In my early 20’s, I remember dating this guy. This guy was pulling out all the stops for me, I was young woman just trying to find her way and be fake grown. Breakfast dates, lunch dates, passing out money, morning phone calls, the exclusive on the latest chopped and screwed (it’s a Houston thing) playlist with my favorite songs and etc. I remember thinking, “if this is what relationships are all about…I can do this”. There was a time when I was more and more time worried about him, and less focused on my studies. I was so young and naive, I zoomed past all the red flags that should have given me pause. That is no excuse though, I knew better.
Being raped at 16 was definitely a pivotal event for me, and I know that I changed after that happened. My self image was distorted, and I was desperately trying to hold on to the person I was before it happened. I know my personality changed, my mindset changed. My heart was dark and cold, but at the same time, I had to mask the darkness that I felt and continue to be the good, happy, church girl that everyone thought I was. I wasn’t in love with this guy or anything, I was just trying to fill an emotional void, you know the saying…looking for love in all the wrong places.
I should have started to wonder when he never answered the phone after work hours. If we did meet after work hours, it would be in some dark club, or parking lot late, late, late at night. You know few good things happen after midnight. I never met his mother, or went to any family functions. I knew I was in trouble when he proposed…proposed a threesome with one of his homeboys. Yeah, you get the picture. I needed to run for the hills, and that is exactly what I did.
As I reflect on my life’s journey, I often think about a line from one of my favorite Langston Hughes poems “Mother to Son”. In the poem, the mother says, “Well, son, I’ll tell you. Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” The mother compares her life’s troubles to imperfections in a staircase. But I love the redemptive lines toward the end when she tells her son not to sit down because life is hard, but to actually keep going. Our young self can experience so many things and make so many choices that will shape our future. For me, the key is always being honest with myself about my shortcomings. Like, brutally honest. These moments of self evaluation help me to remember that I need God every single day to help me be a better person. Also, that God has enough grace for my every misstep.
Be very aware of what you believe about yourself. When you become comfortable with accepting less than you deserve, you can begin a rapid downward spiral that will be hard to break…some of us have to hit rock bottom before we wake up. Ouch! Sometimes, I get in my thoughts and rehearse some of the things I’ve experienced, and some of the pain I have caused myself…like many of us, I am my worst critic and hold myself to a hard standard. Nowadays, with so much influence from the media and cultural norms, it’s so hard to know what is the right thing to do, but I am grateful to be led by the Holy Spirit. Even still, I don’t always do the right thing, but I’m trying with everything in me to be a better woman.
Remember… DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP & DON’T QUIT. Pick yourself up and just make better choices going forward. So no, like the poem states, life for me ain’t been no crystal stair…but every experience has provided a lesson and I’m constantly striving to ace each test.