Three Years of Freedom

My three year freedom anniversary was three days ago. I wish I could say that I celebrated it in some way, but I didn’t.

And that is not the normal for me. Ever since I ran away, I have celebrated every milestone — one year, 500 days, two years, 1,000 days. I’ve always done something symbolic, something meaningful to celebrate the day. The celebrations helped remind me of where I was, and where I came from. I know some people thought it was a bit much, but you never really understand just how important these days are unless you’ve escaped from hell. And I know many of you, unfortunately, can understand that.

But as my three year anniversary rolled around, I didn’t feel like there was anything to celebrate. Over the last few months, my life has fallen apart. I found myself homeless. And even though I found a bed in a shelter, that stay ended up damaging me even more. I wandered the streets. I slept on friends’ couches. And out of desperation, with no options left, I found myself on a bus traveling west to stay with someone I never actually met other than through online conversation.

How did I end up here? Why did I end up here? I still don’t understand what happened. I still don’t understand how, despite everything, I am ineligible for any type of assistance. If I was an alcoholic, or a drug addict, I could get help right away. In the midst of my desperation, I actually considered breaking my sobriety because I knew it was the only way I could get help. But why should I have to? It makes no sense.

I’m angry. And not just because I am homeless. Not just because my only option was to leave the state where I had everything, including my medical care, in place. I’m angry because I’m sick.

It’s not like being sick is anything new to me. I’ve been sick for awhile. But I think, in that time, there was a part of me that didn’t think it was a really big deal. Until I started getting really sick. Until that hospital stay back in May when everything took a turn for the serious. Pulmonologists, infectious disease specialists, doctors in and out of my hospital room telling me that I was very sick. This wasn’t just a cold. This wasn’t something that was going to go away. I must have answered a hundred questions as the doctors tried to figure out just how I ended up this way. It doesn’t make any sense, they’d say. Little did they know, nothing in my life has ever made much sense.

As much as I hate to admit it, I was (and still am) scared. A part of me wanted to run away from my medical problems. If I just left my doctors, left the hospital, that somehow my issues would just disappear. Until five days into my stay in another state, when I passed out at lunch and found myself at the hospital once again.

The hospital did chest x-rays just to be sure everything was okay and there was no pneumonia (as I had a massive thrush infection — completely unrelated to me passing out). The doctor walked into my room and I could see the confusion and concern on his face. There’s no pneumonia, so that’s the good news, but — before he could finish his sentence, I told him it was okay, that I knew I was sick. I realized I’m going to have to have this conversation every time I end up in the hospital. A consistent reminder that I’m sick, no matter how hard I try to pretend like I’m okay.

How is this fair? How is any of it fair? I fought so hard to get out alive and this is where I end up after three years. My mother is free. She is healthy. She doesn’t struggle.

And I am nowhere, sick and struggling.

All of the things I learned along the way have left me with nothing. The people that said they would support me have turned their backs on me. The system that says it helps those in need has left me stranded.

So what’s left to celebrate?

You’re so young

But you’re so young.

I heard that exact phrase at least two dozen times over the last two weeks.

It wasn’t the first time I heard it. I’m sure as hell it won’t be the last. But hearing it over and over and over again day in and day out made me want to scream out loud. I didn’t, of course. I only screamed on the inside.

I know that the people saying it weren’t saying it to be negative, but they didn’t realize that every time I heard that phrase, it was like a tiny jab to my already damaged heart. I know I’m young. You don’t need to remind me. I know I’m sick. You really don’t need to remind me.

I can’t blame them, though. I’m 31 years-old with a disease that affects the elderly. They see my COPD diagnosis and they don’t understand it. And then they want to ask questions. How much did you smoke? How long were you a smoker? I can never seem to tell them I only started smoking after I got sick. I can never explain to them how I grew up and lived in a (literal) toxic environment, how I spent most of the last 17 years in and out of hospitals. It wasn’t just the cigarettes that gave me COPD. It was my life.

It’s hard for many people to realize just how much trauma affects the body. I see it all the time. I’ve never met a person with PTSD who wasn’t struggling with at least one type of physical problem. The effects of trauma aren’t just on the mind.

My body started giving up long ago. It wasn’t just about the broken bones, the bruises, the damage it withstood on a regular basis. Every last bit of energy is spent trying to survive. After awhile, the body can’t fight anymore. There’s no way to win the war. So things break down in ways they shouldn’t, way earlier than they should. Broken mind, broken body.

