I was a voracious reader as a child. My ability to escape into each and every story helped me develop a very fantasy-heavy sense of creativity, which I desperately needed. So If I wasn’t at home or at school or at church, I was at the library taking out as many books at one time as I could. I wasn’t allowed to run around and play outside like most kids my age, so I mostly stayed in and read. To say I was sheltered would be a gross understatement, but my parents had their reasons and they were good ones.
When I was around eight, I became especially obsessed with reading a series of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. They were immensely popular in the 80s. The idea that I could change the course of a story, and that I had the power to actually choose an ending, blew my mind. It truly spoke to me. In fact, it was probably just what my soul needed at the time.
I’ve been pretty open about my falling victim to sexual abuse as a young child. It happened only once, but my predator remained in my life for years after. And I’ve never really expressed the amount of blame I’d placed on myself as a kid, because it’s something I’m still processing as an adult. I’ve replayed countless times the moments leading up to the incident, and wondered what I could have done differently to prevent it. Even though I can’t turn back time, I do return to that place in time over and over again and can’t help but think I could have avoided it altogether.
It’s why I started losing myself and choosing my own adventures in the pages of those books so long ago. If I couldn’t change what had happened to me then I could at least control what I read and where it took me, in my head. If I had not gotten in that elevator with that sex offender 35 years ago, and if I had just screamed at the top of my lungs instead of staying quiet like he told me to as he held me down…what if, and what if, and what if I could have just closed my eyes and chosen a different path…jumped to a different page…just like in the books?
Like, what if I had never had that abortion as a teenager or developed an eating disorder? What if I had stayed in an unhealthy marriage and not left when I had? What if I had never gone on Big Brother or been arrested or started smoking weed? What if I’d never tried ecstasy or speed or coke? What if my dad had not died so early, or I’d never moved to Belgium or become a mother? What if this or what if that? And all the other things I dare not yet say out loud?
Or. Have I actually chosen the adventure that was meant to be, that was meant for me…all this time?
As I approach the end of this year, I can see more clearly that my life so far has been just an endless string of good and bad choices. And I’m finally okay with that. I’ve helped and hurt a lot of people along the way.
But it’s made me who I am today.
I hope anyone reading this who is feeling broken or beat up will find a way to slowly pick up those pieces and heal at their own pace, starting today.
I, for one, am looking forward to next year.