It’s been way too long since I’ve written and I apologize. I guess I had so much to say and not sure which to say first. The last few months, I have been desperately broken. The simplest things have become a profound struggle as I find myself doubting things I have counted as fundamental truths. It was if one day I woke up with the realization that maybe gravity wasn’t a thing and two plus two could equal something besides four. It is not too often that you have your entire world shaken like that. Only for me, it wasn’t my belief in gravity or basic arithmetic that was thrust into doubt and questioning. That I could have handled. It might have even been a little exciting. For me, it was my basic belief in love and friendship that was turned upside down.
I can’t remember the last time I sat down and wrote down what love meant to me. It wasn’t something I spent a lot of time thinking about it. It was more something I soaked in through my skin, something deeply engrained in my psyche. Without realizing it, I walked around every day feeling safe to a certain degree because even in the midst of the craziest storms, I had something to anchor myself to. It wasn’t until that anchor was yanked out of the ocean floor that I realized how much I had come to rely on it. I believed in the very core of my being not just that love existed, but exactly what it was, this thing we called love. I believed that love was selfless, that if someone claimed they loved you, they were promising to lay down their preferences and sometimes even deep desires to meet yours. I believed that those who claimed to love me would never do anything to purposely hurt me, would never willfully thrust aside my feelings in order to pursue what they wanted at the time. I believed that those I loved, that I sacrificed everything for, would do the same for me because that was friendship was. That’s what I believed love was.
The most shocking part of all of this for me was not realizing that someone who claimed to love me could break me. You can’t live as long as I have loving as deeply as I have without being betrayed a handful of times. What shook me was realizing that these same people were still claiming to love me, to care about me. Could this be love? Could love allow for such pain and blatant betrayal and if so, what was I to do with that?
My immediate impulse was to react in turn. If people could “love” me and still treat me like this, then I also could claim love while manipulating their emotions and shamelessly using them for my own selfish devices. People around me even encouraged such behavior. I was told time and time again directly and indirectly that it was my “right” to retaliate, to hand back in turn what I had been dealt. It made me feel strong for a while, to believe that I had the upper hand because I was the one playing the game the best, because I had completely removed my emotion from the situation and barred my heart. At the end of the day, however, it only left me empty. Sure I was “winning” but at what cost? As Mark 8:36 says so well, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
I think that was the moment where the phrase “character is destiny” truly began to ring true for me. As my one of my favorite actor/photographers Keegan Allen explains it, “it’s about believing in yourself and not letting yourself become something that’s bad or evil or misrepresented. Because your character is who you are and who you will become.”
I realized at the end of the day, all I had left was my character, who I was at the core. And if I left this betrayal change my ability to love, who I was at the core, then that was not a victory. So I chose to open my heart again, to allow myself to love and bleed and be hopelessly broken, to fight with the people closest to me and fight to keep them in my life while simultaneously fighting to have my own voice. People have questioned me a lot more for that. The “why would you forgive/hang out with/still talk to this person?”s flooded in, but I realized I no longer cared. At the end of the day, I was proud of who I was, I was proud of being a good friend, of living fearlessly, of getting up every time I got knocked down. I was a fighter, a warrior, a survivor and there was nothing in that worth being ashamed of.