But most people don’t understand the connection. They don’t want to hear about the trauma, about the battle you endured that brought you to this point. They want hard facts spoken in brevity.

I don’t bother with facts. I don’t bother with the truth. Just bad luck, I guess. That’s what I tell them. As if luck has been the one and only cause of my destruction. Luck took away the cartilage in my knee. Luck caused me to get COPD. And now luck has led me to a heart problem that has yet to be solved.

Fuck luck. Fuck genetics. I want people to realize the connection to trauma. I want them to stop telling me I’m so young, and start asking how I really ended up here. I want somebody to stand up and realize that I am breaking, not because of luck, not because of genetics, and not all because of my own doing. There was and is something more here.

I want to be able to tell them the truth. My heart is weak because it’s tired. Thirty one years of my life has been constant stress and fear. I’m surprised it still beats at all, to be honest. Why hasn’t it given up on me yet? Why does it try to quit and then get knocked back into beating?

And just when I thought it was over, the appointment was done, the surgery was done, the questions were done — it happened again.

The manager of cardiac unit called me the following day to check and see how I was doing post-surgery. I told her everything was okay (except for some mild pain), and then there was an awkward silence. Then I heard her again. Do you mind if I ask?¬† You’re so young, why did you have this done? We’ve only ever had to do this with older patients.

I really wanted to say wait, you mean not every 30-something has a heart monitor implanted into their chest? Instead I told her the basic passed out a few times, they found an arrhythmia, completely downplaying the fact that I passed out way more than a few times and I had a collection of issues that included more than just an arrhythmia.

She’s right. All these people are right. I am too goddamn young to be dealing with this shit.

But I am dealing. I am living life as if nothing is wrong. Because that’s how I learned to live.

And that’s what got me here.

Loneliness

I’ve been crying a lot this past week.

It’s hard for me. I’m someone who needs to prepare just to go to a routine doctor’s appointment. And now I’ve been faced with regular appointments and hospitals and tests. It drains me.

It’s been a waiting game these last few days. I went to the hospital Thursday for my CT scan and ultrasound. For two and a half hours, I pushed my anxiety down far enough to get through each test. I didn’t mind the CT scan. I couldn’t see what was happening — not knowing in the moment was comforting.

The ultrasound was another story. I could hear the sound from the blood rushing through my arteries. I could see the red colors flashing across the screen. Red was good. Sound was good. It meant that the blood was flowing. But then as the tech went further up the left side of my neck, the sound dissipated. The loud rush turned into the lightest whisper of sound. The red color flashes were blocked by blackness. Something didn’t feel right, but no one could tell me anything. You have to call your doctor.

I managed to make it out of the hospital with a brave face. My therapist had me commit to calling a support person after the appointment, and I’ve only been able to trust a few people there closely enough to reach out to them. I walked over to the coffee shop and called the nurse. She didn’t answer, so I left a voicemail. I’m not even sure entirely what I said, but I know I started out with “I’m sorry” and ended in my usual “I’m okay”.

She called me back ten minutes later, and I hesitated to answer. I did answer, but as soon as she asked me how I was, I started to cry. I was scared. She asked me to tell her what happened but I could barely make sense. I remember her saying you can’t change it now, it’s done, you can’t change anything.

I wanted to change everything. I wanted to rewind my life to a point where I never had to feel pain or know sadness, or sense fear, a point in my life when I had no problems. But that point has never existed.

I went to work later that day and ended up crying again. My boss asked me how the appointment went and I just cried. I don’t understand. I don’t have high cholesterol, I don’t have high blood pressure, I don’t eat junk. Why is this happening to me? I don’t understand. I’m scared, and I don’t understand.

In that moment, she comforted me. She said it was okay to be scared. She said she’d be scared, too. She wanted to be there for me, through the surgery, through whatever I needed. She told me to call her this weekend just to talk if I needed.

But I never called her. Even in the moments that I found myself overwhelmed with fear, sadness, and loneliness, I couldn’t pick up the phone and call her. Why? This woman was genuine in her offers of support. This wasn’t the first time she has been there for me. She took me in on Christmas when I had nowhere to go and no family. She made me a part of hers. But when everyone gathered together to take the family photo that night, I sat out. I’m not part of this family. I felt like an intruder. A welcome intruder, but an intruder none the less.

