feel guilty for this – for loving the people in my life. I’m on this path because my dad died. I’ve met most of these people as a result of this death. I wish I could say I would give all of them up to have him back – but honestly, I don’t want to go back to my childhood life. I just wish he could be here and I could keep them. It makes me feel guilty most days. But I can’t feel guilty for living. 

It’s often easier for other people to realize how strong you are as a person. When I look at my life, I don’t see myself as someone who is strong. I see myself as someone who has learned how to survive but at the expense of being fearful. Other people see a strong person who has overcome so much to get to where she is. 

Perhaps it’s easier for others to see our strength. We don’t see it within ourselves because we are too busy trying to figure out how to survive. Maybe it’s about taking a step back and realizing everything that you’ve overcome. Maybe it’s about realizing that there’s still a fight left within you. Maybe it’s about fighting for the life you’ve always dreamed of.

It’s not always easy to keep fighting for what I want, sometimes I need a nap from all of it. It feels like an endless battle. I’m not sure if I can see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore. 

But maybe if I fight long enough and hard enough I’ll finally have the family I’ve always dreamed of. 

“A warrior is the woman who gets up despite the enemy trying to destroy her. A woman who declares her victory before seeing it. A woman who believes she will receive her miracle because she knows the Lord she serves is alive and by her side.”

Teacher’s Pet | Golden Child | Chosen One

The things that people feel the need to call others is mind-blowing. I’m not talking about nicknames or names that your friends call you – both of which are typically good natured or an inside joke, showing that you’re familiar with the other person and comfortable with them. I’m talking about the names that are said to aggravate you – not directly negative but that cut at your soul.

I’ve been called a “teacher’s pet” for as long as I can remember. I was always a good student – straight As – I knew the answer in every class, except Science, but even then, I studied hard and made an A still. I grew up knowing that studying was my one way to get a better life for myself. My parents didn’t graduate college, my dad dropped out and my mom never attended. Their parents didn’t either. My dad and I had talked about me going to college since before I could remember. My education was very important and he wanted to make sure I got to where I wanted to go. I was setting an example for my younger brothers. Some subjects came easy to me, others not so much. But I studied. And my dad helped me study. And I participated in class and my teachers knew they could count on me. Did that make me a pet? Debatable. I always saw it as being a good student. I wanted to succeed in life. I wanted a better life for myself. I wanted to get away from all the bad things that had happened. My education was the key to that and I wasn’t about to let that go – even when people called me a pet. 

In college I was too busy with work and school – I barely made it by because I never had enough time. No one can consider you a pet when you’re average like the rest of the class. It was a refreshing change, but one I struggled with. Although I enjoyed no longer being referred to as a pet, and I liked being able to blend in with the crowd in college, I knew by slacking in my studies that I was not living up with my full potential. I walked the line between needing my full time job and needing more time to succeed in school. I passed college, barely at times, but I passed and I made plans to go back for my Masters degree when the time is right – ideally the next two years. 

Entering the workforce as an adult proved difficult at times. Although I had been working since I was seventeen, I wasn’t prepared to deal with some of the attitudes the bigger city had to offer. People once again saw me doing my job as being a pet. I’ve never understood that notion and I don’t think I want to. If you do your job and get along with your coworkers, your boss will get along with you. If you prove that you can be trusted and relied upon, your boss will in turn trust and rely on you. If you go the extra mile, it will pay off. 

When I switched jobs and started working in a different department for a company, I found myself lost in a sea of individuals who had at least a decade of experience on me. I felt intimidated – I was the youngest one in the department and I felt I always had to prove my worth. I had been the youngest person at my first job for five years, but that was a small town restaurant, this was a big city company and I had a lot to prove. I threw myself into learning everything I could about my job and the company and I threw myself into helping to fix problems. I knew I had good ideas, but as the new and youngest person, I knew I had to take the time to build trust and respect. I did those things. I put in the time. I came up with the ideas and implemented them. I went the extra mile. When someone asked me to help with something, I always did whatever I could to solve the problem. I asked questions because I genuinely wanted to know the answer and how to fix my own problems. I spoke up and let my voice be heard, but I also learned to pick my battles and I learned when to back down and abandon a project. I also learned when to keep pushing a project until someone heard me. 

