You say I’m ungrateful. So how’s this for gratitude?
THANK YOU for teaching me money won’t buy happiness.
THANK YOU for teaching me how to be tough.
THANK YOU for showing me how important it is to value what you have instead of always wanting more.
THANK YOU for teaching me that good enough is never good enough.
THANK YOU for showing me how important the little things are.
THANK YOU for teaching me all about being selfless and generous.
THANK YOU for teaching me independence.
THANK YOU for teaching me gratitude.
THANK YOU for being a role model for everything I don’t want to be.
THANK YOU for teaching me about unconditional love.
THANK YOU for teaching me to be self sufficient.
THANK YOU for teaching me to expect nothing less than perfect.
THANK YOU for teaching me that it’s better to work hard than to cheat the system.
THANK YOU for teaching me to stand up for myself.
THANK YOU for showing me it’s better to be alone than in bad company and miserable.
THANK YOU for showing me I deserve more.
THANK YOU for teaching me the value of sincerity.
THANK YOU for showing me how important honesty is.
THANK YOU for making me who I am and for the values I hold.
THANK YOU for giving me a thousand reasons to stand tall when it felt like the world was against me.
THANK YOU for the courage to follow my heart.
THANK YOU for teaching me it’s OK to admit you’re wrong.
THANK YOU for teaching me how important “I’m sorry” can be.
THANK YOU for teaching me that sometimes all you can do is laugh.
THANK YOU for teaching me about priorities and what’s really important.
I’ve wanted to sit down and write this for the last thirteen months explicitly, though really it’s been for the last sixteen years. A funny thing happens every time I do. I think I’m going to sit and spew pages and pages of hatred, anger, frustration and hurt. In truth, that’s a huge part of what I feel, but every time I sit down to write this letter, nothing comes out. I finally gave it some thought yesterday, as the thought of sitting down yet again to write this drifted through my mind and ruined my day. I realized that while I wrote the list above in frustration and disbelief, intending complete sarcasm, I really mean it. I am truly grateful for all of the things I mentioned, and probably several more. I am really grateful for everything I have been through and for who that has made me today. I am grateful for all the people in my life – good, bad, and ugly – who have been a part of making me this person. I am grateful for every hurdle, every pot-hole, every speed bump, concrete wall, mountain ridge, oceanic trench, every obstacle I have faced and worked through. Without them, I would not have learned just how strong I can be, just how resilient I am, and just how possible the seemingly impossible really is. I have not had the most difficult life on the planet; I don’t think anyone has – it’s all relative – but I have also not had it easy.
As much as I would love to blame you for this, to point my fingers in one single direction and give you all the credit for “ruining my childhood,” “messing me up,” “breaking apart my family,” “creating this ridiculous series of insecurities, perfectionisms, paranoias and complexes that I currently enjoy”, and just in general being the cause of all my issues – I can’t. For one thing, to give you all that credit is absurd. Secondly, it was a group effort, a matter of circumstance, and countless unfortunate situations that were even more unfortunately handled. At this point, it simply is what it is. I have realized that pointing fingers and trying to distribute blame is futile. Being angry at you, or anyone for that matter, is pointless. What good could come of it, besides launching me into yet another bout of depression that I quite frankly don’t want to deal with again? What are you going to do about it – apologize? I can honestly say it wouldn’t make a smidge of difference. Talk is cheap, and the actions are already done.
When I first decided to write you this letter, it was June. I was days away from my graduation – something I’d worked five hard, exhausting, emotionally grueling, expensive years for. It was a day where I’d get to walk across a stage I didn’t want to walk across, for a diploma I didn’t want to get, at a school I really didn’t want to go to. All I wanted was for my Mom to be there. Because she had been a big part of it, and I had worked so damn hard for that stupid piece of paper, I wanted her there. I wanted a picture of me standing in between my Mom and Dad on my graduation day. Because despite everything that had happened and everything that was happening, I thought that maybe I had a chance. That maybe, just maybe, for the first time in I don’t even know how many years, I could stand in between both my parents. Because there really was a teeny chance that they might actually get to both share a big day in my life. Because I worked fucking hard for that. Because I stupidly thought I had deserved that much. But as the day got closer, it became more and more clear that that wasn’t going to happen. Mom had to stay in Argentina to hold her ground as the beginnings of one of the most ridiculous divorce proceedings was starting to take place. Because she couldn’t leave the country without you pulling some stunt on the house, the cars, whatever. Because once again, “Mom’s busy with Danny.” Story of my life. I should have seen it coming.