And I still feel that way. I can’t call her because I’m intruding. I’m bothering. I’m being a burden. It’s a barrier I still can’t seem to break down. She has her own family. All of these people I know have their own families. And I am not part of that. Even the people at PHP keep telling me they are there to support me, but I can’t do it. They have other things to do, other people to support. I don’t matter. I am KJ, party of one.

The hardest part of all of this hasn’t been the appointments or hospital visits or the anxious wait for answers. It’s the loneliness that exists through it all. It’s going to appointments alone. It’s sitting waiting rooms alone, looking around and seeing others with their spouses or older children or friends. It’s laying in a hospital bed and staring at the empty chairs beside it. It’s the uncomfortable silence that occurs every time someone asks for an emergency contact. There is no one. No spouse, no children, no parents, no siblings. I am alone.

It’s times like these that remind me how alone I am. I should have my family by my side at my appointments. I should have a mother to hug me when I’m shaking in my bed at night because I am so afraid of what else could be wrong with me. I should have my father’s shoulder to cry on. But none of that exists, and it never will.

I cry alone. I shake alone. I worry alone. I bear the pain alone because I’m so afraid to share my burden with anyone else.

My tears are not from sadness. My tears are from loneliness.

I don’t want them to drown me.

Saved

I passed out last Saturday.

I was in the shower about to condition my hair when I noticed my vision getting blurry. I couldn’t even make out the bottles. I felt weird, and very off-balance. It was similar to how I felt two years before, when I ended up passing out in the hospital. I had just enough reaction time to open the shower curtain and lean on the toilet so I didn’t fall down.

It scared me. I hadn’t passed out like that in two years. And I was alone with the door locked. What would have happened if I fell and got injured? No one could have helped me. It could have been a lot worse than it was.

Since then, I’ve been taking breaks every morning when I shower. I’ll stand for a few minutes, then step out and sit for a few minutes before getting back in. I thought I could just deal with it. But I still didn’t feel right. I was still feeling light-headed, even at random times throughout the day.

We are supposed to report any side effects or events like that to the nurse at the program. But I hesitated for a few days, because I was afraid it would mean I had to stop taking the medication I was taking for the PTSD (it is primarily a blood pressure medication). I finally decided on Wednesday to tell the nurse what had happened. I hadn’t been feeling well that morning and I was scared again.

I told her exactly what I remembered. She asked a few questions and had me sit down to take my blood pressure. Then I saw the confusion and concern on her face. Something’s not right here. My blood pressure was reading exceptionally high — the exact opposite of what she was expecting, since my symptoms all pointed towards low blood pressure. She took it again and ended up with the same result.

At this point, I think we were both a little concerned. Something made her check my other arm. This is so bizarre. I asked her what was wrong. My blood pressure was reading very low. Two different arms with two drastically different blood pressures. She had never seen it before. She wrote down the results, asked me a few more questions about different symptoms and went to consult with the psychiatrist.

When I checked back in with the nurse, she told me the doctor said to stop taking the Cardura right away and see a cardiologist ASAP. This wasn’t normal at all.

I was scared and a bit of an emotional mess. I couldn’t focus on much of anything at that point. I just wanted to pretend like this never happened. Let’s just go on like we never found this out. But I knew I couldn’t do that, and the nurse didn’t want me to do that, either. So I called the cardiologist, explained the situation, and got an appointment for the next day.

Even though part of me wanted to flee that appointment, I went. I also knew I needed to go because the people at program were concerned about me, and insisted that this was important.

They were right. It was important, and my issues weren’t normal. I need further tests, but the cardiologist thinks it is an arterial stenosis, or blockage in one of the arteries on my left side. I need to have a CAT scan and ultrasound to confirm exactly where the blockage is before we can do anything further. The cardiologist also wants me to see a neurologist to rule out seizures, because he says my pass out events are not typical of heart-related fainting.

And now I have to sit and wait. Wait for insurance to approve the tests. Wait for a diagnosis. Wait for more answers.

I don’t want to wait. I don’t even want to deal with this right now. I just…I don’t even know what is happening to me. I am falling apart in more ways than one. And I don’t understand why all of this is happening. What did I do wrong?

