I was a major crier growing up. I would cry when I was sad, yes, but I would also cry when I was angry, or frustrated, or tired, or hungry. And I’m not talking about when I was five or six, I mean even when I was twelve or thirteen. I remember crying in a soccer game because a girl on the other team kept marking me so that I couldn’t get the ball. I remember crying in math class because I couldn’t figure out why I got a question wrong. I even recall crying when my brother ate the last of the ice cream.

I guess I’m wondering what changed. After all, I don’t cry over any of those things anymore. Except for the scene where Arya arrived at the Red Wedding in season three of Game of Thrones, I haven’t cried about anything in a very long time. I don’t exactly know what that means. I mean, I guess that’s what growing up is supposed to be about, right? You’re supposed to move past those childish habits and learn to deal with your problems more constructively. I guess I’m just wondering where that part of me went. I mean, the whining, crying Kay was not my best part, but it was part of me nonetheless. When you outgrow a piece of yourself, does it fall away into oblivion, or does it just get buried deeper within you so that no one can see it anymore?

I don’t know which possibility scares me more.

Well no, it’s not the crying exactly that I’m scared of losing. It’s the part of me that went with that crying. The girl who liked hanging upside-down on the monkey bars and writing fairytale stories. The girl who really only cried because she was so determined to be nothing less than perfect because she still believed that was possible. I was so hopeful; I was such an idealist. I really believed that if I just pushed myself more and tried harder I could be perfect at everything. My parents told me that I could do anything in life that I set my mind to, and I believed them.

I guess mostly I’m scared that I lost that girl too early. That I lost her when my mom came to my seventh grade awards ceremony with a scarf covering her shaved head, and no one said anything but they all gave us pitying looks. I’m scared that I lost it when I got my learner’s license when I was fourteen and one of the first things I did was drive my mom to chemo. By my sixteenth birthday I had pushed her wheelchair and cleaned up her puke dozens of times and I was an old pro and switching her from the home oxygen machine to bottled oxygen when we left the house. I’d be an idiot to think that that didn’t change things. That it didn’t change me.

For the last two years, my dad has tried to be everything for me. He cooks good food and takes care of the house and comes to my soccer games and helps me fill out scholarship applications. He’s tried so hard to make this all okay even though it just isn’t. And I? I got into university, I guess. I kept playing soccer. I wrote a little bit. But I’m so aware that I’m not the monkey bar girl anymore and I never will be again. I lost her at some point, and with her went that wide eyed idealism that used to define me. I used to think that I could do anything, but now I know how limited we really are. I understand that there are forces in the world that cannot be controlled, and that sometimes the story doesn’t end happily. Sometimes the evil isn’t vanquished, and justice isn’t served. And sometimes the good people die.

All anyone told me after my mom died was that I was so strong. It was written in all of the cards, and it was the sentiment that was constantly murmured in my ear when people were hugging me and didn’t know what to say. So maybe I am strong and maybe that’s why I don’t cry anymore. It’s just that I don’t really think of that strength as something I gained, I think of it as a symptom of something else that I’ve lost. I feel too young to have lost my idealism and my hope and the belief that I really can do anything I set my mind to. I just feel like the world has worn me down so much already and I don’t really know what I have left to give.


9 thoughts on “Strong

  1. I’ve found that there is a certain realism among those who have hurt and lost and still pulled through. You’re strong because you’ve had to be, but that doesn’t make it easy. Just know that there is joy and purpose in adulthood, despite the loss of idealism. I pray that university will be a fresh start for you and an opportunity to find new aspects of yourself that you haven’t discovered yet.

  2. I think you are right to be suspicious about “being strong.” Strength is crying and then getting up and going on with life, with periodic pauses for more crying. I mean, when it comes to something serious and painful like your mom dying. It can look like strength when what you are really doing is getting on with life because the pain is too much to even approach. And you get on with life. But without the crying.

    The monkey bar girl is there. You’ll find her again. She just needs a bit more time. The idealism may be tempered over time, but that is there too. You’ll see.

    Three years or so is not really very long. It takes longer than that for such a significant loss to begin to hurt less.

  3. Last year, when I was considering leaving my boyfriend, a mutual friend told we I was a strong person. I just thought “But I don’t WANT to be strong. I want to not have to be in this situation!!”.
    You’ve had to learn early that life is not perfect… sometimes, the good people do die. Meanwhile, the villains get away with it and the people who could help turn a bling eye. But there is always hope. Whenever I start to think the entire world sucks, something will suddenly happen to make me smile.

    From what little I’ve read of your blog so far, I can already see that you CAN do anything you want. Even if what you want ends up being something different to what you think you want right now… with your attitude, you’ll make it.

  4. Kay, your wise beyond your years, but having been down that road I think a time will come when the tears come back. That you will cry over things you haven’t in year or ever. I know it did for me. Take care, be safe — Bill

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