IN Science class, I've learned about natural selection and how it causes animals to adapt and evolve to their environment using inherited traits from their parents. Sharp teeth for biting, long claws for digging and ripping, camouflages for hiding, or even fins and gills for breathing underwater. When my mom and dad split up, I felt like I was a fish out of the water, out of my element, out of air. Out of luck. But after some time to heal and some belief that I’ll overcome, I began to realize I was more like a camel holding water, using it to make long journeys across deserts, the long dry periods without my dad in my life. But quite like the camel, I am resilient. Instead of beating myself up and comparing myself to other girls with dads, I got stronger.
About four years ago, my mom and dad split up. My dad almost instantly stopped supporting me and eventually stopped speaking to me.
The last thing I remember him randomly saying was that he and his new girlfriend were having a baby. I felt everything moved too fast, I felt broken, unheard, and unloved. I felt replaced and shut out.
During the times that we met up after he and my mom split up, he didn't put any effort into meeting me. When I was hanging out with him everything seemed forced and rushed like he didn't want to come. And that's when I sort of lost hope of building the relationship back up with him again.
To top it off, I felt an extra burden when asking my mom to buy things I wanted or needed because she worked so hard to pay for everything. When I restarted life without my dad it was pretty stressful. I was full of anxiety, and I could barely keep my tears from running while at school (especially when I saw all of the other dads being there for my classmates). I was embarrassed.
In my opinion, the best gift a mom can give her daughter is life. The best gift a dad can give his daughter is love. Not receiving that love made me feel like I wasn't worth it or like I wasn't important enough to receive what should come naturally to a father. And if my father couldn't love me, then who would?
The pain that came from these questions I couldn't help from asking myself tore me apart. It tore through my self-esteem and caused me to constantly look down at myself. It got so bad that even easy tasks seemed difficult and difficult tasks seemed nearly impossible to do.
I even started to think I deserved less than those with fathers and started allowing others to go before me and reap benefits that I should've got for myself. I started speaking my mind less and saying yes to everyone, for fear that they would leave me if I said no. I started changing how I showed up for myself in the world and not for the better.
Not having a dad around definitely has its disadvantages, but I learned to adapt and to use my tragedies to fuel me to fill those empty gaps with self-discovery, hobbies, and good people.
I filled those dark, empty, cold spaces with laughs and love from other friends and family members, travel adventures, and achievements. I got my grades up to honors, traveled to foreign countries and started blogging, learned how to play the viola in my school’s orchestra, discovered the realm of digital art and jewelry making, and made the most of what I had left with my mom.
I’m even considering joining a teen group with the United Nations and auditioning for Duke Ellington School of the Arts! I have the confidence to take on big goals and big dreams, and I believe I will still make it even without my dad around.
It took me a few years to heal, but I'm great now. Life started making a little more sense. My mom landed a really good job and things are much less tight.
These days I'm not as emotional when I think of my dad not being present, and I don’t place my value on what my dad didn't provide. Instead, I place my value on my ability to adapt and make positive changes for myself, my family, and my community. I find value in the future, not in broken pasts.
R. Badua is a middle school student in the DMV and is the winner of the Discovering Me…Scholarship Contest in her tier.