It’s You I Want, Not Your Persona

When I arrived at college, I was tough.

Not nearly as tough as Lisbeth Salander, but tough nonetheless.  Being in a vulnerable position economically, class-wise, racially, and sexually as a young person either withers one or makes one develop a hard exterior.  It’s easy to maintain that hard exterior because not caring what other people think becomes a habit, and striking out at those who hurt you in the past or who threaten you no longer seem to hold consequences.  I created a hard exterior that was difficult even for my family to deal with — I was prepared to turn people off, and I’ve no doubt that I turned off a lot of people.

However, underneath the loud-mouthed, spiked-haired, angry person, I had plenty of love and caring to give.  Luckily for me, after a few misguided flings with people who were more interested in pleasing themselves than getting to know me, I encountered true love.

He says that he noticed me because of the way I looked, but grew to like me because of the way I was.  I didn’t even really know who I was then, but merely defined myself by what I wasn’t.  But the way he treated me made me feel like I could let down my guard.

That’s the beginning of peeling off the exoskeleton, which, not surprisingly, took years to shed.  Now I hardly ever get angry, and I rarely go out of my way to get back at someone who has done me wrong.  Is that bad?  Have I lost my old passion?  Certainly I live in a very different environment than when I was young.  I don’t really feel the loss because it took a lot of energy to brood and stay angry.  Energy that I prefer to devote to maintaining a deep connection with my daughter, with my husband, with my sisters and their kids, with my mother, with my friends.  I haven’t forgotten my experiences, and I’ve still got the same mind, the same strengths, and the same will.

Maybe I miss looking really cool with my spiked hair, scowl, and being stand-offish.  At times, I’m still a little antisocial, and I know that I startle friends sometimes with the barbs that slip out of my mouth.  However, I’ve managed to peel away most of that persona that I had to make to protect myself from people and environments that were hazardous.

Now I behave and think the way I want to, rather than inflexibly, within the limits of my image of a strong, self-contained, don’t f***-with-me girl.  If I had to live with her, I know that I would eventually get sick of her.
 / 2 Comments  / in Long-term relationship, Love


  1. jmlvet94 October 2, 2011 10:06 pm - Reply

    I can completely relate to this. When I look back at the young woman that I was, I feel deep sadness and regret for the reckless, petulant, insensitive, selfish person that I was. I had developed a set of survival skills, albeit imperfect ones, which were appropriate for my age and the environment in which I was raised; however these skills no longer served me well into adulthood. Even into my late twenties and early thirties when I was supposed to be so "together" (clean, sober, and making amends to the people I had harmed), I continued to be a demanding bitch who expected everything to go my way, or else the rest of the world was wrong. I remember startling a friend in grad school when I told her that I was too selfish to have kids at that point in my life.
    The armor was starting to come off, but looking back there were two key events that finally made me grow up and join the human race: 1) getting my heart broken by a man I truly loved and expected to spend the rest of my life with; and 2) an unplanned but welcome pregnancy during my brief marriage to Mr. Wrong. Motherhood more than anything else is what finally made me truly human; I experienced for the first time true love in a way that's the closest we mortals can come to loving another the way that God loves us. I learned to be completely selfless and to give to another expecting nothing in return.
    Now that I am in my mid-forties and a newlywed in marriage #2, I find that I have far different expectations of my husband. I love and accept him for who he is, and I don't expect him to change to please me, any more than I would be happy if he expected me to become someone else. I realize that relationships last not because they never face challenging times but because both partners are committed to outlasting problems and have made a decision to grow together.

  2. October 3, 2011 10:33 am - Reply

    Wow, jmlvet94! You sound totally amazing, and on the trajectory to life-long happiness between being able to love your child and love your husband. What better way to outgrow sadness and regrets than by enjoying and appreciating your life, heh?

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