My story, I am a confident, successful and emotionally stable individual, on nine days out of 10. I am successful in my personal and professional life and have a wonderfully fulfilling marriage and career. I’ve been my own boss for the last 5 years. I feel like my marriage gets better every year that we are together and that we are equal partners and vested in each other’s success. I am an immigrant. I went to an ivy league university. I am respected by my peers and loved by my friends. In a nutshell, I am living my best life and I don’t see that changing. I am in charge of myself and my future. I am resilient and independent yet connected to others.
This for me is one of the most glaring contradictions in my life. If you met me as a stranger and I told you my story you would conclude that to get where I am today I must have always been a brave individual, self motivated, driven and independent. I am those things now, on nine days of of ten, but the historical parts of my story that would draw you to that conclusion are rooted firmly in a state of dependency.
As I mentioned I don’t live in the country where I was born. After I graduated from college I packed up two suitcases, boarded a plane and arrived here in the US with an inkling of a plan that was basically just to be close to someone who visited my country and who I thought I was in love with. I was definitely not pursuing my own American dream and a quest for a better life, he just happened to be an American. He seemed frustrated that I arrived in his city uninvited, but he got onboard with the whole dating again thing pretty quickly. Once we were back together I really didn’t need to think about why I was here.
I did not go to college with my peer group. College education was not something that was pursued in my family and I was not encouraged to stay on at school. Someone else spotted my ability when I was in my mid twenties and paved the way for me to go. I was not wholly convinced it was for me, particularly as I was being pushed towards high status colleges, but he persuaded me that it was what I wanted and so I went.
I did not leave home at the age of 19 with an adventure in my heart. My boyfriend at the time got a job hundreds of miles from our home town and wanted me to come too. We got engaged as that seemed appropriate although I can remember being disappointed with the ring that he got me. I feigned enthusiasm for it and found a job close to his. I hated it and got fired after a couple of months. I then bounced between temp jobs and then we broke up. I found spirituality for a while and the beginnings of self awareness. The college pushing guy came into my life shortly after and took up all the room I had created inside. Apparently I needed a lot of improvement in how I looked and acted so my burgeoning self awareness was clearly not accurate.
When I thread together these events which had both geographical and emotional consequences for me the common theme is that I latched onto someone else s plan, for themselves, or for me and it became mine. I was dependent on them in the sense that I didn’t really know how to think for myself, how I should be, or how to figure out what it was that I wanted in general. I wasn’t parented in a way where my opinion was sought or mattered in terms of what was happening to me or might happen in the future. Those things were either decided for me, or just not considered for discussion. As a teen my future was effectively just a set of blank pages for me to fill in with zero guidance or support. I just didn’t know how to think that way, I had no idea what I should or could do with my life. I literally couldn’t fill in my own blanks so I filled that space with the wishes and aspirations of others and tried my best to inhabit them as if they were my own.
I didn’t break this cycle until I was probably in my early thirties. By that point I had been in the US for several years and the sought after relationship that brought me here had long since crumbled. I was left again with that blank sheet of paper and still lacked the ability to figure out what I should do next and no idea what would make me happy. Essentially, I needed my next dependency latch, my next significant relationship to tell me that.
So the next chapter of this story should be the ‘what happened next’ part. How did I break the cycle of dependency and learn how to think for myself and to set my own course for happiness. I will definitely write about that but for now I just want to let this story sit for a while because what I think is an interesting next step is to consider your own story, your own geographically and emotionally consequential decisions and understand if those arose from dependency or independence. Sometimes its hard to tell them apart as on the surface, my story is that of an independent woman who left home as a young adult, put herself through school and then created a life for herself from scratch in a foreign land. Sounds impressive, but it wasn’t any of those things and I feel that it’s important to own that and to consider if our actions might not always be self determined. Conversely, its apt to also recognize that the influence of others, in lieu of your own plan, can definitely be a positive force. Self esteem dismantling aside, college pushing guy’s influence over me provided me with an opportunity that has been inordinately valuable in my life, and I have gratitude for that.
I should also note that it was a gradual dawning of awareness of how dependent I had been and then a sharp slap to the face in terms of wanting to break that habit. Again, I’ll talk about the story of breaking the habit and learning how to think for myself in subsequent posts but please take some time to ponder your stories. It can be hard to recognize this passive behavior and not judge yourself harshly, so lets not rush this, find some compassion for yourself when you recognize your dependencies and lets reconvene soon to move this story forward.
Please leave your comments below or use the contact page to send me your own anonymous story.