I sat in shock, the words registering fully and yet still beyond belief.
“I think it’s time for you to move out.”
No questions asked, no attempts to mediate the situation. Simply pain and anger transmitted over hundreds of miles through the phone. My father had just kicked me out.
I cannot write about this without difficulty. The truth is that I am still grieving what happened that day and during the rest of the summer in a deep painful way. I am sharing my heartache with all of you. Please don’t take this lightly.
Only days before my father made this choice, I had no clue that anything of that kind was going to happen. I was enjoying the long-anticipated visit of my best friend, who made her second annual trip to our home in June. I had a wonderful time with her, visiting a local zoo and spending hours just talking.
One night, she was working on her computer as I finished my homework from my summer class. Upon inquiry, she informed me that she was signing up for a Christian online dating site. I was intrigued. That sounded interesting!
A few hours later, I had my trial account set up and was happily considering whether or not to purchase the membership. Of course, I wasn’t sure what my parents would think, but I went ahead with my plans.
A few days later, following my friend’s departure, I began to have a serious guilt-trip about not telling my parents about the dating site. I reasoned, according to the culture in which I grew up, that I was not being honest and that I owed them the information.
I told my mom on the way to a doctor’s appointment. Encouraged by her rather silent but at least not openly negative reaction, I decided to break the news to my father shortly thereafter.
The rest is history.
It wasn’t just that I signed up for the dating site. I told him that I wanted to do casual dating. In other words, I would date without first practically committing to marry my date, and I wouldn’t be asking my father’s permission. He couldn’t handle those ideas.
So he kicked me out. He didn’t even bother to make sure I had a place to go. In his bitterness over this newfound loss of control, he suggested that the friends whom I had consulted in making my decision might be willing to take me in.
I immediately called my sister. The rest of that day was Hell. I lived through my parents’ trying to frame the decision as my own. After all, they merely extended me an ultimatum (I could either agree to allow my father to be involved in my dating process or I could leave). I was the one who made the choice…in their minds.
So I left. My sister came and picked me and a good deal of my belongings up that night, and she whisked me away to her place to cry and worry and feel the sickening hurt and loss of losing the people I love most in all of existence. We picked up the rest of my belongings that weekend, and I left my family’s house, not to enter it again until who knows when.
I am not going to share all the details of the summer that followed, for various reasons. Suffice it to say that I went through agony. I don’t say that dramatically or without serious thought. My pain over the loss of my family has been deep and lasting. My parents forbade my younger siblings’ communication with me for a time (that ban has since been lifted). They also managed to keep in just enough contact with me to cause me additional frustration and alarm, as they pressured me to shut down the bank account which my mother had cosigned for and encouraged me to find an alternate health insurance.
Oddly, my professor was more understanding of my situation than my parents, and, with his help, I was able to finish my summer class with flying colors. I cannot tell you how many days I alternated tears with reading assignments or found myself unable to work at all. Somehow, that class got completed.
In the meantime, a second and happier narrative was building in my life. I will share more about the wonderful circumstances which led to my current situation in the next post. Feel free to share your thoughts on this latest portion of my story. Join in the conversation.
“What are you going to do with all of the space that will open up in your mind as you heal?”
That question turned my life upside down. I laugh now, as I recall the way I first responded to the challenge. The day after my counselor posed that question in our first session, I decided, after a grand total of ten minutes of rather obsessive consideration, that it was time for me to return to school. I was not sure exactly what I wanted to study, but I felt sure that I wanted to work with people. To be properly equipped, I was going to need an education. Within a day or two, I had started calling universities.
Despite its rather impulsive nature, that decision proved to be one of the best I’ve ever made. I believe that some of the rapidity with which I fixed my path into the future was merely the reflection of my growing self-knowledge which had been forming for over a year of healing.
Over the next few months, I grew more and more certain of my desire to pursue an education. Within a few weeks of deciding to return to school, I chose counseling as my field of interest. I began voraciously scouring the Internet, using my iPhone, for information on a higher education in psychology and counseling. This effort was more significant than you may realize, since iPhones are not designed yet to provide all of the accessible conveniences that a computer screen-reading program affords to people with visual impairments.
At the same time that I was running full speed towards my future, I had to relive much of the past. My psychologist helped me identify the fact that I had skipped much of a normal growing-up experience, due to having a disability and a mental illness. I began to rush headlong through this delayed experience, much to my embarrassment on many occasions.
I can laugh, now, but some of my recent growing up has been frankly mortifying. Most people get to experience their first real crush, be socially awkward, and learn how to make better decisions by making rather not-so-good ones as teenagers. I have gotten to live through those experiences as a fully grown woman. I can personally testify to the fact that people are somewhat less understanding of these phenomena in an adult than in a teenager.
Meanwhile, my parents watched my “adolescence” in growing alarm. They were very supportive of my desire to return to school, but, when I announced that I wanted to find my own church, they were less enthused. I am puzzled to this day as to how they managed to verbally accept my decision as okay and yet make every aspect of that decision wrong or a battle in some way.
I started changing my ideas and thoughts secretly. I knew that my parents would not approve of the new-found freedom I was gaining inside my mind or of the mounting criticisms I entertained towards their treatment of my siblings and me. My father openly advocated the idea that independence was not an ideal state, for instance. My mother was more initially supportive of my process of finding myself, but she later felt that I had gone too far.
Meantime, I registered for a summer philosophy class at my local community college and enrolled at a Christian university for the fall. Little did I realize how dramatically my life was about to change in the next couple of months.
I will continue my story in my next post. How many of you were already familiar with the idea of a “delayed adolescence?” I’d be curious to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic. Join in the conversation.