My emotions are in all the wrong places. I have been crying off and on and I’m not even sure why. I eat, I cry. I sit down, I cry. I go pee, I cry. I’m a mess.

I was angry at myself for causing this. Maybe if I had just gone to the doctor all these years like a normal person. Maybe if I didn’t smoke. Maybe if I just took better care of myself, I wouldn’t be in this moment right now, dealing with a serious medical issue.

I was angry at the nurse for finding something off and sending me to the cardiologist. If she didn’t check my other arm, this would have never happened. Like it was her fault for all of this. I know it wasn’t her fault at all. And I felt incredibly ashamed for feeling anger towards her in the first place.

The nurse checked my blood pressure today. Part of me hoped that other day was just one big mistake, that the machine was just acting up. But it wasn’t, and once again, there was a drastic difference between each side. I wanted to cry. The nurse was trying to be encouraging, just as she has been these past two months as I’ve continued to struggle with my declining health.

I told her about my feelings towards her, and the misdirected anger. I felt the need to apologize for my feelings that she would have never even known about if I hadn’t told her. She didn’t take it personally. She said a few things, and then she ended with and I may have saved your life.

And she’s right. But I still struggle with whether or not my life is even worth saving anymore.

 

31 Going on 70

I celebrated my birthday last week. My 31st.

In many ways, it was nice for me.

My friend at work brought in an ice cream cake for me the day before my birthday, and we all ate ice cream at 10 o’clock in the morning (because the morning is our afternoon). It really brightened my day, even though it was such a short amount of time, it meant a lot to be around people I care for, and that care for me.

When I went to my PHP program on Monday, one of the women gave me a bag of fancy dark chocolate caramels. Most of the people in program know me for two things: my love of dinosaur chicken nuggets and my affinity for chocolate. Since I stopped smoking a few weeks ago, I replaced my cigarettes with Hershey’s chocolates, willingly provided by the director of the program. It was so nice (and a little embarrassing) to be recognized for my chocolate addiction, and I was so surprised that someone would think to do that for me. My face must have lit up, because people commented that they had never seen me that happy before.

It’s the small things that really get me. It’s weird, because in some ways, I don’t want to be recognized, acknowledged, or even noticed on my birthday. But in other ways, I just wish I could enjoy a day that so many other people get to enjoy. I realize a lot of my issues are tied up in trauma. There’s also the fact that my friend died on my birthday 11 years ago, and it feels wrong to celebrate anything happy on the anniversary of his death.

But I made it through. I took it all in. I didn’t break down. I kept myself busy between program and work, and that was probably for the better. Silence and being unoccupied are usually what lead me down the black hole.

Then life happened. The birthday fun was over and I found myself sitting in the ER two days later in excruciating pain. My knee gave out and I fell. Hard. I just wanted to make sure nothing was broken, as I am the girl who broke her foot walking across the street. I thought I was making a wise decision going to the hospital that night. The doctor came to see me, asked me about my history, and sent me for x-rays. Nothing unexpected.

And then the doctor came in with an odd look on her face. I couldn’t tell if she was perplexed or concerned (or maybe both). She asked if I was sure I hadn’t been in pain before this. I told her no, but that answer wasn’t exactly the truth. How can I explain that I learned to block out pain? How can I explain that I learned to deal with pain in order to survive? How can I explain that I learned to believe that pain was my normal? I couldn’t. So I told her no, because the truth seemed too impossible to explain.

I’ve never seen this degree of damage in someone your age. You have severe arthritic damage to your knee. I’m referring you to a orthopedic specialist for more testing and treatment.

I…just went there because I fell. I didn’t break anything, so I guess that was good. It’s most likely a sprain, possibly a ligament issue, but the doctor wasn’t even concerned about that. She was concerned about the old damage. I’ve never seen this degree of damage in someone your age. Those words stuck with me, because they’re words I’ve heard before. I didn’t need to hear those words again. I didn’t want to hear those words ever again.

In all the ways I am trying to improve my mental health, my physical health is deteriorating. I was just starting to cope with the emphysema, another thing they don’t see “in someone your age.” It took an entire year to get to a point of really acknowledging it. I ended up in the hospital several times and it all became real. I was told in my last hospitalization that I had bronchiectasis (non-CF type), another form of COPD. As if emphysema wasn’t enough, they want to throw ANOTHER diagnosis at me. Blow after blow. 

