MY mother has bestowed upon me many advantageous lessons in the form of beatings, groundings, and neglect. "You need to learn to be okay with being alone," she would say as she left 6-year-old me home alone in the rodent and roach-infested quadplex that we shared.
As she would whip me with the various weapons she had at her disposal (read: arm's length), she would drill into my head her "lessons" that would reinforce what she believed: I am witless; I am filthy; I am worthless.
Obligatory solitary confinement, which was made for me to reflect on whatever rudimentary action or event created my circumstance always followed: Never confide in anyone again. Never let them see you cry again. Never show weakness again. Instead of inculpating my mother (which she would clobber me for), I would always find the blame within myself with minimal reasoning stemming from juvenile brainstorming. I deserve this because... I just do.
In my youth, my mother often dumped me on my father’s mother. Looking back, I realize the irony of the situation I had so frequently been in. My father’s mother spent more time with me than he ever did, by great margin. I had felt unloved and unwanted by both of my parents by then.
When I was with my grandmother, we would invariably attempt to reach my father over the phone, since he calls and communicates with her so often. But whenever the phone rang and I happened to be on the receiving end, he never answered. He also could find the time to visit his mother anytime I was not there. But when I was, he would seemingly fall off the face of the Earth. Did the universe think I was unworthy of his attention, too?
I was, in my mind, an anomaly.
Neither of my parents wanted me. One hated me for being burdened with me and the other ignored my existence altogether.
This didn’t happen in the movies I watched to escape from reality. In those movies (and books) the parents loved the child more than they loved themselves or each other.
They were married and they all lived happily in one home. There was a dog and a sibling for the child to play with.
Life was perfect.
For a long time, this placed an impossibly heavy weight on my shoulders, on my mind. Was it my fault that our lives weren't reminiscent of this stereotype? More importantly: If my own parents could not find any redeeming qualities in me, who would?
When I was returned to my mother for the beating to continue, I would think: is this why he left? Am I so bad that he doesn’t even want to talk to me?
I dedicated my energy to bettering myself, whatever that meant. I was on my best behavior at school, though it was never good enough for my mother, who found every reason to take her anger out on me.
I began to look forward to a time where I wouldn't have to depend on my parents so heavily. Depression turned to rage. If they didn’t want or need me, I wouldn't want or need them.
College became a means to get me from where I was to where I wanted to be. Ever since I discovered the idea of college, a place away from family, where independence was looked highly upon, I have been in love with it.
It was the perfect solution to the domestic problems I had faced. My mother would no longer be required to house me, and I could completely forget about my father, as he had done to me.
The result was the commencement of my meticulous search for a college that would nourish me during my stay and prepare me for my pursuit of higher education in the years that followed. After many hours dedicated to research, I had found my fantastic college line-up; all that was left was to wait for the time they could be my reality.
Now, when I think of this zenith-to-be, I am not only reminded of the deplorable conditions whereby it was forged, but the sanctuary it had once (and occasionally still) provided for me by me in my mind. It is in that I realize the proper strength and worth of myself I hope my parents had wanted all along.
During the wait for college, I found myself maturing from both age and experience. I grew distant from my mother. I became reluctant to attempt to contact my father until I ceased communication completely. When I tell my anecdotes to my friends, utter shock sprawls across their effaces but I lightly dismiss them because I have accepted the reality.
I understand that I wasn’t brought up in ideal conditions, but I will not let it define me. I will rise above my parents to be a better mother to my children and make a life for myself that isn’t filled with the misery I have left behind.
R. Jordan is a high school student in Washington, DC. She is the top prize winner of The Discovering Me…Without You Scholarship Essay Contest for 2022.