In Honor of DV Awareness Month, My Best Advice...
I am an old, introspective soul, the eldest of three siblings. From the beginning, my sister and brother have been the lights of my life. I have always preferred to push them into the light and watch over them proudly from the shadows.
Throughout my childhood, my father told me I was a loser because of my quiet and reserved nature. His perception was that I was weak- that I had no fight in me.
Until I did.
We are survivors of domestic violence. My mother divorced my father after over 25 years of marriage. My sister and I begged my mom to understand we could have a better life without his constant threats. We told her we wanted my little brother, who was 13 at the time, to know a better life, and to learn to be a better man. We expressed fear for our safety. We finally convinced her to leave him when she realized she could no longer stay in her nightmare ‘for her kids’ because it had become our nightmare. Our stand against my father caused much heartache throughout our family and community because of the cultural stigma surrounding divorce and domestic violence. But in the end, our fight led us to a bright future. It led us to finally get to know my mom for the amazing womxn and friend that she is. She blossomed, and so did our relationships with each other.
But it has not been easy. I was 21 years old when my father was finally out of our lives. Throughout those 21 years, he called me a slut and a loser. He told me he would break my legs and throw me in a river when I made a mistake. He told me he was fearful of what would happen if I died, not because he would miss me- but because he didn’t want to be stuck with my student loan debt. My father was a bully, and he preyed on my insecurities.
These memories have haunted me. Toxic relationships, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and issues with alcohol troubled me throughout my teenage and young adult years. I hid my distress from my family as well as I could to shield them from dealing with the additional heartache. As hard as I tried, I could not find my self-worth, because I was looking for it in the eyes of a ‘good’ man.
I have started to understand and process all of this since having my kids.
I think about what I was like when I was Sanaya’s age, and I do everything I can to build her up. I tell her she is strong and that she has a beautiful heart. That Sanaya means distinguished- different in a wonderful way. I teach her to use her voice, stand tall, and to never compromise her identity.
I think about my insecurity when I learned I was having a little boy. I was afraid to raise a son. But now I know Shrey’s name- meaning ‘marvelous’- suits him. I fell in love with him the moment I saw him, and I knew things would be okay. I teach him womxn are to be worshipped. That we can do anything men can. That we can be just as strong, if not stronger than men. And I know he believes me because I prove it to him every day.
I look into Sanaya and Shrey’s eyes, and I see my self-worth. What I see is a reflection of who I have grown to become. A womxn who realized I would never find my self-worth in a man. My self-worth was born from my experiences, my strength, my heart, and my fight.
My daddy issues are a painful part of my life, but they also give me great purpose, strength, and courage. My kids will never accept domestic violence. They speak up in the face of hate. They are full of empathy and love. They are intersectional feminists. With a full heart, I know Sanaya and Shrey will live up to their names- distinguished and marvelous.
Perhaps most importantly, finding my self-worth has given me the confidence to be me. I’m okay with being the quiet one, and if they ask, I tell people my quiet nature means I am listening and thinking. I have the strength to prioritize and pursue my passions, unapologetically- advocating for social justice, intersectionality, and incorporating my sweet spot- style. I invest my energy and love in family and friends who genuinely appreciate me. While I continue to work full-time as a senior clinical program manager and full-time mom, I have organized my life to make space for the Sanaya Set- our passion project.
I will be honest. It’s hard. There are many nights I lay awake asking myself what I am doing. I feel mom guilt. I feel imposter syndrome. While we place great emphasis on self-care, I’m still working on my own rituals. I lean on my loved ones. My relationships are not perfect- but I work hard on them. I convince myself every day this is all okay. There is no greater truth than the beauty of imperfection.
So, here is my best advice, friends:
Be You, Unapologetically.
From a young age, many womxn are taught to compromise, over and over again- for the comfort of others. Never compromise your identity. Be good to yourself. Our imperfections are what make us unique and beautiful.
Pursue your passions- there is no better time than the present. Stand tall and use your voice and strength to let others know what you believe in and where you stand, especially in the face of injustice and adversity.
Choose the path that is important to you, even though it may be harder. Look for truth in criticism. Examine your privilege- yes, the big ‘P’ word. Use that privilege to be both intentional AND intersectional. Persist to understand the experiences of others, so we can build each other up and pave the way for a better future. We must live our lives with not only empathy, but with intention. It’s challenging, something we all must continuously work on. If it’s not hard, we’re not doing it right.
Originally Published for Hitha on the Go