Love and relationships, Published on Medium

A Letter To My Dramatic Teenage Self

It was never your fault.

Image for post
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Dear Younger Jill,

First of all, your world is not coming to an end.

I know right now, you’re in bed, crying your eyes out and threatening your boyfriend with suicide if he decides to break things off with you.

I also know you can feel my eyes rolling, and the sense of being judged is overwhelming you. You’re thinking “it’s bad enough that other people judge me, now my 32 year old self is judging me too?”

No, I’m not. I’m here to tell you what your mother should have been there to tell you — it will get better and it’s no use crying over a boy like that.

You’re probably thinking “isn’t my mother your mother too?”

They’re the same person, but two very different individuals.

She’s not there with you now, and the only memories you have of her are the ones where she’s either in bed or stuck in front of the computer, and her constant yelling over your little wrong doings.

It seemed like nothing you did was ever good enough for her.

Even then, when she left two years ago, you convinced yourself that it was because of you, and that she didn’t love you.

I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. It was FOR you.

You miss her but you’re also angry at her. You refuse to speak to her when she calls and you refuse to speak about her to anyone. It will be that way for awhile, but you need to know why she did what she did.

She did not want to burden her teenage daughter with the turmoil of her depression, especially when you’re going through one of the most exciting part of your life.

You needed a stronger parent to guide and support you, and she knew your father would have been able to do that better without having to take care of her as well.

She was right.

It wasn’t fair for you or dad. But you had each other, and he made you the strong woman I am today.

She’ll come back into your life in a few years and it’ll take another few to mend the broken relationship. But you’ll be glad you gave her that opportunity.

That’s when she’ll start becoming my mother — the loving woman who supports and rallies for me and someone I can confide in.

My advice to you is to not take so long to forgive her. She’ll always be there for you, but you’ll be moving far away from her to start your own life and family.

Treasure the time you will have with her and let go of the anger you feel for her now. I know you think she should have tried talking to you, but you’ll realize you wouldn’t have understood what she was going through until much later.

This will be the biggest lesson in forgiveness for you.


Now back to that boy you’re crying over.

Wipe your tears and sit up because you need some tough love.

Stop being so dramatic.

You’re not going to kill yourself if he breaks up with you. You know it deep down that it’s not worth it. Don’t try to guilt him into staying with you just because he’s done the same to you. You’re not karma.

He is just the beginning of many more heartbreaks. This is your first real relationship and I still have no idea why our father allowed you to date at such a young age. But you’ll learn a lot from this and the other ones to come.

I know it’s hard to process all the different feelings you’re having. It probably feels like being on a never-ending rollercoaster.

Some days, it feels like he’ll be the one you marry. On other days, you have this nagging feeling that you deserve better.

YOU DO.

It wasn’t your fault he cheated on you. You were right to not have sex when you weren’t ready. You’re strong that way and you’ll just grow stronger.

He may seem like everything you’ve ever wanted, but let’s face it — you don’t really know what you want, and you certainly don’t know what you need yet.

He’ll take away your trust in people for awhile. He’ll give you the presumption that it is normal to feel insecure, jealous, and insignificant if you’re in relationship. How else would you show him you love him if you didn’t get jealous over every little thing?

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

You’ll learn that a loving relationship consists of mutual respect, genuine admiration, support for each other, and team work.

You’ll find yourself coming out stronger after each heartbreak. You’ll struggle with trust issues for while, especially in your next relationships. But you’ll come to realize that the right one for you will never give you a reason to not trust him.

Things always happen for a reason.

It feels horrible having to go through it and sometimes it feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You’ll just have to toughen up and try to find the silver lining in everything.

That’s how you’ll start looking at life and that is what will make you stronger.


If I could tell you to change one thing in your life right now, it would be to not let the negativity get to you.

You’ve always allowed other people’s opinion deter you from what you truly want to do. It is time to stop and listen to your heart and mind a little more.

Figure out what you really want to do, who are you now and who do you want to be, what do you want out of life, and how are you going to achieve all of that.

Don’t let people’s opinion steer you away from the path you want to build for yourself. Don’t be dwell in the toxic things people say about you.

You are not spoilt. You are not fat, and you are definitely not dumb.

You are a beautiful, intelligent young girl with a good head on her shoulders, with a little touch of color and drama.

You’ll prove all that to them one day, and even then it won’t be enough. But it wouldn’t matter anymore because you’ve outgrown it. You’ll come to realize that people can act any way they want. That is the judge of their character. How you respond to it is a judge of yours.

I promise that once you learn to love yourself, you will become the best version of yourself. Listen and trust yourself, and everything will fall into place.

With love,

Jill

Love and relationships, Published on Medium

Recovering from emotional abuse

How I found myself again…

Image for post
Photo by Michelle Bonkosky on Unsplash

I’d like to think that my relationship track record wasn’t too bad, but I can’t claim that it was ever good. I’ve had three long-term relationships throughout 15 years or so, where I was cheated on, emotionally blackmailed, and just generally made to feel horrible about myself.

