72: Learning My Worth

72: Learning My Worth

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible

Learning My Worth

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.

~Harvey Fierstein

I was pushed out of the car in my high school parking lot late on Monday morning. Crying, I stumbled my way into the building. I didn’t have my things and my clothes were torn and bloodied. At this point, I was too relieved that the worst weekend of my life was over to feel embarrassed.

As I staggered in, I realized the main foyer was empty. My heart sank until I turned a corner and a teacher saw me. She looked horrified as she ran over to me. I collapsed into her arms and cried tears of joy and shame. At eighteen years old, I felt like a helpless child. How could I have let someone do this to me? Why me? I was so relieved that it was over but at the same time I was devastated because I knew this was the end of my relationship with my boyfriend.

I was brought into the principal’s office while the police and my mother were called. My poor mother thought I had gone away for a nice weekend with my boyfriend. What she didn’t know was that my phone was taken from me and I was locked in an attic where I couldn’t call anyone and no one could hear my screams. When my mother and my favorite teacher arrived, I told them the entire story through choking sobs. I was so humiliated. I thought it was all my fault.

I was taken to the police station to file a report and request a restraining order, which was granted that day. These were the first steps into my new life, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I was at war with myself. I scolded myself for missing him.

After telling detectives the gruesome details of what happened that weekend, I never had to speak a word of it again. He went to jail and I was free of him. I spent months trying to heal from the pain that someone I loved so dearly could hurt me so much. I tried not to wonder how he was doing or how he was feeling. Did he regret what he did to me? Did he miss me?

A year later, I got a phone call from a blocked number.

“Hi, Shay, how are you?”

I froze. It was him. I hung up and regretted it instantly. All those months of wondering how he was and whether he missed me or regretted hurting me… I could’ve just found out and I had lost my chance. But the phone rang again. This time, I answered it and calmly talked to him. He told me how sorry he was and that he’d regretted his mistake ever since. He told me he was going to therapy and that he was a different person. He’d never hurt a fly now.

He asked to see me and apprehensively, I said yes. I was going to meet him at the park halfway between our two homes. When I hung up the phone, I was so excited. My inner conscience tried to yell at me, but my emotions took over and I ignored what I knew was right. I drove down to the park and I was literally shaking with excitement as I exited the car. I saw him sitting on the rock wall and he jumped down and began approaching when he saw me pull up.

As I reached him, I realized how ugly he was. He smiled at me with his stupid smile and I gave him a fake smile in return. He held his arms out for a hug and as I hugged him back, I wanted to throw up. I didn’t miss this man. I hated this man for what he did to me. What had I been thinking?

I told him I needed to go and he forcefully grabbed my arm and said, “No, you don’t.” I turned and looked him directly in the eyes and said, “Don’t you ever touch me again,” and I yanked my arm from his grip and ran to my car. He stood in shock as I drove away. That day, I changed my phone number and I finally cut all ties with him. In my mind, our relationship wasn’t over until that very day. When I drove away and saw him in the rearview mirror, I realized who I really was. I had wasted a year missing a man who didn’t care about me. Somehow, seeing his face made me realize I was worth a whole lot more as a person.

Six years have passed and in this time I’ve learned to forgive him. His poor actions were a result of his own personal suffering. Although I haven’t spoken to him in all these years, I do hope that he’s found a ray of hope within himself and never feels the need to hurt anyone again.

I have also learned to forgive myself for allowing the treatment that I endured in that relationship. In some crazy way that I’ll never understand, I once thought I needed him. Now I know that all I need is to love and respect myself and to be surrounded by those who treat me as I deserve.

~Shaylene McPhee

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