A lot of people have fond memories of their childhood, and spend a lot of their adult life trying to recapture their youth; attempting to regress back to the time where someone else fixed all of their problems and they could just play, avoid dealing with things, and not have to worry about a thing. I never had such a childhood to look back fondly upon, let alone to want to go back to. Childhood for me was all about responsibility; taking care of myself, taking care of my parents, trying to save everyone and hide all of the pain I felt. When I hurt, no one was there. When I needed, I was the only one who was there. Both of my parents were self-absorbed, but in different ways. My mother was a pathological liar, and a cruel, abusive woman. She had the biggest chip on her shoulder about everything and always made sure to remind me that I’d ruined her life and that she never wanted me. I always felt like I needed to save her. My father was just not able or willing to grow up for a child, and was more interested in doing drugs and getting laid than in being a dad. I stuck up for him, even when he went to jail. He was always quick with the misogynistic put-downs, eager to tell me that, as a woman, I was nothing but a whore and an idiot. I could never depend on either of them in times of need, because they’d only just attack me and make me feel worse than I already did. When I was in my mid-20s, I was in a bad car accident that left me in permanent pain; two cars struck me as I stopped to avoid a vehicle that had flipped over on the highway. When I called my father to tell him what had happened, he said that I’d ‘deserved it.’ Anything bad that ever happened, no matter how unavoidable or beyond my control, was my fault.
As a kid, my mother used to go out every night, and I’d either stay home and take care of myself or I’d go out to the bars with her. My dad, on the rare occasions he’d spend time with me, would take me to strip clubs. I grew up way before my parents ever did, but I never had any concept of fun or carelessness because of that. I never really genuinely laughed, because I was always worried. My mother ended up dating a violent man who pulled a gun on me when I was 10. I can never forget the look in his face, the anger. There’s a line that you see in people when they’re angry – where you can look into their face and see that they’ve snapped, that they no longer have control of themselves. He had that look. My father used to get that look when he’d fight with my mother; they were toxic to one another and it was frightening to see.
I dealt with the pain of childhood by shutting down, hiding, reading, and diving into work. I worked hard all of the time; that was the only way I knew how to escape. Everyone loved my writing and I was published frequently from the age of five (and started my first business then too). I never stopped; I was afraid to stop. I ended up getting full scholarships to three great schools, but my mother wouldn’t let me take them. She wanted to make me suffer since she blamed me for everything that had gone wrong in her life. I never understood blame. I thought, you could waste time with blame or you could fix things, so why not fix things? She died miserable in part because she never wanted to make anything better, she just wanted to control everything. But I was always trying to fix everything, overcompensating for feeling guilty about merely existing. I’d ask everyone what they needed and tried to help them. I got into a bit of a martyr role, but it was easier than dealing with myself. I pushed everyone away that grew close to me to ensure that they’d be happy – I believed that everyone would be so much happier without me in their life, that I was just a burden and worthless. I’d been told that for so long that I believed it. But I kept fighting too, trying to believe in myself. I’d get moments and bursts of confidence and then get shot down again and again. I’d deal with all kinds of abuse and pain. I would get kicked while I was down, but kept getting up. Sometimes the situations I ended up in seemed so surreal that it was like living in a bad sitcom. But no matter what happened, it seemed that there was always someone there anxious to take things out on me, to tell me that things were all my fault, that I did everything wrong and should be blamed. Even when I wasn’t responsible for things, I always felt like I was – because I was so conditioned to having to be accountable for everything. Others never seemed to own their actions since I was such an easy target and could so easily be blamed. That was when I started to see that those people didn’t care about fixing anything, they just wanted pity or attention or to take things out on others to avoid dealing with their own problems. They just wanted to go back to that state of being a child where everyone sticks up for you tells you that you’re right no matter what you’ve done, where you’re always the victim, where you don’t have to worry about anything because someone else is babying you. I can’t relate to that desire to be treated like an inferior, helpless child. I’m not sure if that’s because I never got to be a child, or because I thought better of people when they were grown. Some people wanted support, reassurance, to have someone believe in them and tell them things would get better – all reasonable things – but were unwilling to give that in return to others. That’s the part that is the most childish; that place of desire where everything is about what you get, and not what you give. What you give isn’t about keeping score or proving how awesome you are; it’s about respecting others and wanting them to be happy. Growing up isn’t all bad, and being a child isn’t all good.