The thing about life is that everyone tells you that you’ll be okay, but no one tells you how much and how long it’s going to take to be okay. Five years ago, I was the girl that refused to even kiss someone of the opposite gender, let alone do anything more than that. My reality was something so many roll their eyes at. I was stuck in generation that craved physical connection, while I weaved my way around them looking for an emotional connection. While people I knew traded stories about drunken nights and accidental hookups, I sat quiet having no story to tell. Five years ago, I was an innocent and naïve girl. Five years later, that girl is here still just with the voice to tell it.
As cliché as it might sound— I wanted to wait for the one that I truly loved and wanted to be with to share something that in my eyes was well for that one person. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in these three years. It’s that life never goes as planned, no matter how much you try to plan it. Something can happen and it won’t be because you planned it. Three years ago, I met a guy. He was funny, sweet, smart and I fell for him. It felt like maybe he had fallen for me too. A few months after we had started talking and were quite close, I found out that the dance team I was on was scheduled to perform in his home state. Excitedly, I rushed to tell him that I’d be visiting and that it would be awesome if we could see each other. And with the same excitement I had, he happily agreed to see me there. So on the way to the competition, the car I was in with my team members got into a car accident. But my phone was dead by that time, and I had no way of letting anyone know about what happened. Thankfully, after much careful driving and hours of patience we made it to our hotel. I helped unload luggage and then wheeled it in to the lobby of the hotel while everyone else got their stuff. The next time I look up, he was there. His eyes fell on me and he ran to me, and immediately picked me up in his arms saying things like, “you’re okay, where have you been, I’ve been so worried, etc.”
I was caught off guard, but happy to see that he was so concerned. But at the time for a small second, my relief of seeing him turned to slight suspicion. I hadn’t told him where I was staying, or at least I didn’t remember telling him. So how had he known where I was? Nevertheless, my doubt quickly disappeared in the huge hug he gave me. The show wasn’t until the next day, so he followed me upstairs to our hotel room and sat and talked with me. It was a casual conversation. I told him about what had happened on the way there, and then he left saying, “see you tomorrow” with a smile. The next day was mostly spent with my teammates preparing for the competition, and so I didn’t see him until after my performance was over and that too only for a few minutes. It was quick but he gave me a hug, and told me I did great even though it didn’t go so well. After the show was over, it was time for the after party. Since we had to change out of competition outfits, it took a while for us to actually get to the after party itself. But the whole time, he kept texting me and asking where I was and when I’d be there. Finally, we got there and he was waiting right at the door for me. He slipped an arm around my waist, and somehow gets me into the VIP section of the club. The night goes on and we’re drinking with his friends and dancing, until I was tired. He immediately noticed and asked if I wanted to, “get out of here and go hang out”. I said yes, being tired. So he took me by the hand, and off we went. We got to his hotel and he went into the bathroom, so I plopped down on the bed and started flipping through TV channels.
When he finally came out of the bathroom, he came and pushed me down on the bed, and started kissing me. His hands were everywhere, and despite my constant begging and pleading, he didn’t stop. Somehow I got through to the next day, and he drove me back to my hotel, I hugged him, and then we parted ways. For six months after that night, I heard nothing from him. But one day, I got a text from him saying, “We need to talk, and you know what it’s about.” He proceeded to blame me for the whole incident saying I led him on; the whole thing was my fault, etc. I didn’t feel hurt anymore, just shocked. I had at least hoped for an apology, a reason as to why he thought that was okay. But after what he said, the feeling of drowning in cold water, and then being run over by a train felt. I felt dirty & guilty every terrible word you could come up with, was what I felt. With no real support around me, I fell into depression and anxiety. Not many people knew what had happened that night, but I’m sure most had their own assumptions.
I always thought that if I suppressed my pain enough, it would eventually disappear. But it never did and honestly it never will for the most part. But I’ve realized that recovering from bad experiences allow you to become the person you really never thought you could be. The person I thought I couldn’t be is the girl I used to be before any of this happened. I’ve realized that I still have my innocence, even though ironically enough most people would think that it disappeared for the most part. The biggest reason for this is because after all after these years, I’ve found that I don’t just have what I’m left with. I don’t just have the pain, the tears, the sleepless nights, etc. with me. I still have my innocence because I know that I have what I give myself. If I want my innocence, then I will find that within myself. If I want strength, I will find strength in myself. All my pieces are still here. Every single one of them. Some are chipped, and cracked. Some got displaced. I’m still here because I chose to be. I chose myself over the person that thought they could break me.
My silence was maintained for two years after the incident. But when I heard about the Brock Turner case in December 2016, something snapped. And it snapped hard. There weren’t any tears this time, no screams, nothing just determination to be heard. And so I used my only weapon and defense, one I had forgotten I had so long ago, my words. The response was shocking and the support was overwhelmingly positive. But one thing happened; that I never thought would come about my attacker’s apology. I’ll say this: closure comes with forgiveness and forgetting, and even now I’m not there. Accepting an apology never meant that the incident had disappeared. I still think about this incident all the time. Everyone says to not let bad experiences define you. It’s the most cliché thing to say after something like this. The problem is though, they’ll all tell you that you can get over it, but they won’t tell you how. And that’s the hardest part. Figuring out how to teach yourself that you’re still the same person.
Reminding yourself that all of you is still there, even though you may feel like you’re looking at completely different person in a shattered mirror. What people seem to think is this getting better process is some sort of short term thing that doesn’t take long. And the truth this is really is a lifelong thing. You do have to spend every day for ages thinking about how you’re going to rescue yourself from your own thoughts. You do have to go through nights of endless nightmares, and relationships where your partner won’t understand your pain. You have to go through it all, because falling is the only way you’ll get back up.
There was a time where I felt like I was drowning. Then I learned to float. Now I’ve taken control of my own boat and I’m finally going where I want to go.
Submitted to “Share To Aware” by Vaidehi Gajjar.