I did everything I knew I had to do to set myself up for success. Where did it land me?

“You’re the teacher’s pet.”

“You’re the Golden Child.”

“You’re the Chosen one.”

I’m sorry – but what world have I just been transported into. These people have children my age and feel the need to say that. How would they feel if someone said that about their children?

In the next sentence they would tell me that I had earned whatever good things happened to me and they knew I would succeed and do well. It was confusing. When someone calls you a pet, it makes you feel like you’re being handed something – that you didn’t earn it on your own. When that same person tells you that they know you’ve earned something, it contridicts itself. It’s complicated. 

Are they upset about something not related to me at all?

Are they frustrated because they feel like their hard work hasn’t paid off?

Are they discouraged because they feel my voice was heard and theirs was not?

People are always going to have opinions about everything. It’s not always easy to listen to them – especially when someone you view as a friend has an opinion about you that seems harsh. You can’t control how others feel about things and trying to fix it won’t get you anything if they aren’t willing to let you in. 

It’s at that point that you’re left with two options. You can either let their words eat at your soul or you can shrug it off and realize that as long as you’re doing what you need to do and not hurting anyone in the process, you’re going to be just fine. 

It’s not always easy to shrug it off. Words can cut at a person’s soul. But it’s important to not let those words ruin your life. You have to keep being true to yourself. Everything else will work out. 

I’m a Christian and I had Sex before Marriage

Author’s Note: I’ve wanted to write this for a while but it’s deeply personal to me. I haven’t spoken of it for years and only a handful of people know what happened. However, remembering how alone I felt at the time, I want to share my experience in case someone else – Christian or not – finds themselves with the same feelings. I felt so alone at the time. I want others to know they are not alone. I understand that everyone has different views on religion and sex – these are my views. Please respect them as it has taken a lot of courage for me to share these thoughts and feelings in a public place.

Also – understand that I was a completely different person back then than I am today. I have grown a lot in the last five years and my actions then are in no way a reflection of what my actions would be today. 

I’m a Christian.

I had sex before marriage. 

Once. 

A little over five years ago. 

The guilt from my actions tore at my soul for the months to come. 

I didn’t really grow up in a Christian household. I knew who God and Jesus were from a young age and I knew that sex was for marriage. The summer before my fourteenth birthday my family started to attend church. I would come to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior in that church. I would learn about being a Christian woman in that church. I would also make a promise to myself in that church – to wait until I was married to have sex. I promised myself and I promised God. I held onto that promise for years – no matter where life took me, I knew I would save myself for marriage. 

Around the time I was nineteen I stopped attending church regularly. I was busy going to school and working, and church was put on the backburner. When I stopped going to church, I stopped working on my relationship with God. I knew who He was and still believed in Him, but life was busy and I stopped putting effort into my relationship with Him. 

Then everything went downhill. My dad died the spring before my twenty-first birthday. I was mad. I was angry. I even dared to tell God that I hated Him on more than one occasion – feelings I knew weren’t true, but I was so upset that I needed someone to blame.

I remember having a conversation a few weeks after my dad’s death about sex and how I didn’t understand anymore why I should wait until marriage to have sex. Everywhere I looked in the media, there was talk about sex before marriage. It couldn’t be bad, right? Add that to my distancing relationship with a God and I was headed down a bad road.

However, I didn’t realize it at the time. I didn’t have the strong support system I now have. People saw me slowly sinking deeper but no one throw me a life vest. I was lost. I was confused. I was tired of being in pain. 

Through all this, there was this boy. He seemed to listen when I talked about what I was feeling. I had known him for years and found myself leaning on him for support. I liked him. I didn’t think I was attracted to him, but at the time, that didn’t matter. I was sinking and needed attention. He was giving me attention. What could possibly go wrong?

I was working late one night and he had invited me over to his house. Pizza and a movie I thought! It seemed like such a normal thing to do and I happily accepted. I got to his house around 12:30/1:00 and we had pizza while watching the movie (what it was I don’t remember) and before I knew it, we were kissing. 