The last relationship was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It left me feeling so self-conscious, insecure, and indifferent. For the longest time, I felt like 6 years were flushed down the drain along with any semblance of self-worth, and I berated myself for not breaking it off sooner.

It took me almost three years to find myself again. The damage was done and I knew it was going to be long climb back up. I started with the one thing I knew would have an immediate impact on how I looked at things.

I threw myself into my work.

I’ve always been an ambitious person. I once had a framed picture of the quote “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”. I was constantly aiming for promotions or ways to professionally develop myself. That all took a step back when my ex stomped on my goals by accusing my of trying to emasculate him. I felt guilty for prioritizing work instead of our relationship. I felt horrible that I was trying to earn more money and didn’t consider his feelings about it.

I was made to feel I had to slow down just so he could catch up. I spent most of my time feeling torn between being the “perfect girlfriend” and career woman.

It took some time to refocus my goals after the breakup, but I remember feeling that rush of excitement knowing I could focus on my work without feeling bad about it.

I decided what I wanted to achieve and I worked hard for it. I volunteered for projects, helped out in other departments, and enrolled in a mentoring program. I attended all the conferences and training I could handle, which distracted me from the bad days and made me feel productive. I celebrated the end of 2018 with a promotion and a couple awards.

I started working out.

My ex used to comment on how I looked — from my weight to the clothes I chose to wear. Now, I can appreciate constructive feedback on what might look good on me, but the two comments he made that stuck with me were “you dress like an old hag” and “who would want to have sex with an elephant”.

That sent my self-esteem into a downward spiral and it finally hit rock bottom when he cheated on me.

Since work was going well after the breakup, I decided to work on how I looked. I started working out religiously in the beginning and then slowing it down to a steadier pace. I started experimenting with different styles of makeup and clothes.

There’s a saying that if you look good on the outside, you’ll feel good on the inside, and that rang true for me. For the longest time, I didn’t realize how horrible I felt inside and it reflected how I looked on the outside. It was a vicious cycle. I knew I had to break it by looking good FOR ME.

I started spending time with myself.

Holidays, shopping sprees, spa days… you name it, I did it for myself. Work was going well by this time and I was lucky to have money of my own. Before this, all I did was work, cook, clean, eat, and sleep. I felt like I didn’t have the time or the want to spoil myself from time to time.

My very first splurge was a round trip to the UK to visit my relatives whom I’ve not seen for more than seven years. I went with my best friend and I spent my hard earned money on a huge plate of fun without a side serving of guilt.

I had dinners alone, sat a café for hours just reading a book, and a couple more hours at the park just looking up at the sky. I was finally at peace and genuinely happy with myself.

The end results?

I learned to be a little selfish about my time and effort and to love myself before I even begin to love anyone else. What once appeared to be just dull grey are now in vibrant colors, and it created a ripple effect in my life as a whole.

It healed my relationship with people, it made me work more productively, and it led me to meet a man who genuinely loves me for all that I am. I’m nowhere close to being the best version of myself, but he makes me want to continue doing better for me.

I realized other women have gone through much worst, and I consider myself fortunate to have gotten away. My only hope is that my experiences are relatable and provide a break in the clouds for some.

The road to recovery is never a short one. The one thing I’m sure of is that something was preparing me for the life I now lead.


Also published on Medium

Love and relationships, Published on Medium

I’ve always wanted to be the damsel in distress

image credits to Andalucia Andaluia

I have been a romantic for most of my life. I wanted to be the damsel in distress in hopes that one day my knight in shining armor would come rescue me, and we’d live happily ever after. I was 23 at the time and slightly delusional.

While I’ve not jumped from one relationship to another, looking back now, I realized I was trying too hard to be someone I wasn’t. I was chasing after a romanticized dream that could only be true in Hollywood movies and perhaps a handful of couples. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t really knew who I was back then.

Until my last breakup.

To be honest, that relationship started off with many red flags, but I stayed for six years because I thought it was as good it was going to get. I’ll admit — I got too comfortable. After the breakup, I took some time off to “find myself”. I went on a total of 4 dates in 3 years and spent the rest of the time on me; going on vacations by myself, working out, doing better at my job, and worked on being a more emotionally independent person. I realized during that time that I was doing the whole relationship thing wrong, and I was happy being on my own for a while.

Then I met my current husband who messed all that up — in a good way. He made me realize what a mutual loving relationship should be like. Not only did he want me the way I am, but he also made me want to do better.

He encouraged me to pursue freelance writing and believed in me whole-heartedly. He celebrated my first paid gig of only $4.00.

It has been a heck of a journey to be where we are today and growing with him has been an experience. I’m sharing my story and some learnings in hopes you’ll find this relatable and will share some of your stories too.

It’s all about playing to our strengths.

