Me, myself and a bus in Tirana

A couple of weeks ago events conspired and compelled me to travel alone through Albania and Montenegro. As the bus departed from Tirana I suddenly began to cry with the realisation of why I had tried so hard to avoid being by myself: I simply did not trust myself. I may be able to care for others but I was not sure I could be entrusted to look after myself. At times I simply did not care enough about myself to do so. I had always thought I put on a front in case others did not like the real me, but in fact it was to hide me from me. I would always defer to others’ opinions of me. After all, I was a biased and therefore, unreliable judge. Furthermore, I was not even sure whether I liked myself. If others liked me, then I could like myself. If they did not, then how could I? And if I did not like myself, how could I be trusted to look after myself? My desperate need to be validated by others and my utter dependence on them for emotional support had pushed four of the closest people to me away and now I was without someone to depend on. I was entirely alone.

It was then I suddenly realised everything you had been trying to tell me; everything that I had been too stupid or stubborn to understand. I spent the rest of the journey writing you a long and rambling letter in my head- which was in fact actually just a letter to myself- telling myself to stop being so afraid of everything and giving myself permission to love and trust myself. I needed to stop relying on others for my emotional needs. I all too easily believed others, but rarely did myself. Getting on that bus released everything and I became strangely calm in the same way that you are able to live once you’ve accepted your own death. Having nothing and no-one meant I did not have to fear losing everything and everyone. In any case, it was fine. I still had me. And then I quite relaxed into the trip. I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going or how to get there, but it was ok, I would figure things out. And I did.

And then I wanted to tell you. I wanted to let you know that I’d finally paid attention and listened to you and I also wanted you to be proud of me. Then I decided that I couldn’t write to you. That I shouldn’t. Because it reinforced my dependence on someone. The news was mine. I did not need to share it with the world; it mattered only to me. Letting you know meant I would have to wait for confirmation, for some kind of affirmation that I was correct in my analysis and right in my assumptions. I think it must be a sad symptom of both my childhood and this country’s education system that I felt I could not assess whether my thoughts or actions were good until they had been assessed and graded by someone else. It didn’t matter if I thought it was good or not, what mattered was the mark and feedback from someone else. Is it any surprise, therefore that I keep books and essays with positive feedback from teachers as some of my most treasured possessions? That I like to look back at comments written to my fourteen year old self as some kind of personal affirmation? I therefore could not write to you as you might similarly see it this way.

But now, a few weeks later, I offer you this much abridged version of the letter, not in search of affirmation, but rather to simply tell you thank you, I believe I finally understood what you wanted to make me understand and what you couldn’t understand in me and to apologise for taking so long!

I don’t need confirmation, I don’t even need a reply, I just thought you might like to know.

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