We all have a story. We all have experiences that forced us to overcome and rise from the wreckage of life’s most devastating disappointments. This is mine.
A couple years before my dad passed, my mom walked out of our lives. She left her kids to pursue a life with some truck driver whose name I can’t remember. Since that day 14 years ago, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen her. There’s a significant difference between someone leaving your life due to changes out of your control (death, for example) and someone walking out of your life, completely by choice. Whether it was a parent, friend, sibling or other relation, we have all had someone leave our life. And sometimes, we still feel the sting of their absence years later. Instead of focusing on the sadness of her absence, I choose to look at how amazing my life has become, despite my mom leaving.
1. No one defines your worth.
For a long time after my mom left, I felt my self-worth deplete. “Who could love me when my own mother couldn’t?” was a question I found myself asking frequently. Too often we depend on others to determine our worth. Yes, my mother walked out of my life. But no, that did not change who I was and what I was capable of accomplishing. Without her I became someone who did good in school, found purpose in the work I did helping special needs people, found the love of my life, and have so many more goals I will accomplish. Let your works speak for themselves, and the difference you make in the world around you reflect your worth more than the opinions of others.
2. You do not need to earn love.
There have been many times where thoughts of reaching out and recreating that bond with my mom have entered my mind. I craved so desperately to have my mom back that I was willing to put in any effort I could. I’ve learned now that love is not earned. Love should be unconditional and enduring. It isn’t something that freely occurs when convenient. Love is waking up early to make breakfast for your sister’s birthday. Love is hugging your brother even though he embarrassed you in front of the whole school. Love is constant. Love is unchanging.
3. Learn to stand alone.
When we are heavily dependent on those around us, we put ourselves in a far too vulnerable position. Life has too many unknowns. People come and go. We cannot allow our lives to fall apart when they do. Learn to be your own person. A powerful, independent, strong, and driven individual. Someone no one can stop and nothing can hinder.
4. Forgive, but never forget.
Still to this day, I am sometimes poisoned by my inability to forgive my mom. The bitterness that fills my life when I hold on to animosity, affects every facet of my life. It has been a decade-long process to forgive her. When someone leaves, and in such a heartbreaking way, it is easy to get caught up in the pessimism. My inability to forgive her only hurt me. In learning to forgive her, I realized that I didn’t need to let her actions dictate my life. That I would rather let the experience teach me lesson after lesson. I will never forget how it felt that first Christmas she was gone. I will never forget how it felt when seeing her again, was like meeting someone for the first time. But I can forgive and set myself free of the sadness.
5. Best friends are so important.
A year after my mom left and soon after my dad passed, my life was in shambles. I was an 8-year-old whose whole world had been changed. I was unable to process the changes and felt alone. But one day, Elizabeth entered my life. She has been there through it all. From the nights when all I wanted to do was cry to the car rides where I sang at the top of my lungs to Justin Bieber. She never put me on the back burner. For 12 years she has been my truest and closest friend. There is something about having someone who has been there for it all. Who’s dried your tears at your worst and been your greatest supporter during the best of times. If you haven’t found this person yet, find them. Without her, I don’t know how I would have gotten through life (or that 5lb bag of candy Halloween night). Most importantly, I had someone who reminded me of my strength and my worth without faltering.
6. Your past doesn’t define your present or future.
We all love a good come-up. From Slumdog Millionaire to your local underdog, we eat up the “overcome your past” story. I choose to look at it with new lenses. Use your past to fuel everything you do. Use your past as a reminder of what you are capable of overcoming. When I look back on how my mother left, that drives me to be the best I can, despite her. I’m not the girl whose mom left and dad died. No, I’m the girl who made honor roll every quarter of high school. I’m the girl who works every day caring for special needs people. I’m the girl who is working on her major in social work. I’m the girl who will get her master’s degree, marry the love of her life and dedicate herself to being the best mom. I am not the girl whose mom left her. I am so much more.
7. It’s their loss, not yours.
I think a lot about whether or not I am in my mom’s thoughts. I wonder if she sees a little girl in the store with my same ridiculous freckles and thinks of me. I want to know if she feels a hole in her life without me in it. Growing up I continually reflected on how my life lacked without her. I see now that I grew to become the best I could. People always say that it’s her loss. It wasn’t until adulthood I realized just how true this is. She is someone who had the unconditional love of a young daughter and chose to leave that. She is a mother who missed every first date her daughter had. She is a mother who missed 14 years of her daughter’s life. And what did I lose? Only someone whose absence, has only made me stronger.
So, for all of you who’ve watched someone walk out of your life, I hope my story helps you understand the importance of moving on. I hope you look back on that moment they left, and realize what an amazing life you created without them. I want you to feel their absence in a new way; a way that empowers you and allows you to appreciate how strong you truly are. Whether it was a parent, a best friend, a sibling, a boyfriend or girlfriend, look at how the hardship of them leaving allowed you to progress. Look at what a wonderful life you created in their absence. Do not allow them to dictate your present or future anymore. Because, I promise that you are a truly amazing and unique human being, and no one can ever change that.