I don’t want to go to any more doctors. I don’t want emphysema or bronchiectasis or a fucked up knee. I’ve had enough shit in my life already. It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. I was supposed to get out and get better, not become free and lose my health. I can’t handle any more diagnoses, any more problems, any more hospitalizations.

I’m not really sure what state I’m in. It isn’t shock, because really these are things I should already know. Is it grief? I don’t think so. I’m not sure I have the right to grieve. These things are my fault. If I didn’t smoke, if I went to the doctor more, if I didn’t block out the pain, maybe I wouldn’t be 31 years old with problems I should be having when I’m 70.

How am I supposed to feel? What am I supposed to do?

Shame sickness

I have been sick the last few days. Constant nausea. Throwing up. Pain in the pit of my stomach.

But it’s not the flu. It’s not a stomach virus. It’s fucking shame.

I knew it was coming. This wasn’t the first time this has happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

I had to make an appointment with a gynecologist earlier this week. I was actually supposed to make an appointment months ago. I had an issue back in July in which I was bleeding for longer than normal, and became so weak that I struggled just to hold my head up at times. I had to promise my therapist that I would make an appointment in the next couple months, but I (knowingly) kept putting it off. That is, until my therapist brought it up again. Then I had no choice.

There is a fear in going. I have never been to that kind of doctor before. I have never had anyone check that part of my body before. The thought  is terrifying in many ways.

But even more pronounced is the shame I feel in going. There is so much shit tied up in that part of my body, that I don’t even know where to begin to work through it all. I don’t even know how. I don’t even know if it’s possible.

I grew up believing that I was sick. That’s what she told me, that I was sick down there and that’s why she had to do what she did. And I believed her. Because I didn’t know any other way.

And as I grew older, that belief that I was sick only grew stronger. I was the only one of my peers who hadn’t started menstruating. I didn’t understand. I thought something was wrong with me. Years went by and I still wasn’t normal. The only way I could explain it was that my mother was right — I was sick down there. It was the only thing that made sense.

Any time I needed a physical, I would panic whenever the doctor wanted to check my private area. My mother, who was always in the room, would tell the doctor I was shy, and the doctor would leave me alone. But I wasn’t shy. I just didn’t want them to see the sickness I was hiding there.

When I was a teenager, I had to go to the hospital because I couldn’t breathe. I remember the nurse asking me when my last period was, and I hesitated. My mother was standing right there. I didn’t want her to know I was still sick. I didn’t want her to have to help me anymore. But before I could make up something, the nurse sensed my hesitation and assumed I was hiding something. I couldn’t tell them that I was just sick down there. Mommy says I’m just sick. I swallowed my shame, just as I had done so many times before.

Doctors wouldn’t understand. So I just learned to lie better. Any time a doctor or nurse would ask about my period, I’d tell them I started the week before. No further explanation needed. They didn’t have to see my sickness. They didn’t have to sense my shame. But I sensed it. Every time I had to lie, I remembered why I was lying in the first place: I am sick there. My mother was right.

In my 20s, I experienced random bleeding, but nothing that lasted more than a day — and never regular. I would have spotting one day and never again for another 6 months, sometimes even a year or two in between. Other women would talk about the pain and frustration with that time of the month, and I could never relate. When I told the women close to me my experience (or lack thereof), they acted as if I were lucky in some way. They were envious. But I was disgusted with myself. Don’t they see? The reason I am not like them is because I am sick. If I wasn’t sick, if I didn’t do bad things, if I wasn’t evil, I would be just like them, too. I wasn’t lucky at all. I was sick.

I’m not even sure I could adequately explain how I felt during all those years, never experiencing what society told me I needed to experience in order to be a woman. I had already felt inadequate. That only made it worse. I felt alone. I felt less than. Too old to be a girl, not enough to be a real woman. Who was I then? Not a child. Barely a human. Just a sick bundle of flesh, bones, and fat, held together by viscous shame.

Things have changed, but I still struggle with those thoughts. I know I’m not sick anymore. I got my first real period in August 2015, one month after I ran away. And I’ve been normal ever since. I know there could be reasons that have nothing to do with me being sick: malnourishment, eating disorder, stress (physical, emotional, and environmental). I know all of these things can and do affect your reproductive health. I know the sickness may very well have not been in me, but in my environment.

