I've always been amazed at how often people think of me as the easy-going, bubbly and happy girl. It's true, I am -- but there's so much more to me than that. What they often don't see (and know) is how hard of a journey it has been to get to where I am today. It hasn't been easy.
In fact, just as things seem to finally turn around and become better, something comes along to crash into that and things aren't great again. It's hard. It's exhausting -- mentally, emotionally and physically -- but this is my life. This is the kind of life that I've grown used to.
This is the life that I've learned to live and the life that has shaped me into who I am today.
One of my earliest memories of when things in my life began to change happened in the months before my parents divorced. They had been fighting and I was young -- I didn't understand any of what was going on, I didn't know what would happen. It was scary, laying in bed at night and listening to them yell at each other, the sound of glass breaking from the other side of the house and crying for them to stop fighting.
My mother came into my room on one of these nights and the only thing I could say was "Why can't you just forgive each other?" Years later, I know that this night would be the night where things truly began to change. I don't remember how much time passed from that night until my mother sat me down to tell me that she and my dad were divorcing -- but I had that same crushing, terrified and sick-to-my-stomach feeling that night as the night I asked her about forgiving each other.
The months and years ahead were rocky -- the adjustment period was hard, and to be honest, I don't remember a lot of what had happened (and looking back on it, not remembering huge chunks of your childhood is terrifying). But somehow, we made it.
It wasn't easy, and even today it still affects me in some way or another -- there are still memories that come out of nowhere and hit me hard. There are days where something hits me and I come home and cry for hours on end about what I've gone through.
A lot has changed since my parents divorced. It has been a long road, but I've learned so many lessons that I wouldn't have learned otherwise -- and those lessons are something I am incredibly grateful for.
I've learned that above all else, I am a fighter. I am resilient. Whatever life throws at me, whether it is my parents divorcing, a death in the family or struggling through high school, I am a fighter and I will fight as hard as I can to get through.
I am strong. I mentioned before that there are things that surge into my memory that tear me down for awhile and shake me, but those are the days where I take a step back, look around at my life now and how far I've come. I am strong -- I've been through so much and I've come so far.
And most of all, I've learned the value in people who will be there for you. I can't tell you how many times I've felt alone on this long journey, but looking back there has always been someone who was there for me. A family member, a friend, even a complete stranger I've met online -- I was never alone.
It was the fact that I was never alone that truly got me through the dark days. It is in the knowledge that no matter what, there is someone there who cares, knowing that there is someone to listen and let me cry on their shoulder.
Yes, there were days where I felt completely alone and struggled with that feeling -- the feeling that I was the only one going through whatever life had thrown at me and wondering how I was going to make it through this time -- but I made it through. I made it to where I am today because I was never alone.
If life throws you a curveball and you find yourself in a rough spot, if you ever feel alone, just know that I'm always here and so are so many others. We won't leave your side; we'll be there to listen to you, to encourage you and to be a friend or a shoulder to cry on. No matter what life throws in your way, you are never alone.
A lesson to my teenage self: You are never alone, no matter how rough things can get, no matter how alone you may feel or whatever you're struggling with. There is always someone there for you to pull you through.