For as long as I can remember, my accomplishments have never been celebrated. In my thirty-seven years, I never had a Birthday party. These days, that is what I prefer, but as a child, I always felt inadequate when I couldn’t reciprocate the invitation to my friends. Other kids had parties at McDonald’s, or the bowling alley, or a big sleepover full of girls. I always had a cake, and usually a barbecue…but that was because it was the day before the Fourth of July. For a little while, I thought the fireworks were for me…it was very disappointing to learn they were not.
When I brought home a report card with all As, I was questioned why there was an A-. Surely, I could have tried harder. When I graduated eighth grade, other kids had parties and gifts, and praise. I didn’t even have a picture taken of me at the event.
In high school, when it was time for the Chorus I was in to have our first, and second, and third concert…there was no one in the audience for me. I had to get a ride from a friend to get there on time. I think it was at this time that I decided to “why bother,” while also increasing my desire to “do better.”
It was a relentless cycle of not caring, and never feeling good enough. I would teeter into the not caring zone, to tipping the scale with chasing the next thing that might matter. Matter to who? I wasn’t really sure. I had dreams that I had to make happen, because if I didn’t, then what good was I? Like the age old question, “If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?” For me, it was, “If no one notices my accomplishment, do they really even count?”
In my senior year of high school I was dropped off at the award ceremony, where I won an award for excelling in Home Economics. No one was there to see me receive it. No one. At graduation, my gram and mom were there to watch me receive my diploma. Not one picture was taken. My celebration for graduating after a full year of receiving high honors? A quick trip to McDonald’s, where my mom criticized my dress and complained about how long the ceremony took, and how hot it was. I was grateful for the lunch, but it happened more so because it was lunch time. I know my gram felt bad about it, but at 80, it was the best she could do.
Because I had no support, emotionally or financially, there was no way I could go to college right out of high school, no matter how badly I wanted to. I told myself it was better that way, because my gram needed me. I couldn’t leave her behind when there was no one else willing to help her. I found a full time job, where I walked three miles to and from until I had enough money to pay for a taxi.
When I was able to figure out a way to go to college, I took as many credits as financial aid allowed me. I was working full time, and taking at least 15 credits a semester. Then, I had to take a break when my son was born. Quitting was not an option. I had to complete what I started. When my son was twenty-two months old, and my daughter was only a few weeks old, I received my bachelor’s degree in human services with a 4.0 grade point average. My mom, gram, and brother were there watching me, but again no picture and no celebration. It was clear that my gram was proud of me, and that alone was enough of a celebration, but it was another time where it seemed as though I didn’t make the mark.
Weeks after graduation I was hired for my dream job…you guessed it…nothing.
I received an award from the Governor of Vermont for the Healthy Aging of Seniors in the area. There were sixteen awards given out to the whole state of Vermont, and I was one of them. At twenty-nine years old, I was honored for the difference I was making in lives of the people I served. No one came to the ceremony to watch me receive the award.
When I decided that it was time to go after my master’s degree, I was working full time, and raising three young kids: 8, 6, and 3 years old. I was deep in depression from the loss of my gram two years before. During the time I was in grad school, I fought to keep my son safe from the bullying he was enduring at school, lost our home to a fire, was homeless for a short time while things were situated, all while the domestic violence in the home continued to escalate.
Three days before graduation, my ex-husband was arrested and removed from the home. I lost my job when I did not have child care. My daughters and I drove to the church where graduation was being held because I had worked too hard to let him take this from me. A group of people who took time out of their lives were there to celebrate me. My brother even came to watch me receive my master’s degree, Friends took pictures to help me cherish the day.
My mom was not able to come, and I tried to not let that bother me. I did beat myself up though for only graduating with a 3.86 and not a 4.0. I couldn’t accept the praise, I had to keep saying, “But I could have done better.” I pushed away the compliments and burrowed my head into the familiarity of the past.
When my life long dream became a tangible reality, and my book became real, and available to the world, it quietly passed like any other day. No celebration. And my thoughts went back down the rabbit hole. I self-published, it didn’t count. There were mistakes. It wasn’t perfect. The list of criticism went on.
Emails and reviews came in. For the most part, all good. People could relate to my story. They said it was well written. They thanked me for sharing my story. It was hard to receive. It was harder to believe. They just feel sorry for me, because it is a sad story. I didn’t want their pity, but it turned out I was unable to accept their sincere words. How was I enough to be worthy of their kindness?
I entered my book in multiple contests. Each rejection proved to me that I was not good enough, that my book was not worthy of the five-star rating. I found each and every negative remark that had been said about my book, and I held them closer and closer. I was done. I couldn’t let this control my self-worth any longer.
On September 1, 2018, I received word that The Monster That Ate My Mommy had been awarded Honorable Mention in The Reader’s Favorite contest. I shot down the congratulations that appeared on my screen, only to say, “But it’s just honorable mention.” It took me some time to embrace what had really happened. And then it hit me.
Maybe it is me. Maybe it has always been me. Not feeling worthy enough to accept celebration or praise. To stomp it out as quickly as it comes. I don’t like a lot of attention, and maybe I have always been the one to not want a big deal made out of my accomplishments. I have come a long way, and do have a lot to be proud of. My new goal is to accept, and embrace what I have to be proud of.
No more negative self-talk.
Easier said than done, but all I can do is keep on trying.
Repeat after me:
You are worthy.
You are enough.
You are loved.
Bringing light to the darkness is what has gotten me this far.
If you look close enough, there is always light to guide the way. Never stop looking.