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The Power of I
I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, and most cannot be undone. I've accepted less than I deserve, and let myself believe that being me wasn't good enough. I've been defeated, and only now do I have the strength to stand back up. I may have let people walk all over me before, but I deserve better. I've learned that if I don't demand the best for myself, then no one else will. I've discovered that it is the power of I, not we, that gives me the strength to carry on.
I may not be able to change what happened to me, or how I handled it, but I've learned how to stand up for myself. I may never get to hear them say they're sorry, but I know I deserve better. And from now, I'm not accepting anything less than people who see the beauty I know lies within me.
It's been almost a year since the arrest, and the toxic relationship that led me to a place of unimaginable desperation, and I've come so far. What started began as a horrible situation ended up being one of the most valuable life lessons I've learned thus far.
Growing up in a happy, Christian home, I always believed the best in people, and that the people closest to you would never hurt you. About a year ago, I received one of the biggest wake up calls I could have imagined. My boyfriend and I, once very close, had been fighting almost constantly. He had become extremely clingy, and wouldn't let me out of his sight for more than a minute. But we had spent every waking minute together for six months, and we were afraid to be apart. But after a particularly tense fight, I had had enough. But later that night, I walked to my car after a long shift at work, and found him standing there. Feeling ambushed, I asked him to leave but as I started to walk around him, he shoved me into the outside of my car and told me that we were going to talk. He stole my car keys and when I tried to run away, he chased me down the street and when he caught up to me, he grabbed my neck and shoved my body into the ground. I pushed him away, but he kept trapping me. He broke my keys, and I've never been so scared in my life. By the end of the night I had agreed to stay with him- I didn't know what else to do. A week later, we got in yet another fight, but this time I knew I had to commit to the break-up. It had to be over. The situation turned sour quick, and as I was driving him home, a switch inside of him went off and he went off the deep end. I had to pull over when he opened the door and threatened to jump out. He stole the car keys out of my hand and threw them in a field. The dark, night sky prevented me from seeing anything, and he stood their and screamed in my face over and over. “B****. You're a b****, just like her.” His words stung, but I stood firm. I tried so hard to be strong. He agreed to get my keys if I gave him a hug, and I did. But as soon as the keys were in my hand, I ran to my car and started to drive away. But he jumped on the hood, and all I could do was stop. Killing him would be a little too drastic. My pulse was racing, my heart was beating out of my chest, and all I wanted to do was get out of there. I needed help, but I had left my cell phone at home. I was close to the movie theater where I worked, so I took off running. I knew I needed to get out of there. But he came chasing after me and tackled me, shoving me into the rocky ground. A switch went off inside me, survival instinct kicked in, and I got up and kept running. He came after me again, and when he got close enough, I elbowed him in the ribs. He yelled at me, and started coughing really bad. I didn't know what to do- I couldn't leave him coughing up blood. I started waving for help, and instead of pulling over to help, someone called the police. Needless to say, I have never been so terrified in my entire life. When asked what happened, I told them the part about me hitting him, but since he had visible injuries and I didn't, I was hesitant to tell about the initial abuse. I thought it was my fault, and when the officer told me if I had been over 18, which he was, that my life would be ruined, I decided not to tell. I was arrested for domestic violence, but because I was a minor they could only charge me with assault. I was handcuffed, taken to the station, and finally released many hours later with a court date.
The next day, I told my mom what really happened and we went down to the station to talk to an officer about it. A month later I went to court, with a lawyer, and the charges were dropped. But in the weeks after the arrest, I was in the darkest place I have ever been. He continued to torture me- hacking my online accounts, yelling at me at a homecoming game, dirty texting my best friend, and coming to my house and running off with my dogs. I hated him, but I hated myself too. I felt used and ugly, and I didn't have a friend I could trust.
I met up with him in the months after, just a couple of times, because I wasn't strong enough to stay away. But seeing him, and how he was moving forward while I was stuck in reverse, drove me insane. That's when the cutting started. I needed some way to show those around me, and myself, what it felt like inside. Like I was torn apart and I didn't know how to pick up the pieces. I felt betrayed and useless, and I felt worthless. Ragged, scarred, damaged goods. I needed to take the craziness on the inside and show the world what I was going through. And it felt good. I didn't think I mattered, I didn't think anyone did. I kept cutting, hoping someone would come in and save me- save me from the hurt, the rejection, the devastation. Save me from myself. And someone did. I saw a counselor, and over the next 6 months I started to put myself, and my life, back together.
