I Refuse To Be A Victim


I am not a victim.

Yes, I’ve gone through difficult circumstances. No, I’m not constantly happy. But I’m no longer going to blame where I am in life on unfortunate aspects of my past which were out of my control. It’s time to break free.

Someone once said to me, “Honestly, Joleen, you had to grow up too early, and considering everything you’ve gone through in your life, no one would blame you if you were out of control and falling apart.” And for a while, I used her statement to excuse the bad habits I had allowed to crawl into my life. Like yeah, I’m not reaching all my potential, but at least I’m not out there all night taking part in more obvious forms of self-destruction (doing drugs, being promiscuous, getting wasted, or even indulging in self-harm). So, I guess to my messed up mind that meant everything was okay. But it wasn’t. It still isn’t really, but the difference is I’m working on those problems now. I’ve come to see I am many things. But I am not a victim of my past.

I am strong.

Famed philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “Out of life’s school of war: what does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” While I do not agree with everything Nietzsche opined, I think he was pretty accurate with this statement. Of course there are exceptions, but most of the time, the traumas life subjects us to teach us patience, resiliency, and fortitude. They teach us what we can overcome. The undesirable circumstances I’ve lived through have forged me into the person I am today. I’m grateful for the tragedies I’ve experienced because they’ve made me stronger.

I am smart.

For years I was depressed, so I retreated from life. I buried my nose in books; devouring everything from Encyclopedias to Agatha Christie novels. Reading taught me most of what I know. Not only did I read, but I watched the adults in my life handle various crises. I studied from a young age how they dealt with death, and poverty, and disability; and I learned. Because of life experiences some would call tragic, I could handle the family banking and bake a mean Italian casserole before I hit the double digits. Therefore, I’m grateful for the difficult ordeals I’ve faced because they’ve made me smarter.

I am talented.

There’s an English proverb that goes “Necessity is the mother of invention”. That statement is practically the theme of my life. A complicated childhood taught me to think creatively. In our first apartment, the tedious wait for a turn in our one bathroom was too much for my impatient personality. So, I rigged up a makeshift shower using a large storage container, a broom, and a strainer with several gallons of water set up to pour through it at a constant pace. Age at the time? 8 years old. With a grieving mother and bored younger siblings (the only channels on the TV were PBS and the News), I wrote and directed a Thanksgiving play to distract and cheer up my family. Age at the time? 9 years old. My mom didn’t have enough money to buy me a bed. I decided to construct a loft bed using junk wood a family friend offered, a Do-It-Yourself book from the 70’s, and some dollar store spray paint. Age at the time? 13 years old. Difficulties teach you to think outside of the box; ergo, I’m grateful for the crises I’ve had to face, as they’ve unveiled my talents.

I am independent.

When no one advocates for you, you learn to become your own advocate. Some kids have overly engaged parents from the get go, and some kids won’t let go of their parents’ apron strings even when they have their own kids. Anyone who was raised in a unique parenting situation understands what it’s like to have to fend for yourself at a young age. And while I may have struggled with resenting being forced to stand up for myself because the adults in my life were either unwilling or unable, I can’t completely be ungrateful, since those experiences have given me the confidence to know I can make it on my own.

I am accepted.

This is something a lot of people struggle with. No one denies it’s hard growing up aware that you’re not as rich, sheltered, normal, or whatever the case may be; as the other kids. I distinctly recall the pain of being cognizant of my nerdiness, my different home environment, and my eccentric clothes. But as I’ve progressed through my teenage years, I’ve found people who like me and accept me, with all of my peculiarities, and even people who admire me. I’m grateful for aspects of my life that made me insecure, because overcoming those insecurities has shown me how insignificant those peripheral issues that plagued me are; and how what truly matters is what kind of person you choose to be.

I am going somewhere in life.

To all those out there who have felt like, or currently feel like victims, I want to remind you that we choose our destiny. Yes, things may have happened to us that were out of control. But the pity party ends now. We must proactively make positive choices in our everyday life to see improvement. And I for one, am done sitting on my couch wishing circumstances had been different.

Therefore, I am wholeheartedly grateful for the obstacles I’ve faced because they’ve given me the tools I need to make my mark on the world.

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