We hear so much about women complaining about their husbands being man-children and men complaining that their wives only nag at them. We’ve both been in relationships where we were the breadwinner and homemaker at the same time, and we knew that was not what we wanted anymore. During one of our “get to know each other” conversations, the topic of chores came up and we realized we didn’t mind the chores the other disliked. That set a precedent when we finally moved in together.

He would take care of the more physically demanding chores (lawn, garage, home improvements, gardening, cars, etc), while I would take care of the household chores (cleaning, cooking, laundry, dishes, etc).

Although it would seem to other people that we’ve regressed into a 60’s era relationship, it works for us. We didn’t let current social norms influence how we wanted our relationship to be and now we rarely argue about chores. He makes sure our lawn is in top condition while I sip iced tea on the porch, and I make sure he always has dinner and clean socks. He does the heavy lifting of dog food and dirt while I handle the household budget. While I’m all for equality and pride myself on being an independent, strong woman, it’s a relieve to have a man do the heavy lifting for you. Especially when the price for it is just a peck on the cheek and a cold beer.

Onto the next point, it is also about realizing what your partner does for you.

Our relationship began in long distance. That meant if the relationship were to go on, one of us would eventually have to make the big move and we made the decision that it would be me for many reasons. He had more roots where he was, I had the education and therefore better job prospects, and it would have been easier for me to pack my things since I was living in a small apartment at the time.

Although this was agreed on and we were excited to finally be living together, he realized it wasn’t going to be easy for me to uproot my life. I had a great job, family and friends where I lived and I was willing to be away from all that just to be with him.

I was not able to legally work after I made the move and it made me feel horrible. I was depressed a lot and felt like I was a burden as I had to depend on him. That’s when he stepped up. Not only did he take extra hours at work, but he made sure to give me the attention and loving I needed to overcome it. He encouraged me to do something I love — writing. I’ve always written well for corporate, but never for myself for fear of failing and criticism. His exact response to that was “if it fails, oh well. But what if it doesn’t and you’re finally doing something you love?”.

Realizing what your partner does for you takes most of the frustration away. It doesn’t even have to be a big gesture of love. The simplest things like watching my favorite movie (even though he hates it) or making a cup of coffee for him every morning says something about how we feel for each other. We do these things because we know it makes the other feel loved. It shouldn’t be because it is expected of us.

Has he left a wet towel on a chair instead of tossing it into the laundry basket that’s right next to it? Of course he has! But I also know it was because he was rushing to get dressed for work. I’ve forgotten to do the laundry when he doesn’t have enough socks to wear but he doesn’t get on me for it because he knows I was distracted that day with other chores. Some things may seem important or just common sense to us but it doesn’t mean it’s the same for the other person.

It is also about understanding that we will both have bad days.

This is a biggie for us. We’re both hot tempered in a different way and can be moody just by waking up on the wrong side of the bed. We’ve had arguments purely because we were mad at ourselves and not at each other. But they always end with the both of us walking away for a little space and time, and coming back to one another once we’ve calmed down to talk about it.

I’ve always been the one to not apologize. I realized it was because the men I used to date would refuse to apologize for anything. The first time he apologized, I was caught off guard. I could see it was difficult for him, but he wanted us to be right more than he needed to be. After that, I found myself apologizing for my mistakes too! Because it was more important for us to be right with each other than for one of us to claim victory over a fight.

I’m prepared to admit I’ve had more bad days than he did, and I probably will in the future. But it doesn’t seem that daunting anymore because I now know he will be there for me through thick and thin. The least I can do is not treat it like a chore when he’s having a bad day.

How do we know when the other is having a bad day? We communicate.

Every relationship article stresses that communication is key to a successful relationship, but they don’t specify the metrics of a successful relationship, nor do they specify the type of communication. I was never able to fully express myself in my past relationships and have had to hide a part of myself just to make things work.

We had two things going for us — we were forced to talk because we were in a long-distance relationship, and he loved to talk. I remember marveling at how many hours we’ve spent on the phone talking about everything and anything — from how our future kids would look like to our favorite foods to our sexual desires. We were put in a situation that if we didn’t get to know each other thoroughly, it wouldn’t have worked out between us. Because of that, we’ve unconsciously built a solid foundation based on honest, judgment-free communication. That is ultimately what you need in a healthy relationship. Do we disagree when we don’t like what we’re hearing? Of course, we do! But we’ve never judged or held a grudge over each other for it because guess what… it’s ok when you agree to disagree. It doesn’t change how we feel or who we are.

All this has made us a better team.

We’ve gone through every hurdle life has thrown at us just to be together. Not once did we make the other go through it alone. There were times we felt alone but the other one was always there listening, giving little words of encouragement and assurance. It truly feels like it’s us against the world; that we can take on any challenges so long as we do it together.

I found my knight after I stopped being a damsel in distress. Because no one should feel like they have to constantly rescue their partner.


Also published on Medium