But I still struggled with my worth. I let guys take advantage of me, I agreed to do things that used to disgust me, and I settled for less. I didn't think I deserved anything better. Somewhere along the way, I lost what mattered most to me- myself. After getting tangled up in several situations that left me wanting something more, something real, I started searching for remnants of the old me, the one I loved. And I found a piece of her in my old best friend. The only problem was that, although he had once been in love with me, he now loved my best friend. Things got really complicated, and when old feelings got mixed with the new reality, I lost them both. Only one was a surprise- I had known I was going to lose her for a long time before. But after he promised he wasn't going anywhere, losing him was devastating. He had been one who, no matter what, had always seen the beauty in me. But all of that changed when he called me poison. My heart shattered, and everything I had once believed crumbled to the ground. If the one person who had always loved me, always seen the good in me, could call me poison, then who was to say he wasn't right?
That's when I had to stop myself. I'd done a lot of things wrong to many people, and I've said a lot of mean things, but not to him. I didn't deserve that, and I knew that I wasn't poison. I couldn't let someone defeat me again. He might've been my friend once, but he was not good enough to be anymore. I deserved better than that.
That's when my world began to change a little bit. I decided that I needed people in my life who truly wanted to be in it, and who would stand by my side regardless of my past mistakes. He said I was poison, but the only poison between me and him was the lies he told me and the mistakes he made to satisfy his greedy, selfish heart. I deserve to be cherished, and I have found people who see that. I don't have very many, but those who are in my life are the best things that have ever happened to me.
It's been a year since I endured the greatest struggle of my life, and I finally see what I was supposed to see all along- I matter. I deserve to be treated like being me is good enough, and I have to find people who see that in me, and disregard those who don't. They aren't worth my time or energy, and for the first time I'm not afraid to stand up for who I am. Because I'm good enough. I got a tattoo to cover up the scars, and every day I'm reminded to rise above the depression that once plagued me.
I was a victim of dating violence, and for so long, I blamed myself. I truly believed it was my fault, that if I had done this, or not done that, that it wouldn't of happened. But that's not true. Dating violence is never ok, regardless of the circumstances. It took me almost a year to learn how to stand up for myself, but I should've known all along. It wasn't my fault, and it was not ok for him to treat me that way. I was afraid to speak up, afraid to escape. No victim should ever be afraid to speak up against abuse- it's wrong and if I had said something sooner, he would be in jail for what he did- exactly where he belongs. I shouldn't have defended him or tried to justify what he did, because it was wrong. There is no excuse for violence, ever.
Standing up for the truth was hard, and it took me a long to see the monster inside of him that had been there all along. It was hard to put him and the violence together- I had separated them for so long. But I realized that they were one in the same, and I had to put a stop to the lies. He may not have gone to jail, or even learned his lesson, but I finally did what was best for me, and I got rid of the power he had over me.
What I've discovered, slowly, over the past 12 months, is myself. I lost who I am somewhere in the toxic relationship we had, and it took me a long time to recover the truth of the girl inside, instead of the lies people tried to make me believe I was. Sometimes, we have to rid our lives of the people who try to poison it. It's hard to realize the strength you have inside of you, because you don't know it's there until you have no choice but to find it. I speak from experience when I say that it's there, because I've finally found mine.
For the first time in a very long time, I get to start living. And I'm going to do so with the knowledge that what I've gone through is less than I deserve and from now on, I have to stand up for myself. I can't let people take advantage of me anymore. The arrest, the scars, they're all a part of my ever-growing story, and I hope to use what I've learned to help others discover the potential that lies within if they take the time to see it. If you don't respect and believe in yourself, then no one else will.
So don't ever be afraid to stand up for yourself- you deserve better because you matter. Don't let anyone ever tell you differently. What we all have inside of is pure and beautiful, and we should never let someone take that away from us. Because we're good enough.
The power of I is a million times stronger than the evil forces trying to work against you and tear you down. You choose when you fall- it is no one's decision but your own.
Park City, Utah
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Truth is eternal. Knowledge is changeable. It is disastrous to confuse them.