This is a letter I wrote to the man who kept me in an abusive relationship and got me pregnant, the man who almost destroyed my life. It’s what I want you to know about fighting back.
I don’t know what to you call you because I refuse to say your name. I’m writing you this letter because I never want to see you again, but there are things I want you to know.
I don’t want to live my life in fear anymore.
I want you to know that on the day I graduated from college, I thought about you. I thought about you as I was walking across the stage to accept my two diplomas—two diplomas that both said Summa Cum Laude on them. There were cords around my neck that signified honor societies and academic excellence awards. I was the third person to be awarded a degree that day because the Dean specially arranged it to be like that, because she thought I deserved it. She wanted me to be one of the first students to walk across the stage. So I was.
I thought of you that day walking across the stage because I did these things in spite of you. In spite of the fact that once upon a time I was scared to leave my classes because you told me you would be waiting for me. In spite of the fact that classmates used to stare at me because my dad would be waiting for me instead, because I’d begged him to be there and walk me home because I was so scared of seeing you. In spite of the fact that one day when I was sitting in class unable to hide my hugely pregnant belly, a classmate asked me: “Haven’t you ever heard of condoms?” And everyone laughed, and all I could do was swallow my pride and force a smile.
I thought of you because I did these great things. I did these great things in spite of the fact that finishing two degrees, having a baby, and being a single parent meant going back to school the same day I left the hospital after 39 hours of grueling labor. It meant endless sleepless nights followed by long and demanding days, an utterly depressing lack of recreational and social activities, and a never-ending uphill battle that left me feeling depleted and lonely.
But I did these things in spite of the fact that you almost destroyed me.
You almost destroyed me.
But I fought back and look at me now. Do you see me now? I’m not destroyed, and I’m not just okay. I’m thriving. I want you to know that.
I want you to know that I’m no longer embarrassed. I consider what happened the facts of my life, and I refuse to live in shame because of choices I made or choices I was coerced into making. Sometimes guys ask me out on dates and when they ask me about my son, I tell them the facts of my life. I used to be vague, but now I tell them the facts. I don’t mince words. More often than not this scares them into not asking me out again because the facts of “my story” usually come off as “I HAVE ISSUES” written in bold red letters on my forehead. But I don’t let this bother me anymore, because I have a full life—a beautiful, complex, messy life; a life full of classes and teaching and working and research and my son and people who love me—and I have these things in spite of the fact that I almost lost all of it when I was on the dark side with you. And I’m no longer going to live in fear of telling the truth about my life.
If I could show you one picture of me and my son, it would be one taken the day I graduated from college. I’m holding my son in one arm and my leather-bound diplomas in the other. My gown is rumpled and my cords and tassels are a mess, and I don’t know how I’m holding it all together but I am. I’m holding it all together. I’m balancing my son in one arm and my Summa Cum Laude degrees in the other. I would show you this picture because I’m disheveled and struggling to hold it all together but I have the most triumphant smile on my face. Triumphant. Because I fell apart but I learned to stitch myself back together again. And I’m not just okay; I’m thriving.
What I want you to know is that it’s my life again. It’s my life again.
I am forever mine,