She was always busy with you. Dinner as kids alone, because Mom and Danny have to have dinner together. In bed, lights out, and asleep by 8 because Mom is busy with Danny. We weren’t a family. We were unwanted extras filling space in a house. I get that we weren’t your kids, but we were and still are hers. I’m fairly certain, though I may be mistaken, when you signed up for “Marian moves to Argentina” that you knew her three daughters were part of the deal. If not, I’m truly sorry for the misunderstanding, but the three of us didn’t have any say in the matter either and we made the most of it. I’m sure trying to date while living in the same house with three extra kids full time, plus your two kids part time wasn’t easy. But you both signed on for that – the five of us were just along for the dysfunctional ride.
You often comment that you treated us the same as your kids, and if that’s the case, then I feel honestly and wholeheartedly sorry for your kids. As I said before, I know we’re not your kids, never expected you to treat us as such, but to feel like we were always in the way and guests at home was a lot to get used to. Always asking permission to do things most kids wouldn’t think twice about, tiptoeing around the house so as not to disturb you, thank you for this, thank you for that, thank you for letting us live here, thank you for school. It’s not that we were ungrateful, though you seem to strongly think otherwise. It’s more that so much of what you expected us to be over-the-moon grateful for were things we never asked for, wanted, or had much value attached to in the first place. I can sincerely say that while I am and will always be eternally grateful for the education I got at St Andrews, I never asked for it. I never asked to be the “new kid” for five years. I never asked to have no friends, to always be the odd one out, to struggle constantly to fit in though I so clearly didn’t. I never asked for a private school with uniforms, archaic boy-girl segregation, and catholic dogma. Yet every year, I said thank you, because I knew how much you were spending to send me to this school that made my life a stressed out living hell.
I would have traded it all in for my spot back at White Oaks Public School in a heartbeat. But I still said thank you. I would have traded all the fancy holidays, expensive gifts, house with a pool, what-have-you for a Christmas with Mom and her family. But no, we couldn’t do that because it didn’t work with your schedule. So instead we made do and celebrated Christmas early – weeks early, so that we could have a Christmas with Mom. So that she could have Christmas with at least part of her family. And yet we still said thank you. The material things you expected us to be so over-the-moon over, were just that, things. Do you know what I wanted growing up? I wanted things to be ok. I wanted my birthday, which had the unfortunate coincidence of always falling on that stupid one-week October holiday, to not be fuel for an international debate of epic proportions. I now absolutely despise my birthday. It stresses me out, because for so many years it was an issue, an argument, a fight over who was going where, when, who was paying. Do you know what I wanted for my birthday for so many years? To not have one. Not only because then the debate would be lessened, but also because then I wouldn’t exist to have to deal with it.
I wanted to not have to play a referee between parents – including their respective insignificant others. I wanted at least a fighting chance at being normal, instead of that kid who goes to therapy because she can’t cope with the crap going on at home. I wanted a Mom who was able to just be a Mom, not always trying to play unnaturally separate roles as mother and wife. I wanted to feel like I belonged – at home – instead of always feeling like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or like I wasn’t even wanted around. That has stayed with me, and now haunts me to this day. I am an expert at being invisible in my own home – thank you for this, too. Should I ever need to be a ninja, I have invisibility covered.
So now I have a diploma hanging on my wall that I should be pretty fucking proud of, but instead it just makes me cry. Because every time I look at it, I’m reminded of just how messed up and out of joint everything that got me to that diploma was. I’m reminded of why I went to this school in the first place, why I stayed, and why things turned out the way they did. I’m reminded of why I moved in with Dad and Annabelle – not necessarily an easier house to live in by any stretch of the imagination.
