"When you're older, you'll understand."
"When you're older, you'll learn to see things my way."
"When you're older, you'll be cynical and bitter. When you see that life's not fair, then your view won't be so rosy, and you'll see how right I was."
I've heard things like this from more people than I'd care to think about, either directly or by implication. Those people were all at least in their 40s. Right now, I'm 25.
Before I go any further with this, I know that someone here is probably wondering, "What's this got to do with JW issues?" Simply put, a lot. I don't know much about the inner workings of the Tower, and I don't have any real desire to dissect past publications in search of inconsistencies. Other people here do a wonderful job of that. The only thing I have to offer is what I know, and what I'm still learning: How to deal with it when life screws you over. That's what this post is about.
People who tell me, "When you're older..." seem to assume some things about me, and I think I know what a few of them are. 1)Since I'm 25, an only child, and my parents haven't kicked me out, I must be spoiled rotten by very loving, understanding parents. 2)Since I grew up with certain financial advantages (my parents aren't rich, but they're pretty well-to-do), my view of life is unrealistic. 3)Since I'm young and seem so happy, I've never really suffered. I haven't learned yet that life isn't fair. Well, submitted for your approval, here are the facts of my strange, short life.
Yes, my parents spoiled me. They gave me every toy I ever wanted, and I always had the most expensive clothes.
Yes, my parents love me dearly. I have no doubts about that at all. But I think what matters more is how they showed me love.
My father is a functioning alcoholic. He went to work every day, brought home a nice paycheck, and even earned commendations. But living with him wasn't exactly paradise. One day -- one hour -- I was his precious little girl who he adored; the next I was a hopeless failure, worthy only of contempt. Oh, yes, he said he loved me. Oh, yes, he bought me everything I ever asked for. But he also screamed at me, yelled at me, told me I wasn't good enough, told me my ideas and dreams were stupid, told me I was stupid, cut me down, tore me apart, and then... that same night... he would often hug me and hold me and cry, but never say that he was sorry. Nothing, nothing, nothing that was wrong was ever Daddy's fault. I was just his f***ed up kid who was useless and screwed everything up by not being just like him.
The funny thing is, I never did anything. I didn't sneak out of the house. I never touched a drop of alcohol (and still don't like the taste of it) until I was 24. I've never slept with anyone, male or female, I always made the honor roll, and I never touched any illegal drugs or smoked a single cigarette. For all intents and purposes, I was a perfect kid. But that wasn't good enough because I wasn't just like Father. He was furious with me because I didn't have to struggle for anything, even though he was the one who paid my way:
"You're not worth a damn! I gave you this house, I drove you to school, I fed you...."
"But I thought you did that just because you loved me, just because I was your kid, not with an IOU attached."
"You'll NEVER make it on your own, you know that? You are--"
Etc., etc., etc.
I don't really remember much after that. It was just another round of psychological battery that ended with me sobbing, angry, terrified and confused. Bear in mind that this all started for no apparent reason. Father just burst into my room while I was playing Nintendo (I was home from college for the summer) and started screaming at me, calling me names, saying how I "owed" him. He's done that since I was seven years old.
As for Mom, she's always been supportive, but she's always made excuses: "I'm so sorry, Honey... that's just his way."
And when I became a JW, I found a heavenly "father" just as harsh and bipolar as my real one. When I think about it, it's no surprise that I ended up there -- and a small miracle that I got out after only seven years.
There are other things I could talk about, too: noticing how all the "beautiful" women in romance novels were white and blue-eyed, which I am decidedly not, being called the "n" word now and then in school, never fitting in even -- no, especially -- among other Blacks when I was a teenager because I "acted white," never trusting anyone, always keeping the family secret and pretending everything was perfect, wanting to grow up but being too damned terrified of Father (believing him when he told me I was helpless) to try. I was a bird in a gilded cage with bars of razor wire.
But I'm about to leave my cage, and it hasn't broken me. I may have a few scars left, but they've healed enough not to look so harsh and ugly as when they were new. Yes, I know that there are others who have suffered more than I have, but that doesn't make my point any less valid: for a young person, I've lived a long time. I DO know things aren't always fair, and I DO know that life can hurt. And recently, I've learned to say ENOUGH. I'm moving 60 miles away in two weeks.
I only keep my smile because I insist on smiling. I closely guard my dreams and sense of endless possibility... because life doesn't hurt as much if you don't let it steal your hope. I hold on to my optimism because, sometimes, it's the only thing that gives me the will to keep on living, the will to keep on trying.
You see, I refuse to "understand it when I'm older." I refuse to let life make me bitter, because I don't want to be that way. You can't always choose what happens in life, but what you do with it when it happens is completely up to you. Otherwise, you'll always be a captive of your past.
(Two sentences edited for clarity.)
"Most men complacently accept 'knowledge' as 'truth'. They are sheep, ruled by fear."
-- Sydney Losstarot, "Vagrant Story."