An Orphan At 17: How I've Learned To Persevere Through Life's Toughest Times
Being on your own at an early age is nothing short of difficult. It's true that being an orphan is horrible, but it's even more horrible when you're an orphan when your parents are still technically alive and well.
The official definition of an orphan is a child whose parents are deceased. I identify as an orphan because my parents are dead, They've been dead to me and in every sense of the word since I was seventeen.
No warm familiar gestures are exchanged between us at family gatherings. There's no extensive cell phone bill displaying the long conversations I have with my parents when I tell them about college, my obnoxious roommate, or how much I miss being at home.
I can't tell my mother about that cute boy I like in my biology class, and I can't call her when I'm crying because that same boy broke my heart a few months later. I can't call my father to ask how to fix the leaky faucet in my tiny cramped apartment or tell him how much I miss his cooking after my fourth night of Ramen noodles.
There's no trace of me having ever existed in our family home, nor am I a popular topic of conversation there. There are no encouraging words exchanged; no birthday cards sent.
Every girl needs her parents, and every girl especially needs her mother. Although I have learned to live without her, I will never know for sure why she and my father made the decisions they did regarding their roles as parents. Perhaps there was an initial contract that stated that as soon as I became too difficult, they were not obligated to take care of me anymore.
Maybe that contract came before the one they had me sign when I moved out. The one that said I was no longer allowed to visit; that the locks were being changed. The one that outlined what a terrible child I had been and how the real world would certainly not be as kind to me as they had been.
Yes, maybe my entire childhood was an unstable one, and maybe that last defiant act of my teenage years tipped the scale that my parents' love was contingent upon. Regardless, it is this unfortunate circumstance that made me who I am today. It was a struggle; life in general was a struggle during my swift transition into adulthood.
There were the nights when I had to choose between eating that day or filling up the gas tank of my deteriorating car so I could make it to work the next day, and there were the days when I would be struggling to keep my eyes open at my minimum-wage job after sleeping on a coworker's uncomfortable couch for a week.
The hardest part of all, however, was not any of these. The hardest part of my estrangement from my parents was convincing myself that I was ever good enough; that it was okay to love someone and it was even okay to be loved back. After all the hardships I had faced, the hardest challenge was learning that I was worth something despite everything I had been told growing up.
I learned how to handle rejection, and I learned how to get up after being knocked down. I learned to think of myself as special and beautiful for the first time in my life. Most importantly, I learned how to survive.
Whatever the circumstances you may face, there is always a silver lining even if it takes a while to reveal itself. Keep in mind that some storms last longer and cause more damage than others, but that there is a rainbow at the end of every one.
Choose to be a survivor; choose to rise above the wrongs that have been committed against you. Choose to forgive. The most important choice of all is the choice to forgive those who have hurt you because as long as you dwell on their actions, they will continue to control you.
Take charge of your own life and make the decision to be happy.
It's unlikely that my experiences will ever cease to affect me in some way, and I doubt that many of you will be able to entirely dismiss the struggles you have faced or the horrors you have witnessed, but we can all make the conscious choice to let the negativity of our past go and create a new future for ourselves.
The only thing we cannot choose is our circumstances, but we can choose how we handle them. What will you choose?
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