When I turned 18 I didn’t feel like a woman and I sure didn’t feel like an adult. I felt like the same little girl who was punched in the face by her mom in the 5th grade, for having a messy desk and for writing a love note to a little boy in her class. I felt like the same little girl who cowered in the presence of people who were outspoken and more confident than her. I felt like the same little girl who lived in silence for fear of offending, upsetting or disagreeing with someone else’s opinion.
Despite growing up in an abusive household, I thought that when I turned 18 something magical would happen. I assumed the world would naturally respect me and treat me like the adult and woman, I longed to be. After all, I was 18.
But they didn’t.
It was my sophomore year of college and I was stressed. In addition to staying on top of my academics and trying to find money for school, I found myself driving home nearly every weekend, to take my siblings to church or to drive them 4 1/2 hours to visit my mom in prison. One weekend while I was home, I got a call from my mom. She called asking if I could bring my siblings to see her, call one of her friends and do a few other favors.
All my life, I’ve always been scared of my mom. She is the definition of a strong, black woman. Although she had stopped being abusive when I was an upperclassman in high school, her words were still powerful and captivating. Enough that when she spoke, positive or negative, her words could either mend a heart or pierce it.
After my mom asked me to do a few favors for her. I responded in a way that was foreign to me.
I said “No.”
With endless tears streaming down my face, I whined “No, I don’t want to bring them up and I’m not going to. I’ve done so much and I have so much on my plate. I don’t feel like it mom.”
I couldn’t believe it! These three seemingly small sentences, were the biggest sentences of my life! I finally said no!
I’ve always been a people pleaser, a push over, a hopeless chameleon who conformed to the views of others. As a child, my opinion never mattered and the abuse magnified my unworthiness. I felt like I didn’t exist. I was merely a reflection of everyone that I encountered. I had no opinion, I had no thoughts, I had no mind of my own. However, the day that I said “No” to my mom, was the day that I started fighting for myself. It was the day that I felt like I was finally becoming a woman.
My mom sounded shocked and disgusted by this new word that I had learned. She abruptly ended our phone conversation. I cried in my grandfather’s arms hysterically. Although I was vulnerable, I felt like I was finally on my way to becoming a big girl. I followed up that prison call with a long letter, explaining to my mom how I felt.
One of the most significant paragraphs from that letter was:
“Mom, you are a strong black woman. You’re outspoken and independent.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t given the opportunity to be this way.
Always being shut down and suppressed, I never had my own opinion because I was so used to agreeing with you, in order to avoid conflict.
I never know if I’m sad, mad or happy because I denied my feelings for so long, that when I feel a bad emotion, I feel guilty and suppress it.”
Whew! I’m getting emotional just replaying these events! I don’t remember how my mom responded to the letter, but I do know that after the letter, we didn’t talk for some time. It took us a while to rekindle our relationship, and when we did, it was like meeting each other for the first time. My mom had a new found respect for me and I for her. During our time apart, I focused on forgiving my mom for her mistakes. It was a painful but very necessary prerequisite to healing. I also began reinventing myself.
I had conformed to those around me for so long, that by this time in my life, I felt like a baby. I felt like I was starting from scratch. It was challenging but sobering. It gave me the opportunity to figure out what womanhood meant to me along with identifying what kind of woman I wanted to become.
Some of the characteristics I wanted to possess were: confidence, humility, determination, assertiveness, independence and positivity. Over the last few years, I’ve been able to transform from the timid and fearful young girl that I once was, into a strong black woman. Who would have ever thought?
Today, my mom and I have a great relationship. We have our ups and downs but we love each other, we respect each other and I admire her!
It’s crazy how generational cycles poison families. After a series of “girl talks” with mom, I learned that she had some very traumatic experiences of her own that contributed to the decisions she made as an adult.
If you’re going through a tough situation with a parent or loved one, there is hope. Things can get better.
Regal Resource: Identify What You Believe About Yourself Exercise courtesy of Mocha Girl Pit Stop.
I Want To Hear From You:
Have you had a similar experience coming into your own as a woman? Please Share!
- What person do you need to write a letter to the most?
- What influence has your mother had on your development?