Kissing led to quickly rounding the bases. All of a sudden my hormones were racing. I was no longer upset, I was feeling things I had never experienced and in that moment, they were good things. 

Then he asked that question. That question that haunted me for years.

“Do you want to go upstairs?”

I don’t remember if I said yes or if I just nodded. Probably a combination of the two. I remember holding onto the staircase waiting for him. I remember racing up the stairs and quickly removing clothes. 

I remember laying there and feeling guilty the second we are done. 

This wasn’t my wedding night. 

I had no intention of ever marrying this boy.  

I had just broken the most important promise in my life. 

I quickly got up, grabbed my clothes, and left. 

I haven’t seen the boy since. 

We have texted a handful of times over the years, but I was too angry to ever see him. 

I wasn’t sure if I was angry at him or myself or a combination of the two. I just knew I was angry. I was angry and had no desire to see him again. 

I, by all accounts, lost my virginity to a one night stand. 

It would take me months to come to terms with my actions. 

It was my responsibility to keep my promise to God and I broke my promise. 

I immediately took responsibility for my actions, never once blaming the boy.

I would go through a range of emotions – sometimes feeling as though I was taken advantage of by the boy. Although I didn’t blame him, I had told him everything – I trusted him. I felt like he had taken that trust and used it for his advantage – despite the fact that I said yes to going upstairs. 

A few other things happened that night – details that I do not feel need to be discussed in an open forum. 

I raced home. I cried in my car. I called people at 2:30am crying. 

I would cry for the next several months. 

The next thought to jump in my head – did we use a condom? I thought we did, but in the heat of the moment, maybe we hadn’t used one. I wasn’t on birth control. There wasn’t a reason for me to be on birth control. Panic set it. Now it was a waiting game.

I talked to my Pastor and his wife the next day. I was assured my dad was too happy in Heaven to care that I made a mistake on earth. I was assured that God would forgive me if I asked for forgiveness and truly meant it. 

I must have asked God to forgive me a hundred times a day all summer. Nothing helped. I still felt guilty. I re-committed myself to not having sex again before I was married. But I had already broken that promise once and I no longer trusted myself. 

A month or so later I went to babysit for a friend’s kids. She asked me how my summer was going and I broke down into tears. This amazing Christian woman sat before me. 

How do I tell her that I was literally having the worst summer of my entire life?

I told her my dad had died. 

I told her I had had sex. 

I told her I was scared I was pregnant. 

She looked at me with the most loving eyes ever. 

“Are you okay? Physically are you okay? He didn’t hurt you, right?”

“No. No one hurt me. I said yes. I always said I wouldn’t do that. I said yes and it’s all my fault.”

It was my responbility. It was my fault. No one made me do anything I didn’t want to do. I agreed. I said yes. I was going to take responsibility my for actions. 

She held me while I cried. I don’t remember exactly what she said to me, but I remember feeling completely safe. I held on and refused to let go until I could stop crying. 

She asked if I was okay to still watch her kids and I nodded that I was fine. We watched movies the entire hour or so she was gone. When she came back, we talked more. 

“If you ever need anything, I’m here for you.” 

She told me that before I left. 

I would show up on her doorstep with a pregnancy test a few days later. 

Thankfully the test was negative – my period was just off – probably because of all the stress. 

I still hadn’t forgiven myself. 

I would end up in therapy a few months later. 

Now – I’m not saying the losing my virginity drove me to therapy. For years I had joked that I would end up in therapy eventually. The combination of losing my dad, having sex, and family issues I had never talked about with anyone finally pushed me, with a little help from my friend, to ask for the help I so desperately needed. 

I remember walking into that office that fall for my first therapy session. We went over the general guidelines and then it was up to me to talk about whatever it was I wanted to talk about. But where should I start?

I cried. I cried and rambled out a bunch of things that had happened. I cried and cried and cried. 

I replayed that night over and over in my mind. 

Where had I gone so wrong?

Obviously I was wrong when I said yes. 

But had I gone wrong somewhere else?

