My bestie posted a graphic on FB tonight with a quote from Isadora Duncan: "You were wild once. Don't let them tame you." I reposted with a comment that said, "Lost my way once. Never again."
Never again. For just-this-short of 15 years, it has been a mantra for me. It is a phrase fraught with memories and meanings that take me back to a place I never want to be again.
In what seems like a lifetime ago, I showed up at college, wide-eyed and optimistic, trying so hard to pretend that I was far more knowledgeable than I really was. All I knew was what I had learned in my small-town environment, where the overarching lesson was conform or go away. As in, be just like everyone else, blend in, don't make waves, or go someplace where that sort of thing is welcomed. I was already different enough to know in my core that I didn't fit in, that this wasn't a world where I would ever be at ease with myself. But college offered just such a world. I had a lot to learn, and less of it gleaned from books than in discovering more about the person who inhabited my soul.
By the time I left four-plus years later, I had gotten a much better grasp on who that person was. Five years later, I had lost her entirely, and replaced her with a mere shell. Oh, she fought. She fought to get out, she fought to scream that she wasn't dead ..... but a battered, fragile heart betrayed its own best interests. I sold myself short .... no, really, I sold myself out ..... to try to gain another's heart, and in the end, I lost it all. I lost the love I thought I had found, lost my own identity in the process.
And as I sat there in the ashes and rubble of my heart, I heard myself whisper, "Never again."
Never again would I lose my own identity. Never again would I sacrifice my thoughts, my opinions, to please another. Never again would I allow myself to be diminished simply for being who I was.
And my heart screamed. It screamed the anguish and agony that had been bottled up for years. It shrieked in sadness when counting the losses. And it wept, wept bitterly for lost time and lost chances, for energy seemingly wasted. After the shock wore off and the pain subsided, the anger remained. It was an almost-holy anger, a seemingly righteous indignation, and it was the fuel for my life. It was a steely resolve that said, "I will be damned if I let this kill me off. I refuse to give in."
In due time, I rebuilt myself from those ruins, stronger and wiser.
And the next time someone took advantage of my kindness, mistaking it for weakness, I stopped it cold. Never again.
Even now, when I feel like I can't really go on, that every ounce of reserve energy is gone, I remember my sackcloth-and-ashes days. I remember what it was like to feel that low, to feel no need to bother, since nothing really mattered anyway.
Give into despair? Never again.
Give into hopelessness? Never again.
Betray my soul? Never again.
Live in that much repression? Never again.
It took me years to find the real me, the untamed, unvarnished me, and I'm still discovering her as time rolls on. My big regret is that I lost her once .... never again.