While I still didn’t feel at home for the first few years with Dad, I at least felt like I belonged a little better in school, I had a chance of fitting in and making friends. I understood the system, the culture, and hell, it was just a fresh start. I often, especially during my first year of high school, thought of moving back with Mom. Things were rough with Dad, I wasn’t happy – depression and anorexia were rocking my world, everything I did was wrong, and I was still struggling to make friends. So I thought long and hard about giving up and moving back, but what was I going back to? A house I wasn’t wanted in, with a Mom who was “too busy with Danny” to help me work things out, countless therapists instead who simply decided I had issues with change, and the task of picking up the pieces from where I left off. So I opted instead to stick it out with Dad. I had made my decision and I was going to make it work.
This, too, made me stronger. It was not, by any stretch, an easy decision. I went from being one of three to being all alone – any kid’s dream until it hits reality and you realize just how much you miss having a sister to joke around with at dinner or to take the pressure off when the house is a little stressed. Instead, I got to still worry about both my sisters and eventually play international diplomat to a Dad who lost two of his daughters, while still being a daughter to my Mom. All while still keeping the peace across all borders. Not exactly a task for the weak at heart, or a kid, but so it goes. I am in no way blaming you for this, but simply explaining my side of the story. If my thoughts and feelings are going to be twisted for the benefit of opposing parties here, I want my side heard first.
I’d like to tell you now that my degree was not a waste of time, and I did not take the easy way out. If anything, I took the hard way in. I followed my heart and went for a degree in something I had a passion for rather than something that would more than likely guarantee me a job in the future. I took a risk, a big one, with my future, and I’m hell-bent and determined to make it work. I turned down well-paying, secure, full time jobs for the sake of following my dreams, because I have finally reached the point where I just might believe that I deserve to be a little bit happy. I have worked my ass off for everything I have, and I am where I am now because of my own efforts – not someone else’s. And it hasn’t been easy.
Part of me wants you to hurt. I want you to feel every ounce of awful I’ve felt over the last sixteen years. I want you to miss home so bad it keeps you up at night. I want you to know what it’s like to not see your Mom or your Dad or your sisters for years. I want you to know what it’s like to watch your little sister get screwed over by some self-entitled asshole just for the sake of him wanting to get back at your Mom. I want you to know what it feels like to try your absolute hardest at something, to follow your gut and make tough decisions only to have someone tell you that you’re “wasting your time and taking the easy way out.” I want your world to collapse around you, leaving you feeling helpless. I want you to struggle. I want you to stress so bad it causes your insides to turn against you. I want you to feel so useless you’d rather disappear than face the day. I want you to feel all these things because they are what you, over the course of the last sixteen years, have made me feel. But you know what, even as I type that out, I struggle, because to want you to feel all those things is pointless. What good will come of it? It isn’t going to make my life any easier, or erase any of the scars I’ve accumulated over the years. It isn’t going to help me move on or make me feel better. It’s simply going to put one more miserable person on this earth, and that’s really the last thing we need.
The truth is, even as I write this and cry my eyes out yet again, I don’t really care if you hurt or not. I don’t care if this letter brings you any more insight into my world, or if it makes you stop and think about your effect on people. I don’t care if you even read this or not. The truth is, I very simply don’t ever want to see you, hear from you or hear about you again. I just want you gone and out of my life. You’ve made your mark and done your damage, now please just go. I really do wish you all the best, because I think everyone can change if they have the right intentions. No, the truth is, I needed to get this off my chest. I needed you to hear this from me. That is all. As I thought about writing this letter, and even as I write it, I really doubt that you deliberately tried to make my life difficult. I don’t think you did it on purpose, but I think it’s important that you know that you did. Living with you was difficult, and I am still working to put some pieces back together to get my life moving forward, starting with this letter. I would love to pick sides, point fingers, and distribute blame to a finite point for why my life is the way it is and why I am the way that I am. I really, really would. It would make things so easy, but unfortunately it’s not. I know that you are not the sole factor in this, to say that would be to give you far too much credit, you are simply one of the bunch I am ready and willing to completely cut ties with for the sake of moving on and getting myself better. Truth is, I want to wish you well, and then I just want to move on. I do want to thank you for everything you have done for me, and I also want you to understand how much hell you have put me through. That’s it.