Should I have said told him to stop as we started rounding the bases?

How about when we were making out?

Was the first kiss too far?

The arm over my shoulders?

Should I have sat by him on the couch?

Maybe we should have picked a halfway interesting movie?

Were we just bored?

I shouldn’t have brought pizza, right?

Why didn’t I leave?

Why didn’t I leave and run to a friend’s house?

How could he even ask me that?

I told him everything, he had to know I was too emotional to make a decision – why did he ask me?

How could I agree to go to a boy’s house late at night when I didn’t know if any adults were home?

Heck, I am an adult, but maybe there should have been more of an adult there; an adult that had been an adult longer than me. 

Was it a mistake to even talk to this boy in the first place?

I knew I wasn’t attracted to him. 

I brought it all on myself. 

I can’t believe I broke my promise to God!

What is becoming of my life?

I don’t recognize that girl in the mirror anymore!

That girl is so scared. 

That girl is so uncertain. 

That girl is watching her world crash down around her and there is nothing she can do about it. 

Where did I go so wrong?

Where?

Someone tell me where?

I spent a solid few weeks in therapy talking about what happened. 

To a lot of poeple I knew, having sex before marriage wasn’t a big deal. 

It was a fact of life. 

Even normal. 

To me – it was crushing my soul. 

I couldn’t figure out where everything had changed. 

Until I figured out how I had let it happen, I couldn’t move past it. 

My therapist was a Christian as well. 

I started to feel like God was surrounding me with all these amazing Christians. 

Christians who weren’t batting an eye or judging me for what happened. 

I talked to my therapist about the pain. 

The pain of my dad’s death. 

The pain of losing my virginity. 

The pain of my childhood that I had never discussed with anyone else. 

In addition to listening and offering a view on a few things, he continued to ask me one question. 

Why?

He usually asked me this when I told him I didn’t know why I did something. 

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty in tune with myself – even back then. 

I know why I do that I do. 

I may not always admit it right away, but I understand my actions. 

I understand my actions effect other people. 

Those actions also effect my life. 

I remember telling him one day that I had no idea how I had let that happen to me. 

I didn’t understand. 

Why did I say yes?

I remember him sitting in the chair, notepad and pen in hand. 

I was across the room on the couch. 

“Why did you say yes?”

“I don’t know!”

“Yes, you do.”

“I don’t.”

“Think about it. Why did you say yes? You know why you did.”

The easy way out would have been to just say something. Make up an answer. Anything to make my therapist ask me something else. 

But this wasn’t about him. 

It was about me. 

I had come to therapy to for help. I was getting what I asked for. I needed to look deep inside myself to figure out why I had said yes and broken my promise. 

I sat there thinking. I wasn’t on a time limit and knew I could take all the time I needed. I took myself back to that night. That night that I had relived a thousand times in my head. I looked at it from my view a few months out. What was so wrong with that girl that she stopped caring?

It was as if a lightbulb went off in my head. 

I had stopped caring. 

At least I had lied to myself and told myself that I didn’t care. 

I was hurt. I was angry at the world. I had claimed I hated God. I missed my dad and couldn’t imagine living without him. I was so tired of being in pain and I wanted to feel something, anything else. 

In that split second, when that boy asked me if I wanted to go upstairs and I said yes, I did so because in the split second, I didn’t care anymore. 

I didn’t care what God wanted for me. 

He took my dad from me. Obviously He didn’t care about me. If He doesn’t care about me, why should I care for what He wants for me?

The second we were done, I knew I was wrong. The guilt of knowing that I made a huge mistake was soul crushing. The revelation of understanding how I had let it happen started to bring me peace. 

I cried as we sat there. 

“Forgive yourself. You can’t change what happened. It’s okay to forgive yourself.”

I did come to forgive myself. It took a little while, but eventually, overtime, I forgave myself for the mistake I made. 

That’s what it was – a mistake. 

I don’t blame anyone for what happened. 

I don’t blame the boy for asking me. 

I don’t blame the boy because I thought he should have known better. 

I don’t blame the boy for inviting me over. 

However, I learned to not blame myself either. 

