Independence was my crutch.
For years, I clung to it, was absorbed in it, and fostered it, refusing to let it go or let anyone in.
Independence defined me, and I was proud of it. I never understood those people who wore their hearts on their sleeves. To me that was weak, and bottling all my emotions, secrets, and inner scars was a sign of strength. Or so I believed.
“Mercy comes with the morning. I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me.”
Independence allowed me to show a strong face to the world after my mom passed—a strong face that, through the grief which lasted long after she was gone, made those around me believe I was OK.
Independence allowed me to sit across from a counselor countless times and still refuse to speak or open up, waiting for the hour to tick away.
I became numb, depressed, anxious, bitter. Many would have called me “a troublemaker.” I was broken. Yet, I was still independent, which was all that mattered to me. And in many ways, that was all I had.
“If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary, then of course I’ll feel nude when to where I’m destined I’m compared.”
I was not living, only surviving, which many know is really no way to “live.” The reality of being overly independent is that it has a way of blocking out love, and as a result, true life.
I hadn’t allowed love to fully enter my life for as long as I could remember. I could just never shake the feeling that anyone who I opened up to or who could potentially love me was going to leave me. I had shared it all with my mom, and then she was gone … Who knew who could be next?
“I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me.”
We are not meant to be so independent that we reject love; we are meant to be loved and give love. We are meant to be open with our struggles, lean on people when we can no longer support ourselves, and cry until our shoulders shake into the embrace of another. We are meant for this kind of love.
Love—not independence—should direct our life. It took me years to come to this realization, and not until I told a group of people my story for the first time. When I chose to shed my secrets and opened up about myself, I was met with compassion. Many who approached me later knew the same trials and heartbreak. They hugged me, loved me, cried with me. And for the first time, I was actually known. I was free, and I was loved.
Something unexpected happened to me afterward. The knot that had always formed in my stomach whenever I talked about my past or struggles dissipated—and I have never felt it since. I used to become physically sick when I would open up about myself, but I am no longer plagued by those pains.
“I was made to live, I was made to love, I was made to know you.”
Now, every day, I choose to love, I choose to be open. Because life is not a road to be navigated alone, but to be shared and experienced with those around you.
—Rachel, Summer 2013 intern