May 4, 2009

A discovery about myself...

I was an “Air Force Brat” and we moved around A LOT. I went to 3 different schools during the 1st grade, 3 different high schools and 3 other schools in between. I can tell you from personal experience that children of military families are very resilient. You learn at a very young age how to adapt and how to make new friends quickly. But since you move so much, it becomes extremely difficult (especially as a kid) to keep in touch with those friends. The upside is you learn a lot, and you get to see and experience new places and live all over the world.

When I was 16, my family moved from the Philippines (where we spent 11 months) to Southern California. On the surface, I guess that would seem like no big deal. And I’ve spent all the years since then, believing just that, until something very unexpected happened.

I was contacted about 2 weeks ago, by one of my very best friends from when I lived in the Philippines. She informed me that “everyone” (all of our friends) were now on Facebook. I already had a Facebook account, so I started sending friend requests. Each one of my requests began with, “you may not remember me, but…” – and I really thought these people would either not remember me at all, or maybe they never really cared, so it didn’t matter. Life goes on – whatever.

But then I discovered that what I had believed about myself, any friends or people in general, for all these years was false, and perhaps a teenager’s way of coping with something she just couldn’t deal with.

Everyone’s reaction was something like, “Of course I remember you…” and to tell you the truth, I was surprised – very surprised. The more I corresponded, instant-messaged and emailed them, the more I felt like we all just picked up exactly where we left off.

The feeling was overwhelming and I think I cried for two days. I realized that all of us had some sort of bond that was really difficult to explain. I kept asking myself, “what could have possibly happened in those short 11 months that would cause a bunch of kids to remain so close – even after two decades?”

We have all been joking around, posting pictures and reminiscing and enjoying every minute of it – remembering the good times and seeing everyone’s children and families. But I started to realize that most of the things that happened – the things we did together during that time, I could not remember at all – no matter how hard I tried.

I have always been the one with the “good memory”, so it was extremely frustrating for me, not being able to remember things that my friends were telling me we did together. So I tried harder – I wanted to remember everything so badly.

I realized then, that at the age of 16, I made a decision to block those memories out completely. Whether I consciously knew it at the time or not - the decision was made.

Then , after reviewing the few things I could remember, it occurred to me that from the moment I made that decision, I struggled to fit in with my peers – I didn’t like my life very much… it was just “okay”…and I just did what I had to do … day by day. I didn’t allow myself to feel anything – numb most of the time. I was always on guard and never completely trusted anyone. I guess I never wanted to hurt that way again.

I was mad at myself, at first, for being that stupid teenager who blocked everything out, which possibly caused some of the hardships and heartache I've experienced since then.

That was the first time I remember feeling insecure about myself. I don’t remember being that way before we moved to California. And my friends don’t seem to remember me that way, either.

I have felt there was something about me that was missing my entire adult life. But I never really knew what that really meant or if I would ever figure it out. You know those commercials for anti-depression medication? The ones where everything is gray and gloomy? That’s pretty much how I viewed everything –and I mean everything -- there are no fairy tales, nobody really cares and the only person you can count on is yourself.

So I learned to be very strong and do everything on my own. I would even refuse help when it was offered, because I didn’t want anyone to have the opportunity to hold anything over my head.

But, believe it or not, now I feel like I’ve found that missing piece. It’s as if I remember now, what it’s like to just be myself - no trying to fit in – to just be me. It’s like a big relief - like I can finally relax and trust people again.

So if my “friends who have turned into family” are reading any of this… thank you so much for finding me and for still being there after all these years. You made a difference in my life way back then, and you’ve made an even bigger difference in my life now. So, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Now – where did I put that box of Kleenex?

Oh...and by the way...those blocked memories are now slowly starting to trickle back in!