That struck me as both beautiful and unexpected. It's a question I've never been asked, and, surprisingly, to which haven't really given much thought. I suppose if someone had asked me a few months ago, I would have said something school or work related, like winning a SSHRC or some review I'd written, or maybe even that Jian Ghomeshi had tweeted at me (3 times - I'm practically an internet celebrity).
But when I thought about it, I think what I'd say I'm most proud of is my independence. I have always been fiercely determined to be self-sufficient. It's not that I don't ask for help, or even that I see seeking advice or assistance as needy - on the contrary! I think knowing when you need help is evidence that you are wise, in tune with yourself, your abilities, and what you require in a particular situation. I have worked hard to write my identity as a strong woman who can function solo.
Last week, I stumbled across this post by blogger Becca (of Bookworm Beauty) and it resonated deeply with me. Her whole blog is fantastic, but this post about "throwing down your guard" is quite powerful. It was one of those times where you feel like someone has taken every thought you have never vocalized or couldn't even make sense of in your own mind and laid it all out there for the entire Internet to read:
There are things I just do not do. I do not let people in very easily. There is a core in my center, the middle of me, where I keep everything that's important; all the things that hurt me or that, if I let anyone see them, could possibly hurt me by their reveal or the trust needed to display them. I keep the soft parts safe inside this core, and no one is allowed in but me.As I read her post, I started thinking about how I've done exactly the same thing. I mean, I'm an open person and I share a lot about myself, both on this blog and within relationships. There's little that I won't talk about or give advice on (whether people want it or not). And I trust people. I trust my friends and my parents and my sister to be honest with me. I trust that they will accept me even when I'm a moron. I trust that they will give me sound advice when I need it, and I trust that they will take mine when they do. I have good people in my life.
But it's time to be real: I don't trust people to really love me. I've been wounded. I've been taken advantage of physically and emotionally and spiritually. For the first three quarters of my lifetime, there seemed to be a steady flow of people who saw me as a vessel to accomplish some goal, and then tossed me aside, used and empty. I gravitated to these relationships: out of fear, out of familiarity, out of the hope of redemption. I acknowledge that I played a role in some of these situations, that my actions encouraged abusive behaviour. I didn't know then that we teach people how to treat us; that we accept the love that we think we deserve. And to be perfectly honest, I really didn't think I deserved that much.
And so my independence, while practical and important, was a careful construction so I didn't have to be open to any more pain. If I didn't need to be hugged or listened to or helped - if I didn't need to be loved - then I didn't have to let people in, and I didn't have to be hurt anymore. It's a simple, age-old equation, and I am not the first, nor will I be the last to use it. But it doesn't make it any less true for me. My diligently crafted persona is a fortress to protect from people, from the wounds that vulnerability leave.
So when I'm saying that I'm proud of my independence, I'm sort of saying that I'm proud that I have protected myself, that my soul is safe, that I have created for myself an iron wall around my heart and no one can break in.
I've gotten quite good at this act. I am good at keeping people at bay. I am good at manipulating conversation so I appear knowledgable and strong, as having suffered but rebounding spectacularly. However, I've been slowly coming to realize that maybe this coping strategy, while necessary in some ways, has actually limited me from some amazing relationships and incredible experiences.
So this is my retirement from that performance. This is me peeling back my protective shell of humour and defensiveness. I am laying my vulnerability out on the table. I am owning my story and slowly turning the page, making room for others to start writing their narratives in sync with mine.
I am bracing for impact.