I am a statistic in more ways than one.
I am a person of color. I am a woman. I am a millennial mounted in college debt. And, like a whopping 40-percent of other Americans, I was a child born into a failed marriage.
And, it is because of this that I believe I have an irrational fear of love.
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My parents divorced when I was seven, and I remember the day I found out very vividly. It was the August before second grade and I was instantly traumatized by the news.
How do you tell a 7-year-old who she sees her mother as her champion and her dad as a hero that you’re splitting and can’t make it through something? I thought they were supposed to make it through everything.
Throughout my life, the crumbling of their relationship has always crippled me.
I inherited the best of their qualities—their loves of music, their adventurous spirits. Yet I am also a product of their worst—I’m short-tempered and outspoken. I am afraid that the mixture of the good and the bad discredits my chances at the happiness that love brings.
In all my growing up, when it comes to love, I am still that 7-year-old witnessing the fall of her parents’ marriage. I have yet to learn what it means to really be vulnerable, to truly be unafraid of my own emotions and then subsequently share them with someone I care about.
To know that something that was once so precious, and resulted in my existence, could have so easily become nothing more than a distant memory has riddled me with a fear that I just can’t seem to shake.
I want to love, but somewhere within my mind, in some quasi-act of defense, I am cautioned against it; it’s protection and self-sabotage all-in-one.
At 22 years old, I am weighed down with the baggage of a love I have yet to even experience first hand. I hate talking about feelings and emotions, even in the midst of feeling them—my skin starts to feel hot and no matter how hard I try, nothing I do seems to make it cool.
I’ve opened up and shared bits and pieces of myself with significant others. But the big stuff? It’s stored away somewhere deep in my psyche taped up and nailed down, marked with “do not touch.”
The demise of their relationship has left me with a fair share of questions and an overwhelming understanding that wanting something bad enough doesn’t mean it’s meant to be.
My parents failed marriage taught me that even a champion can fall and even a hero can falter. But even in failure, it would be a shame to not try again.
Even though I am the worst of them, I am the best of them too. While their relationship crippled me, it hasn’t paralyzed me. I am still recovering from my fear and learning how to move past it. I am still healing from the downfall of their union, hoping to become strong enough for the future of my own. My fears are a work in progress, because like love, I am too.