My journey to “find myself” was a long winding road with many pot holes along the way; I assume the same could be said for most of us. Finding the “Authentic Me” would not be easy but if I couldn’t accomplish it – life would not be as rich. On my journey, I would learn that I was somewhat of a chameleon, changing at times to fit the situation. Years down the road I realized that the real core of who I am must remain intact; I learned happiness is lost when we live our lives to please others. Of course, we strive to please our loved ones and to do things that are positive, but it must be done following the heart and soul of who we are designed to be. I think I began to exhibit pieces of who I was at a very young age.
When I about 5 years old, my family decided to leave the countryside and move into town for me to begin first grade. We put our house up for sale and soon a realtor brought a young family to see the house. The family had a young daughter about my age so of course I was asked to take her to my room to play while her parents looked at the house. Upon entering my room, she ran to the little bookshelf that held my collection of Golden Books and declared how lucky I was to have so many. I replied, “don’t you have books?” She dropped her head looking sad and said, “no.” Soon her family returned, and they left; the little girl leaving with about 10 of my treasured books. My mother commented that I didn’t need to give away my things but even then, I knew it was part of who I wanted to be… I was a giver, a trait that has remained my entire left. At times however, I needed to learn to balance my giving when it took a physical or mental toll on me. As with all things, balance is so important to living a good life.
Later in life, beginning a career in an area that was very male driven at the time, I decided I needed to be tougher to fit in, even in simple things. I loved frilly, feminine clothing but began wearing navy blue or black suits thinking I must look more like a “boss.” It did not take long for me to determine that what I wore did not dictate how I ran an office or managed staff. Without the intention to do so, I had become a chameleon to blend into the environment. A year into this game, I took off the jacket and wore a pretty blouse and guess what; I was still the same person. I realized that being a caring, supportive person in a leadership role was “who I was” …so why pretend to be something else.
Now in the “golden years” as they call it, I find it more important to stand for the things I believe in and to have the courage to stand up for the things I deem wrong. It is so easy to follow the crowd especially when it is not popular to speak out and it’s much harder to stand strong in your beliefs. The trick of course is to do so while maintaining respect for others.
Over the years, I said many times that I would lay down my life to protect my child or any child. I would stand up to evil to protect the innocent… but would I if the moment of decision actually was placed in front of me? A time came when I was put to the test and I had to make a decision in a matter of moments. On a trip to my family home, I met a young girl who was visiting my niece and when dinner time came around I was asked to drop her at home a few blocks away. As we pulled into the driveway the little girl became hysterical, I had no idea why. Through her tears she told me her father had been abusing her and he would “do things to her” when her mother was gone.
I quickly turned the car around and drove back home sending her to the back of our house for safety. Something just told me to hide her and call her mother at work and asked her to please come get her, that I could not leave her at the house. I would later learn that the mother had actually called the little girl’s father, telling him what had been said and he was soon at our front door pounding on the door and screaming for his daughter. I said no. He threatened me. I said no. He tried to push past me. I told him the police were on the way… but they weren’t, I had not had time to call. Fuming and screaming at me he left with tires shrieking. Soon the police did come, and they took the little girl into a room to interview her, later telling me she was terrified of him and that her mother knew what he was doing to her, she was taken to child protection until they could investigate.
After a very restless night with a Doberman at our door just in case he came back, we awoke to a knock at the door from the police. The story I was told would haunt me for a very long time. The man’s car was found a few miles away on a major interstate highway. He had left the car and lay down on the road and was killed. On the seat of his car the police found a large knife. The police also found an obituary for a daughter that died several years before… they suspected he was involved. Several days later they returned to tell me that they believed he was most likely going to kill the child and himself to cover up the horrors of their home. All I could think was this man took his life. I felt guilty; I knew I had had no choice, but it was still incredibly difficult.
Life moved on for all of us, but it was never forgotten. In time, I realized that I had found the courage to stand up, I had in fact been willing to do the right thing when called on.
Now, reviewing my life, I pray that I have been true to myself following the path that lay before me. My “Authentic Me” was born to be caring, to be a giver, and to try to be fair in all that I do. I had always known that inside of me I would fight for what was right, I didn’t always succeed and at times it was so very hard… but I believe the person my heart wanted me to be made my life happier than if I had pretended to be someone else. My older self would tell my younger self “thank you for trying and for being YOU.”
Other articles you may be interested in:
- Child Sexual Abuse: A Message from One Survivor to Another by Kristina Fortune
- Speak Up for the Voiceless – Speak Out Against Domestic Violence by Nagia E. Moharram
- The Day I Did Nothing: The Silent Epidemic – Human Trafficking by Dr. Cortney Baker
- Trauma: We Are All Touched by Julie Jeter