I don’t blame myself for saying yes. 

I don’t blame myself for feeling betrayed by the boy. 

I don’t blame myself for going over to the boy’s house. 

I made a mistake. 

I made a stupid mistake. 

I made a life-changing mistake. 

But I grew from it. I learned from it. I turned my mistake around and used it to make me a better person. 

I tried to talk to the boy about what happened a few times but I always got the impression that he wasn’t nearly as bothered by what we did as I was. In the years that followed, we have exchanged a few friendly text messages, but always when he texted first. I never got to talk to him about my feelings from that night. As time passed, I decided I didn’t need to talk to him about it anymore. So much time had passed and it no longer effected me. 

There are moments that I still feel guilt for what happened. Sometimes I think about how my wedding night will be different than what I used to imagine. How I will one day have to explain to my future spouse about the mistake I made when I was younger. 

However, I also know that God has the perfect person out there for me. When I meet that guy who will one day become my husband, he will understand that it was just that – a mistake – and it is in no way a reflection of who I am as a person. Because God has designed the two of us to be perfect together. 

I am a Christian and I had sex before marriage. 

I remade that promise I made to myself as a teenager, only this time I remade it with understanding that I gained through my experience. 

I promise myself, and I promise God, that I will never ever have sex again before marriage. I understand the pain and hurt I, as a Christian woman, felt when I broke that promise. I will never let that happen again. 

I know that not all Christians, or people, feel that way I felt when they have sex before marriage. Everyone has different experiences that shape their view on sex. It’s okay that my experience is different that someone else’s experience. 

I remember feeling like no one understood me. No one was judging me, but they also didn’t understand. Christians having sex before marriage wasn’t talked about back then, and it’s not talked about much now, at least not in the communities I’m surrounded with. 

God forgives us for our mistakes when we ask for forgiveness and truly mean it. I feel that was part of the reason I wanted to recommit myself to my promise. To prove to God that I was very sorry and needed His forgiveness.

Forgiving myself was harder. It took longer. As time passed, I was able to come to terms with everything and forgive myself. 

I needed to forgive myself just as much as I needed God to forgive me. Maybe even more. I knew God would give me His forgiveness when I asked for it. I could deny myself forgiveness forever. I had to learn it was okay to forgive myself. And it is. It is okay to forgive yourself. 

Makeup Free Week

A few weeks back, I wrote about how someone kept commenting that “your makeup looks good today.” I wear makeup because I like it but I never feel that I need to have it. Honestly, I’m more attached to those 10 minutes of sleep I could be getting every morning. However, as I still wasn’t able to shake those words my mind, I decided I needed to do something – I needed to prove to myself that I was comfortable going makeup free for an entire week. While I know I don’t need it to beautiful, I also couldn’t remember the last time I had gone more than a couple days without anything on my face. 

I tend to not wear much, if any makeup on Sunday, so that was an easy day to get through. The first couple days of the work week were slightly more difficult. I found myself staring at everyone else’s makeup, particularly eye shadow and all of a sudden I had a desire to make a good smokey eye. I didn’t cave though – I had set a one week goal for myself and intended to finish. Smokey eyes would have to wait until the week was over. 

Honestly – my favorite part of the week was getting that extra ten minutes of sleep in the morning. I liked knowing I could lay in bed and cuddle with my dogs for a little longer. I also liked the confidence that always comes to me when I go makeup free – it’s a different confidence than when I have makeup on. Although I never care what people think of me, it felt great to be completely fresh faced for the week. 

By the time Saturday came, I knew I had made it. Most of the people around me couldn’t have cared less if I had makeup on my face or not. The ones that always seemed to care didn’t mention that I had suddenly opted out of everything. Maybe people just need something to talk about most days. However, when those days start to get me down, I always feel the need to go back to my basics and who I am at the core of my soul – someone I’m still learning about.

I went makeup free for the week. I got back in touch with who I was years ago. It wasn’t like I had a big revelation or anything. I proved to myself that I really don’t care what people think about my makeup. Then I put on an amazing smokey eye the day the experiment was over. The next day was just a normal amount of makeup for me. And today – there’s BB cream, concealer, brows, and dark circle corrector. Because no matter what is on my face on a given day, I am comfortable with it, and that’s one of the greatest gifts I could ever give myself. 

