Disclaimer 1: I started writing this earlier this week, because I thought a friend needed my help. It turned out she didn’t need saving, but support. It’s funny how we tend to turn to our own personal worst case scenarios when we think someone else is making a mistake in their life. What we really need to be focusing on, or at least, what I really need to be focusing on is simply listening. Sometimes love means asking the right questions, but usually it’s being there – because how can I judge the best step in someone else’s life if I have not walked in their shoes?
I waited this long [three days can seem like a very long time] to publish this post because of fear. But I’ll be darned if I let fear get in the way of my new dream. Finally, I have (re)found something that makes me feel alive and gives me purpose. I want to pen my life experiences in a way that my writings bring hope to others. I want to bring together a community of people through shared life experiences. I want to make a difference, and to do so I can’t hold back on the stories that hurt the most.
So I’m letting go of fear. I’m not going to worry about what people think, let alone what my close friends and family think. Sometimes our harshest critics are the ones we know personally. It’s easy to write for a room full of strangers, however the ones I know, now there’s a challenge. My experiences are past and done, no need for worry now. I don’t want people to hurt for me. Through my writings, I want people to experience hope and community, from my writings, and know you’re not alone. And the best way to start, is to get one of my least favorite stories out of the way.
So here goes nothing!
Disclaimer 2: When it comes to stories about people I’ve met along the way, especially stories that err on the more negative side of things, I am going to heavily use pseudonyms of people and places – Just because these situations shone dimly on my story, doesn’t mean they didn’t enlighten someone else. No excuses, but I don’t want my limited perspective to be the one that ruins someone’s reputation. I’ll leave that job to God (you’re welcome).
I spent a few of my college summers working at dude ranches out west. This story is from one of them.
This dude ranch was in a transition, and was very poorly managed. I worked in housekeeping and wait staff, and considering I spoke the best English (we had a handful of international staff), I was crowned Head Housekeeper/Wait Staff. So I got the honorable duty of working most closely with management, overseeing my fellow coworkers, fixing what they missed and doing my own portion of the work as well. The icing on the cake is I was never fully trained in, because our awesome managers, also seemingly were control freaks. The logic behind it is if I was never fully trained in, every time I made a “mistake” they could correct me. So you can tell already, that it was a really emotionally healthy environment to be in (joke).
A few weeks in, a wealthy businessman, in relation to the ranch, was flown in from a land far, far away. Thank God, and then again, not-so-much. He was well-off and clearly knew how to properly manage a business, and had exceptional people skills in comparison. He instantly took on the role of our fearless leader and comic relief. He was by no means attractive, however he was charming and great at breaking the tension served on a tarnished silver platter by upper management. I was immediately drawn to his humor and charm.
Our humors meshed well and it was nice to have someone to debrief the daily craziness with. Whether we were joking around with guests, or unwinding from a stressful day with a red solo sipper (or shot of something stronger), I was comfortable and comforted by our time spent together. Sometimes on the weekends he’d take me on dates to get ice-cream treats – for me it’d be Blue Bunny Neapolitan Ice-Cream Sandwiches and he’d get a Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake bars. In the evenings when we could sneak away, he’d take me out for a steak dinner. Not a faith-believing man himself, he respected my Jesus-freakness and desire to live a life of service. He would hold my hand, when I allowed it, and kiss me on the check and neck. We even dreamed up future trips where he’d pay for me, and our favorite guests, to travel to his castle in a land far, far away (this was very enchanting for an aspiring missionary, one not destined to be financially well-off).
But there was a major red flag all along. He was in his early 50s, and I was barely 20. I kept telling myself that finally, I had father to take me out on the town, proud to be seen with me. I resorted to my younger self, when it would have been age-appropriate to hold hands with my father on a daddy-daughter date. Eating ice-cream and steak together. Being loved on and feeling like something special. All my other co-workers were sleeping with each other, and I was being treated like a princess by my very own father-like figure.
Sometimes guests would joke around with us that we were like an old married couple, because we acted like that. Because. We. Acted. Like. That. Can you even imagine this? It sickens me to remember.
It wasn’t until the end of my stay at the ranch that I woke up. I was attacked by a rush of shame. What I thought was innocent and fatherly, did not align with what he was thinking. I internally combusted and completely excommunicated Mr. Charming from my life. I left the ranch and all of its happenings out west. I promised myself that if I looked back, it would only be through rosy retrospects.
I felt so naïve, robbed of innocence, shameful and all-around disappointed. Surely no one would ever understand. What man would ever pursue me knowing that I had been so naïve… that the only man I had ever “dated” (at that point) was twice my age and then some? I’ll admit, it felt good in the moment, like real something – surely not love, care perhaps? In the end, it felt like shit, but worse. Because despite all the father-like crap, there was a heck of a lot of drama and darkness that consumed the ranch, and when I left I was no longer me.
I was the worst version of me that I’ve ever been. My mom and Gma, who came to visit (and rescue) me knew it. My best friend, Tanya, who I visited directly after departing the ranch, knew it – and true to herself, told me. And I knew it. I knew I was broken. I knew I was different. I knew I was responsible, which is why I knew I couldn’t blame it on him, or tell anyone or complain. I was the one who assumed it was all innocent. I was the idiot. I was suddenly very alone.
. . .
The point of this blog is reaping strength through weakness, and this story is key to that mission. Had I not shared this story with my sophomore roommates, shaking voice and in fear of epic judgment, I would never have been freed from the shrinking box of lies. Had I not shared this story with one of my housemates while volunteering, I would have forever thought I was alone. Luckily, this is not the case. Several times now, I’ve taken a deep, deep breath, and shared this story. Earlier this week, I took a deep breath to pen these words. And now, I’ll take a deeper breath and click “Publish”.
NO MATTER YOUR STORY, YOUR EXPERIENCES, YOUR SHAME:
YOU ARE LOVED, LOVED, LOVED. AND YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Coloring is great therapy ❤