Independent. Resilient. Able to go against all odds and somehow come out triumphant. But he, and he alone, always managed to get through, cut me down and leave me psychologically ravaged.
For every award and accolade I brought home, the question became "So what's that going to do for you?"
For every seemingly impossible task I managed to conquer, the question arose "what else are you going to do?"
For every obstacle and social injustice I overcame, he would smile in his later years and throw me a bone, replying "well, that's nice."
And when I poured my soul out to him, revealing the man I worked so hard to be yet embracing what I could simply not change about myself, he disowned me through his simple, simple words without a moment's thought, destroying every single brick I had carefully laid to create the foundation of our relationship. But our foundation was cracking from the beginning, and I should have known that there was no chance of repairing a project so overladen with doom from the outset.
No one, and I mean this with the utmost certainty and respect, no one has been able to so eloquently fuck me up, so to speak, like he did for all these years, and hell, how could they? There is no equal. How could I allow anyone to ever again bring me down, tear me apart and ultimately make me question how to proceed with my life when he taught me so well how to soldier on despite it all. After all, it's not like I had many options.
During my undergrad years I would often wonder why I paid so much attention to the smallest of details, how I developed a knack for playing a mediator, an advisor, a mentor in some cases, and why many of the trials and tribulations I faced never quite phased me like it did my peers and colleagues. Then again I also wondered why I was so distant at times and couldn't open up with the people that were close to me. I put such an inherent focus on my insecurities, weaknesses and flaws that on more than one occasion I've let it overshadow everything else I've struggled and worked hard to accomplish. And to add insult to injury, I was never one to enjoy alcohol, and once vowed to never turn to it as he had all too many times before. But as I turned 21, and the weight of the world balanced mightily on my shoulders, I gave in, despite my earlier proclamation. While I never let it consume me like it did him, it was a harsh realization that only jump-started the search for myself. Through all of this...I think I may have found the twisted answer.
Should I be thankful then, that I was prepared to handle life and all of the complexities that came with it...or should I continue to navigate troubled waters, hanging my head for an answer I have long suspected, but never really wanted to face? There is no right answer. As much as many of us would love to see things in black or white, in right or wrong, in yes or no; life and the people that enter it must be viewed through a filter, where both sides of the spectrum mix to reveal shades of grey, where we ourselves must weigh both sides and ultimately decide on what we think is right at the time, then what we're willing to live with.
As the years go by, I've noticed his health deteriorate and age take its likely course. There are times when I feel that the realization must be hitting that not a lot of time is left on this Earth, and we have to make the most with what we have before it's gone altogether. I'm sure we all know what it feels like to love someone that just doesn't seem to deserve it. I hold out hope that maybe, just maybe, a tiger can somehow change its stripes, because after all this time, hope is really all I have left. It's a bittersweet and vicious cycle that by growing up with fear, I became fearless; and yet my one and only fear now is becoming the person that instilled fear in me.
But it's not in how you're alike, it's in how you're not. I'm learning to detach the anchor of my past, continue on my journey with a sense of wonder, and set my sails as the currents of fate sweep in. I'm a continuing work-in-progress, and I most likely always will be. For too long I've allowed myself to worry about what type of person he wanted me to be, striving for perfection when in reality, all I could really hope for, and what he ultimately taught me, was how not to be.
For 23 years you have been the eternal shadow I've tried to escape from while weathering every storm that came my way. It's time I finally learned how to dress accordingly and bring along my own sunshine.