“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”
For me, growing up was filled with struggles, pain, fear, and learning how to wear tough skin.
Moving from Newark, California where my friends were to Fremont, California where my nightmares began was a life some only experience through movie scenes or book chapters. We were a lower middle class family made up of my parents, three older siblings, and myself. Mom and Dad both traveled to surrounding areas for work leaving us kids to be on our own quite often. Money was tight, the family dynamic was weak, and lessons learned were intense.
Going to a new elementary school should have been met with children excited to meet the new girl, to show her around their environment, and to share all the social knowledge their 8 years of wisdom could offer. Instead, I entered into a world of bullying.
At this age I was a skinny girl whose mom would buy clothes three sizes too big so I could fit into them in the future. I had barely any guidance on how to take care of my hair or how to create the too big clothing into fashionable attire. So walking into a new school looking like a child who lived on her own made me a magnet to those who thought making fun of my appearance would make them stronger, popular kids.
While my school life was an unhappy, lonely experience, my home life was the place where real nightmares lived. My father was a heavy drinker and when he indulged, harsh words and violence ensued. One of my brothers knew our father’s beatings at a very, very young age which continued until he finally left the hellish environment. The rest of us felt his wrath as well, but it was my mom who endured his drunken rages the most. Each time we witnessed his horrid actions towards our mother, we would cry out and try desperately to save her. That only enraged him more, bringing us all deep into the pit of hell.
Each school day brought dread and intense sadness, leaving me to beg my parents to allow me not to go. Instead of sympathy or my father coming to my rescue, I received an ultimatum too unconscionable to grasp: My father told me if I didn’t go to school and learn to fight the bullies, then I had to stay home and fight him. This was not some empty scare tactic, this was the real deal.
Fearing my father more than the bullies, I learned how to be tough and fight back. Eventually, when they realized they no longer had power over me, the bullying lessened. I discovered how to take care of my hair and appearance better and at the age of 13 I found work and was able to start buying clothes that fit me.
As a child no matter how cruel a parent is you still long for the warmth and love that is supposed to come with this relationship. I remember desperately wanting my father’s attention. The moments I had to hold close to my heart were the ones when he was sober enough to allow me to sit on his lap. Here I would take out his pen and notebook he kept in his shirt pocket and draw pictures. He would share his cloret mints, the grown up mints chalky and green wrapped in foil, and I would soak up what were the only father-daughter times I had. All the other seconds, minutes, hours, days, my father didn’t want anything to do with me.
Bullying at school, a disconnected father, a mother trying to just survive each day, and siblings working towards leaving as soon as they could (and doing just that), left me a very lonely, but determined to be different girl.
“WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL I BELIEVED YOU HAD ALL OF THE POWER. INSTEAD OF A SMILING FACE YOU WOULD GREET US WITH A GLOWER. YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE OUR TEACHER, INSTEAD YOU YELLED AND SCREAMED. YOU TOOK AWAY OUR CHILDHOODS, YOU TOOK AWAY ALL OF OUR DREAMS.”
With a job and a boyfriend, at the age of 16 I left home. I worked hard and stayed focused with the help of my then boyfriend. He was an older guy who owned multiple “under 21” clubs, but had little patience for alcohol or drug use. Perhaps it was he who kept me on the straight and narrow. Perhaps it was my determination never to be like my father, but either way I continued to work towards a better life for myself.
My boyfriend who appeared to be a good guy was actually a serial cheater and became mentally cruel to me. After seven years and discovering his infidelities I decided,once again, to leave an empty sad situation and move myself to Los Angeles. Now some people say there is always a positive to be seen in a negative situation, and with this one it was true for me. Through my boyfriend’s infidelities I met my best friend and off we ventured into the unknown.
OFF TO FIND A BETTER LIFE
During all this time I had no contact with my father. I resolved myself to the fact that he would never change, he would never love me the way I dreamed, and he would never stop being the mean man I had known.
My relationships with my sister and my mom remained in tact but they were struggling with staying strong as well. The relationships I had with my brothers were not as close as the one I had with my sister. We were all striving to create lives for ourselves, by ourselves. I was on my own to create the life and the person I wanted to be, so I started to build the path to my goals in Los Angeles.
After the upbringing I had, the bullying in school, and heartbreak with the man I thought was my knight in shining armor, it was no surprise that I had become a very insecure woman frightened of social situations and lacking any idea of what real affection looked like.
So much of this changed when I met the love of my life, Tristan. Here I was a woman fearing simply going out to a club or bar, now dating a man who was living in the midst of a Hollywood life. Tristan’s patience remained steady as I either refused to join him at parties or PR junkets, or when I would panic at the entrance to any of these events. He opened my heart to the joys of life and presented me with sincere affection.
Unfortunately, to this day I still do not speak to my father. My relationship with my mom is good and I am learning so much of what she had to endure. I suppose the strength she possessed to survive is the same strength I used to become the person I am today. Instead of allowing the nightmare of my past to embed itself into my character, I learned to find the light where my dreams stood waiting for me to enter.
I do not want sympathy or anyone feeling sorry for me after reading this. I am a stronger person now. One, who may wear her protective armor from time to time, but for the most part, one who has moved on. Sometimes it even feels as if it’s another lifetime. I do hope if you are someone who has had a simliar situation or in one that you can take what I have learned and use it for yourself. Remember you are your own person. Be who you want to be, not what others expect you to be. Don’t allow the nightmares of the past to mold your character into a weak one. Take it and turn it into a powerful lesson shaping who you are into a person who can hold their head up high.
I pride myself on being a caring, sympathetic woman who strives to help both humans and animals in distress. I look forward to being a part of evenings and events where my friends can be found and I never take for granted the lessons I have learned throughout my life.
“I can no longer see the bruises you left on my body. But my soul still carries the bruises to this very day. I never learned to open up, I don’t keep my feelings on display….”
Everything we experience makes us the person we are today. You have taken your experiences and defined yourself as a beautiful, caring woman who chooses to do it differently. Love you, girl.