Your Makeup Looks Good Today

In general I like to think of myself as a person who is not easily offended. I understand all people are human and sometimes they make mistakes. They might slip up and say something they don’t mean in the heat of the moment or even just on an ordinary day. If something offends me, I tend to take it with a grain of salt – until it’s repeated to me multiple times. Such is the case with the title of this blog “your makeup looks good today.”

Now – I know what you’re probably thinking. “Chels – it’s just makeup! Why on earth would you be offended if someone told you your makeup looks good today?” And perhaps offended is too strong of a word here – thank you for noticing that my makeup looks good today. Is it only the makeup that looks good? I’m not one to fish for compliments – I’m more of the “please don’t let me be the center of attention” kind of person, but when my makeup is the only thing you’re noticing, I question if that’s even a good thing to begin with. 

I should backtrack. Let me start by giving the brief history of “Chels and Makeup.” Around the time I was a teenager, I developed a small interest in makeup. However, given that my mother never wore any, I didn’t recieve an allowance, and I was too young to have a job outside of babysitting, the interest was short lived. Add that to my dad instilling in me that I was beautiful without makeup and I never felt a need to put any on. Around the time I was 21 or so, one of my friends offered to do my makeup for me after I expressed interest in it once more. I remember being mortified at the thick line of black eyeliner on my eyes and she immediately took it off my eyes before I would leave the house. I didn’t touch makeup again for four years. Towards the end of last year, the redness in my face started to bother me. Maybe I grew more self aware, maybe I was just growing up, I’m not sure. I slowly started to notice beauty gurus on YouTube and began following some. When I started using makeup, I started with just BB cream and concealer. As time went on, I started to try new things – foundation, powder, mascara, eye shadow, brow color, lipstick, color correctors, blush, and undereye corrector. Now, I don’t use all of these things on a daily basis. I still prefer to go makeup free, but I like knowing that after months of practice (and a lot of YouTube videos to teach myself!) I have gained the skills to successfully do my makeup when I need to. When I have a meeting at work, I tend to put more time and effort into my makeup for the day. If I’m going to be sitting in my office all day then I stick to BB cream, concealer, and mascara. 

Over the last few weeks (around the time I added blush into the mix) my boss has commented multiple times that “your makeup looks good today.” I shrug it off and just tell her I’ve been playing around with it. As I’ve said before, I don’t like to draw attention to myself, which is why I subtly over time started adding things to my makeup routine. She mentioned it multiple more times after that. Part of me wanted to tell her it bothered me, but I tend to let a lot of things go. Whereas most people would compliment someone by telling them they look good or that color of shirt looks goods on them, she had zoned in on the one thing I’m most uncomfortable with – the one thing I feel I don’t need and only wear when I’m feeling like it.

That was all fine and dandy until we were talking about a job I want, but was told I wouldn’t get. That’s okay, I’m a big girl, I can take it. However, then she started talking about things I could do to get ready. While I agree with some things – I know I talk fast – other things I felt weren’t as necessary. Appearance was brought up. I always make sure I’m dressed up for meetings, but the majority of my days consist of sitting in my office alone for eight hours and some days I don’t even see anyone. On those days, while I still dress appropriately for work, I tend to dress down – these are the days I’ll do my simple makeup routine. She made sure to point out that she wasn’t saying I should run out and buy new clothes – something I wouldn’t do anyways because I don’t plan on fitting into what I currently own in a few months. 

Then came those words “I’ve noticed you’re wearing makeup, that’s good, it shows you’re putting some effort into your appearance.” It took every ounce inside me to not roll my eyes. Why am I, a girl, being held to a different standard? I’m never one to get political, but I couldn’t help but notice the irony that she wouldn’t have made the comment to a boy. It takes me a solid 45 minutes to get out of the house in the morning, and sometimes an hour if I’m putting extra effort into my appearance that day. A boy can typically wake up, do his hair in a matter of minutes, throw on something to wear, and be done in a fraction of the time it takes me to get around. Why does it matter if I choose to spend 10 minutes on my makeup or not? Why does it matter if I spend 10 minutes straightening my hair or if I spend one minute to French braid it into a nice up-do? There are so many other things I could be doing with that time. I’m not saying appearance isn’t important – you should always dress correctly for your job and even dress for the job you want instead of the job you have. But when people start making a big deal out of if I’m wearing makeup or not, it bothers me, especially since I was taught that I don’t need it to be beautiful. 