But on an emotional level, I still carry the shame as if I were still sick. Like I am somehow still less than a woman. Like they can still see the sickness somewhere in me. It’s why I struggle so much with going to this doctor. I’m scared she will see all of my sickness, all of my badness, all of the disgusting things I’ve done, still lingering there, inside my vagina.

But maybe the sickness was never inside me at all. Maybe my mother was wrong. Maybe she was the sick one. Not me.

The only sickness I have is shame, and I don’t want to suffer with it anymore.

It could be worse

I woke up this morning feeling the most neutral I had felt in days. I didn’t have to wake up early for work, so I slept in. I took my time getting dressed and ready for my therapy appointment in the afternoon. I wasn’t in a rush. I wasn’t feeling anxious. I wasn’t crying. I just was.

Until I found myself lying on the ground surrounded by strangers.

I don’t really know what happened. I got off the bus, just like I always do, and somehow ended up on the ground ten feet away. I didn’t realize that I fell until I saw the scrapes on the palms of my hands. Then I noticed the people. I didn’t see their faces, just their legs. And so many voices. Are you okay? Do you need help? What happened? They kept reaching out to help me, but I didn’t want their help. I wanted them to go away.

One of the bystanders was about to call an ambulance, but I shook my head no. That was enough motivation to get me out of my head well enough to get up off the ground (with the help of two or three people). I hobbled over to the bench and just sat there, trying to figure out what to do. My therapy appointment was in an hour. I couldn’t miss it. There was no way I could make it home to clean up and back in time for session.

So I sat on the bench and I tried not to cry. I tried not to feel. I told myself I was okay. I have to be strong. There is no time to be hurt.

After ten minutes or so, a man came by and asked to sit. I didn’t feel ready to get up. This man didn’t know anything, and I couldn’t tell him. So without saying a word, I got up and let him sit. I managed to walk across the street to the coffee shop, hoping to find a seat there, only to realize that school was out early, and the shop was overrun by teenagers. I propped myself up against the wall, unable to ask if someone would give up their chair. Within the span of minutes, I failed to assert my needs not only once, but twice.

I thought about how I was going to explain this to my therapist. I didn’t really know what happened. I just spaced out. Or tripped. Or got dizzy. I don’t know. I hadn’t eaten. I was afraid she would ask about that. I know I didn’t fall out of hunger. I’ve gone much longer without eating and I’ve been fine. I didn’t want that to come up as a possibility. I just wanted it to be a fall. Everyone falls. And I am fine.

I was so disconnected, I didn’t notice the blood on my shirt sleeve. My elbow was bleeding the whole time. This should be hurting. I should feel this hurting.

When I got to therapy, I stopped in the bathroom. I saw my knee, already swollen and bruising. I didn’t want to panic. I told myself it could be worse. I told myself that if I could walk on it, it must be fine.

Then all I could think about was what could go wrong. I thought about last year, when I fell in the street. How I dragged myself to the corner, got back up, and walked the rest of the way to the bus stop and went to work. I thought I was fine. Until I found out I had broken my foot. I spent the day walking on a broken foot like it was nothing. And that scares me.

I didn’t want to tell my therapist at all. I didn’t have enough time to process all of it. But I started to break down before I even stepped in to her office. I had to pull myself together. I told her I was okay. I’m always okay. I didn’t want her to see that I wasn’t. I didn’t even want to see that I wasn’t.

I cleaned myself up when I got home. I looked at my knee. More bruising. More swelling. But I couldn’t connect with the pain. Why can’t I always connect with pain? It’s easy when my emotions are activated. Then I feel everything. But when I am numb, I am numb to everything. I need some kind of in between.

How could I explain that to a doctor? They ask about levels of pain and I find myself struggling between what I actually feel in the moment and what I know it should be. Tell a doctor you’re not in pain, and you’re automatically dismissed. It’s one reason I try to avoid emergency situations. They cause me more anxiety than the injuries themselves.

Now I am sitting here rationalizing my avoidance. It could be worse. This is nothing. I don’t really have the time to be in pain. This will go away.

I know these rationalizations well. They are the same lines I’ve told myself since childhood, all stemming from the belief that I am unworthy of care, the belief my parents taught me. The man at the bench. The kids at the coffee shop. Everyone else on earth. They all matter more than me.

I know better than this. So why am I still living my life by their rules?