First, let me start by saying that talking about this topic is incredibly personal and difficult in some ways. Yet, I believe it is important to be completely honest with this blog and give people an idea of where I'm coming from so they can better understand where I'm going and how crucial this journey is for me. I can't let my past define me but I can use it to my advantage in other ways.
I have spent the last 25 years of my life in Texas. That alone was reason enough to desire a change. I'm not bad-mouthing Texas (believe me, I know better than to try and do that on so public a space) but simply saying that spending a quarter-century in the same place around the same people can be really draining. I've never really felt like I could be myself there as too many people knew me and knew my past. I think living in your hometown is probably not the best thing for one's self-identity, especially once you reach adulthood. I felt like I had an image that I had to present to people but that that image didn't necessarily reflect who I really was anymore. I knew I needed to make a change soon as I felt myself reverting back to being that same person I was as a teenager.
My adolescent years were difficult to say the least. I think that's pretty true for most adolescents and I dealt with the same pressures as everyone else: the pressure to fit in, to get good grades, to get into a good school etc. Needless to say, I pushed myself way too hard and spent most of high school battling depression and being extremely suicidal. During college, I started to finally find my way a little bit but then after college, I moved back home and things went down-hill again. Fortunately, this time I was able to recognize that I was starting to revert back to my old ways of thinking and that's when I knew that a change needed to happen before it was too late. I decided to finally take the plunge and do something good for myself and applied for YAV on a whim not really thinking about what I was signing up for. I just knew that I needed to get away from my old life and my old habits before I started that downward spiral again.
Another factor in my decision was the service aspect. I have always found it important to give back to one's community and/or country in some aspect. Over the years, I have applied or served in various ways with various service organizations and YAV just represents the latest. I felt drawn to it also because it is about more than just service to country, it represents service to God. I have learned over the years that I need to do a better job of serving God and so I was hopeful that serving as a YAV would help with that. I needed to start making God more of a priority in my life instead of an option and so I hoped that my year of service would help with that process. So far, it already has but there is still a long road to go.
I'm now going to talk about a time in my life that was very difficult to get through and that I am still struggling with. This period of my life was very dark and even now it is difficult to discuss. I will not be naming names on here but I think if you know me at all, you may be able to guess about whom I might be referring to. This is one area of my past that a lot of my friends don't know about because it is something that I have only recently been able to open up about and felt comfortable discussing. I'm referring to the years and years of emotional and verbal abuse I suffered at the hands of people in my life. For the longest time (until just about a year ago, in fact), I was constantly put down, told I was no good, was told that I would never be anything but a freak and a weirdo and constantly suffered scorn and disdain everywhere I turned. It's easy to say that that was just the normal teenage experience and that I should have sucked it up and dealt with it but it's not that easy to believe that when you are that age. Teenagers are very vulnerable people and so for years I believed what people were telling me: that I was worthless, stupid, ungrateful, awkward, anorexic and so many more. I had a lot of self-loathing and so believed that all these things were true about me. I constantly tried to win people's approval and when that didn't work, I would sink into a very deep depression. I was so desperate for someone to notice me and love me because I didn't love myself. I came very close to killing myself on more than one occasion and still don't know what stopped me from doing it. I also became an atheist during those years because I was convinced that even God didn't love me anymore. After all, how could God possibly love a loser like me?? Of course, the fact that I didn't believe in God made me even more of a target. Needless to say, those years were very dark and depressing. Going to college helped with a lot of those issues but like I said earlier, graduating college started the whole cycle over again. Since I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I drifted aimlessly from one dead-end job to another not really sure what my purpose in life was. I got right back into the cycle of abuse as well and that certainly didn't help matters any. It wasn't until I started going to counseling earlier this year that I finally began to climb out of that hole that I had dug for myself. I finally had a chance to start the healing process.
That, for me, represents the biggest reason why I decided to become a YAV. It gives me a chance to heal from all the abuse. Getting away from my past and away from the places where all the abuse happened is an important step in the healing process for me. I'm finally able to let the scars heal and continue the process that I started with my therapist. I knew that the only way I would ever be truly able to change would be by moving and starting over fresh. I'm finally starting to become the person I have always wanted to be. I'm happier, healthier, more full of life and most importantly, I like myself. That's the biggest improvement right there. I started engaging in some really self-destructive habits in my late teens and early twenties because I didn't love myself so I didn't care about myself either. Now, I have started to make up for those bad habits by good self-care. I haven't eaten fast food in over a month because I have realized that it is so bad for my body. I'm not saying that I won't ever eat fast food again but it is good to know that after so many years of eating fast food almost every day that I can give it up and start taking better care of my body. That's just one of the many ways that the YAV program has already played a big part in my growth. I think I am just now growing into the person God wanted me to be all along. It sure is a good feeling to know that. I hope you will continue to follow me on this journey of self-healing. It's not gonna be easy but it will be an interesting ride.
Well, there ya go. Now, I hope you have a better idea of why I would voluntarily sign up to do this crazy thing!! I know many of you will be surprised to hear some of these things but I also hope you haven't judged me for it either. I'm not necessarily proud of my past but I am also glad that I made it to the other side of it. Living through those experiences made me the person I am today and so for that I am glad I had them even if they were hard at the time. I'm glad you are reading this and I hope that it helped you in some small way. Remember how the words you say can have such a huge impact on someone's life. Teach your children to not make fun of other children just because they are different. That's the most important thing I can impart to you. Always remind them that they are loved, it might be the most important thing they hear that day. By the way, I'm now proud of the fact that I'm different and celebrate it. Also, I have never been anorexic. I'm just built this way!!