Maybe it’s a generation difference. I’m transitioning from who I am to who I want to be. She’s already who she is. But if you’re going to compliment me, please tell me that I look nice, that means a whole lot more to me than telling me that my makeup looks good. Maybe it’s that I’m still self-conscious about my appearance some days and people pointing out the one thing I’m most unsure of doesn’t help. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of makeup or I wouldn’t wear it to begin with. I’m not a fan of people implying that I only look good when I’m wearing it. Tell me I look good on a day when I’m wearing BB cream and some concealer. Heck, tell me that you trust my judgement. Compliment my brain. Ask me about life. In a world with a thousand different opinions, there’s so many other things to say to me at work other than my makeup looks good. Say something if you must, but please notice everything else about me too. 

Family isn’t Always Blood Related

I know that’s been said countless times over the years by people other than myself, but family has been on my mind a lot lately and I feel the need to say it as well: family isn’t always blood related. 

As I’ve eluded to in the past, family is complicated in my world. My “blood related” family has always had a difficult dynamic – one I’ve decided not to try to figure out. The endless drama was tiring; trying to remember who was angry at who and why was not a game I was interested in playing. I wanted something different. Something simple.

Family is always supposed to be there for you, right? Family is the people you are there cheering you on and also the ones who hold you when you cry, right? Family is who you’re born into, the ones who will raise you but protect you, right?

My dad was my family. My mom and I have had our fair share of differences but I kept trying, per my dad’s request. One brother I made the conscious decision to distance myself from. The other two brothers and I have had our differences throughout the years, but we always find our way back to each other, and for that, I will forever be grateful. My grandparents (my dad’s parents) died when I was young, so I don’t have many memories of them, however, I keep their pictures near. My mom’s parents are more difficult (and yes, people have pointed out that I don’t call them my grandparents, it’s hard to call someone a grandparent when you don’t have many good memories of them) – there was always so much drama on that side of the “family” that I couldn’t keep up.

As for the rest of my relatives, I don’t know much about them – we never really met when I was a child, and although I know they’re out there, figuring out how to approach them is difficult. Do you just chat them up on Facebook like “hey, I know you don’t know me but we’re related, maybe we could hang out sometime?” Anything is possible I suppose, but I’m not sure I want to open that can of worms again. The last time I decided to open it was right after my dad’s death – I wanted to search out my family. I reconnected with an aunt. We decided to have lunch. During that lunch I learned a few important things:

  1. Why I had not had contact with my cousins in over a decade – for the record, it seemed to be because of a fight my parents had with them. They decided not to mend fences. I lost my cousins. 
  2. My aunt was sorry that so much time had passed. 
  3. She wanted to know why my dad had defended my mom when my mom was clearly wrong. For the record, my dad was my mom’s husband, and to him, that’s what husbands did – stand by their wives. 

I left the conversation flusterated. I wanted to find my family. I didn’t want to dig up the past. 

While all of this was going on, I was still trying to come to terms with my dad’s death. I was also about to make a huge mistake and through this mistake, I would begin to learn how different variations of “family” would react. 

I’m not going to go into the specifics of what I did, that is a story for another time. 

When I told my mom, I was angry with her. I wanted her to shut up and telling her was the fastest way to accomplish just that. Her reaction was to scream and yell and ask how I could be so stupid. 

When I told Allison, she sat down before me as tears fell from my eyes; I was completely heartbroken and it was ripping my soul apart. She asked me if I was okay. She asked me if there was anything that she could do to help. She held me while I cried. She told me that no matter what happened, I would be okay and that she would be there for me. 

