When applying to my first big girl job six months ago, I was asked in an interview to describe myself using three words. Of course I supplied a scripted answer of hard-working, organized, and punctual. While I believe all three of those accurately describe me, when I got home, the question was still stuck with me. I began to think about what three words would describe me with a more brutal honesty. After much pondering, I realized all three chosen were gifted to me from my father.
First, I am loyal. I will do what needs to be done simply because it needs to be done and I am able to do it. But I can also be loyal to a fault. I will love you with my whole damn being and I will have no idea how to stop when you walk away. The worst part about being that loyal in the world that we live in is that the majority of the people you will love will not be loyal at all. I should tell you that I love that I am loyal. People can depend on me. People can trust me. But I also fucking hate that I am loyal. The truth is, I don’t love often, but when I do love it is 100%. Sadly, I have found that there are very few men who can handle being loved 100%. And my love, when you comes across those men (or women) – the ones who take your loyalty for granted, who take your affection to be mundane – run. Because they do not deserve even 1% of your love and they cannot handle the fire in your soul. You are better off shutting the door in their face, even if your hand gets caught in the process. The pain will go away as time goes on. And I know you’ve heard that a thousand times over, but I promise you it is true. Letting those people into your life is toxic. They will love you, but when they have sucked you dry, they will leave because you have changed. You may try everything to keep them around, stifling your heart and pretending that you do not love 100% when you both know it’s a lie. That is what will kill you. Your hand will heal, but your heart may not.
Secondly, I am service-oriented. I was raised to put others’ needs above my own, so that is what I do. Every job I’ve ever been successful in has involved taking care of someone else in one way or another. I adjust my actions based on the feelings of those around me. I will stop myself from doing what I truly want to do if I know someone else will get hurt in the process. More often than not, that comes back to bite me in the ass. While I am worrying, stressing about how they will respond in a negative way, they are pursuing what they truly want with no regard for other people’s feelings. I met a man who once told me that the perfect relationship is one in which you never have to advocate for yourself because you know your partner has your back. The perfect, symbiotic relationship is one of “let me take care of you, and I’ll let you take care of me as well.” I think this also goes back to being loyal. I will love you 100%, if you also do the same.
But last, and most important indeed, I am a survivor. As much as I have wanted to crawl into a hole and die, as much as I have wanted to give up and disappear, it is not in my nature to do so. When you lose someone, it absolutely does feel like the end of the world. I remember laying in bed for days. I stayed home from school because the weight of the emptiness was so overwhelming, it took all of my energy to simply get dressed. My appetite vanished right along with any fucks about my appearance. None of that fucking mattered anymore. It felt like everyone and everything was spinning around me a million miles a second, but I was running in slow motion. I remember praying for a car crash, a plane crash, anything that would make the world stop along with me. I remember seeing flames and blades as welcoming friends, offering peace of mind, silence. I remember thinking really morbid, fucked up things, because at the time, all of it sounded better than living my life without him.
But eventually, getting out of bed didn’t seem so daunting. I followed the routine laid out before me and by making myself start each day, I was able to safely end it as well. No, surviving is not easy. But you have to learn to survive before you can truly be alive.
Reflecting back on this now, I need to not only survive for my own well-being, but also to be a more loyal, service-oriented human being. I care so much about the people I love that I forget to be loyal to myself. I forget to serve myself. While these qualities are usually seen as praise-worthy, they can often be a curse. You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of any one else.