Thankfully, everything worked out well. However, I could not shack the difference in reaction. My mom wasn’t there when I needed her most, and while I understood she was still dealing with my dad’s death, I needed her in that moment. Allison had the reaction that I longed for my mother to have – she was supportive and comforting. 

I ended up moving in with Allison’s family about seven months later. I was trying to make positive changes in my life. First I started going to therapy. Then Allison offered to let me move in with her family – they were scared I wouldn’t finished school and were worried about me. Over the next ten months I got to witness something I hadn’t seen before – family interacting like family. 

It was vastly different from the family I grew up with. There wasn’t yelling or drama. When Allison and her husband had a disagreement, I noticed how they took it to another room, not raising their voices to each other in front of their children. I admired their relationship – it became my first glance at how “normal” families interacted.

I know that might sound strange, but it’s true. It’s difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t walked in my shoes. But I remember longing to understand how families interacted and behaved and I remember loving that I would finally get to see it. 

However, I would gain something more than just an understanding of how families interact. I gained family. Today, almost eight years since I first met Allison, I consider her family to be my family. Her kids call me “Aunt Chelsea” and I have been around for birthdays and holidays and the births of some of their kids. They have welcomed me into their home and hearts since day one and I am forever grateful. They have seen me at me lowest low and at me highest high and they have never looked at me any differently. Allison knows about my past but she never holds it against me; she doesn’t bring it up or remind me of my past mistakes. Instead, we talk about the present and future plans. She’s become one of my best friends and her family has become the family I always dreamed about. 

Family isn’t always blood related. Family is the people who are there with you through everything. They don’t come and go as they please. They make a silent promise to be there with you through everything life throws at you. Then they prove it and never leave you behind. 

“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” – Disney’s Lilo and Stitch


Author’s Note: This is not meant to discredit my brothers or the relationship I’m trying to build with my mother. I understand they are my “blood-family” just as I understand that I have other “blood-family” out there. Families come in all different ways, and this is the family I’m discussing today. 

On Turning 26

My birthday was yesterday. I turned 26. The only thing I can think is that I’m now half the age my dad was when he died. I’m 26. He was 52 when he died. I scares me to think of the possibility that my life could be half over too. Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t think my life is half over. I have every intention of living to see my 53rd birthday. And my 63rd. And 103rd. But I’d be a liar if I denied the thought has never crossed my mind. 

Sometimes I think about where my dad was at 26 and I’m not 100% sure of the answer. My gut says that he was living in the south – I know that he lived in Florida for a period of time and one of the Carolinas. At 26 my dad wasn’t married yet and I, his first child, hadn’t come along yet. I rest assured in knowing that I’m like my dad in that aspect and it makes me feel better most days. 

However, I don’t want to be like my dad in all aspects. I’ve recently taken up running and it’s becoming my sole goal to get healthier. I still have days when I eat like crap, but the days are few and far between because I know it feels better to eat healthier. There are days when I skip the gym and workout at home instead, and there are days when I’m frustrated and want nothing more than to go for a ran – even though I’m not good. 

It’s not easy – nothing in life is if it’s worth it. That’s why I surround myself with inspiring words – words that motivate me when I need it. I have multiple Pinterest boards devoted to words. One look around my house proves that I love having inspiration everywhere. Some string of words are repeated throughout – I need those words the most. Three that I always find myself going back to “I know what quitting feels like, I want to know what happens when I don’t” and “I hate starting over when I quit” and “genes don’t dictate my body, I do.”

I tend not to make resolutions – I never keep them. Instead, I aim to make lifestyle changes, but when I want to and I never start off thinking of them as changes. It starts off simple “I think I want to snack on fruit more” and slowly evolves to “no, I don’t want chips at the store this week.” It’s s learning process. I’m still learning at 26. 

I’m not going to wish for anything in the coming year. I stopped wishing for things a long time ago. I just want to work everyday to be a better person than I was the day before – and I do work on that. 

God will take care of everything else. I don’t have a worry in the world with Him by my side. Sure, there are numerous things I would love to have happen in my life, and they will, in time, when I’m ready, when God chooses to bless me with them.