Now I Know

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| This is the 129th story of Our Life Logs |


Life has a funny way of teaching us lessons, right?

For me, it seems like every time I say, “I won’t do this” or “I won’t become that,” I end up in the exact situation I never thought I would be in. While I’m not here to teach an ethics class, I want to share my own story of how life has taught me that we aren’t immune to the very same situations we may have once frowned upon.

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I’m an early 90s baby, born in a small close-knit community in Northern Pennsylvania. I had what most people would consider the typical millennial Caucasian-American childhood. My parents were conservative, devout Catholics. My family, in particular, had very close-minded views, and I followed suit. While I was never an outspoken “bully,” I often judged people behind their backs.

I truly believed that dating outside of your own race was against God’s intentions, women who got abortions were damned to hell, depression was not a real thing, and there was no excuse for being overweight; I surely knew I would never be in any of these situations.

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It all started when I was 10. I had moved from a small Catholic school to a public school after my parents decided to go against the Bible’s teachings and get a divorce. It seemed like my world had turned upside down. My parents were living separately (I was with my mom), and I was struggling try to fit in with my peers. I wasn’t accustomed to classrooms so large, I was shy, and of course, I didn’t know anyone.

Not much had changed by the time I was a freshman in high school. I still didn’t have many friends and although puberty treated me well, I still struggled to interact with boys. While all my friends had dates for the dances, I was always left out. However, it was about this time when Facebook was becoming all the rage. One day I had received a friend request from a handsome, African-American boy at a neighboring school and we quickly started messaging.

It was exciting to talk to him since we didn’t have much diversity at our school. I loved his exotic look. We had a lot in common and he was fun to talk to. After a while of online messaging we thought it would be great to meet up. I had to ask my brother for a ride because my parents would never approve of me hanging out with a boy, let alone anyone that wasn’t Caucasian.

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The local summer carnival was in town, it was the perfect excuse to go out and meet him. We had an absolute blast! At the end of the night, he surprised me by asking me if he could be my boyfriend. I was so flattered—he was the first person ever to ask me out and not only did I enjoy his company, I thought he was such a hunk! He was the perfect catch, so I happily accepted.

Unfortunately, the relationship was short lived. When I told my mother who I had begun dating, she didn’t talk to me for a week. I knew that my parents had been brainwashed by an old-fashioned society where interracial relationships were frowned upon, but I felt outraged. Unlike them, I took a chance and opened up my heart to someone I never thought I would. But while I mourned my relationship, regret began to creep into my thoughts. I used to be just like my parents.

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Fast forward a couple years to when I was 17, I met another boy through mutual friends, and we started dating. My parents approved of this relationship, at least more than the last one. Like us, he was Caucasian, came from a middle-class family, and was from a small town. From what they could see, he passed their judgement.

We had a very rough relationship full of many fights and disagreements. About six months into dating, we got into a really bad argument after he saw me texting an old guy friend to catch up. He never let me talk to anyone he didn’t know or approve of, so we got into a fight. I had asked him to leave my house. Instead of leaving, he lost his temper and physically assaulted me. Thankfully, my mother heard our fighting and called the police. She pressed charges and requested a PFA (protection from abuse) on my behalf. I was very upset by my mother’s decision, but I had no say in the matter since I was a minor. I was torn between leaving him and thinking I couldn’t live without him.

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A few days later my ex-boyfriend contacted me via a friend’s phone and asked to meet for a proper “goodbye.” I was naïve and looking for love in all the wrong places, so I snuck out that night to meet up with him. He told me that he wanted to make it up to me, insisting that he would change. Then he said something shocking that for some reason made sense to me at the time. He said if I wanted to be with him, the only way was to have his children.

A month later, I found out I was pregnant. I would still be 17 by the time I delivered the child, which was scary to face. How would I finish school? But the bigger concern was that my boyfriend could be arrested for breaking the PFA. It was a difficult situation and I had mixed emotions about it.

I thought maybe he would love me again if I had his child, but I was wrong. He changed his tune when I told him I was pregnant. All of a sudden, the “only way to be together” was now a threat to his freedom. He made his decision; I needed to get rid of it. In the nights after, I lay awake thinking about how I was always an outspoken prolife activist, despising the women who got abortions. I told myself I would never be able to “kill a baby.” Yet here I was, considering doing the very thing I condemned. It made me look at my life and society and see how wrong I’d been to judge them.

It was a tough decision, and it went against everything I had always stood for, but I finally decided I couldn’t bring an innocent child into such a broken family, one where the father was abusive, and the mother was still a teenager. Sure, I could have gone with adoption, but I learned that wouldn’t be a good option either, given my situation. I found out from a routine urine analysis that I had a rare type of bacteria in my system that was likely to cause pregnancy complications, I didn’t feel like my body was even healthy enough to continue with the pregnancy.

Eventually, time healed my broken heart and I forgave myself for the abortion. I knew I’d done the right thing. I was too young and inexperienced to have a child. I now understood why myself and many other women made the difficult choice of giving up a child. Every situation is different. I couldn’t condemn anyone else because I’d be in turn condemning myself.

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Although I was able to forgive my irresponsible actions, I still suffered from depression– a disease I never thought was even real.

I vividly remember being in my early teens and seeing advertisements on television for depression medication. My brother and I would laugh about how depression was a made-up disease for people without anything better to keep their mind occupied. Like many other times, it seemed that life wanted to teach me a lesson. After the abortion, I went to the doctor and was prescribed those very same medications I had made fun of—and guess what, they helped a lot.

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But, when it rains it pours, right?

The medication was working fantastically to boost my mood and get me out of the funk I was in, but a side effect I experienced was weight gain. I was always a thin woman, around 100lbs. After six months of taking the antidepressant, I had gained 50lbs. While I didn’t consider myself “fat,” I certainly was at the top of the recommended BMI for my height, something I was not used to.

Prior to the weight increase, I had always scoffed at plus-sized modeling and all those “love your body” posts on social media. I thought it was just an excuse people used to continue living an unhealthy lifestyle. Once again, life threw me a curveball to humble me. I quickly realized that body positivity isn’t just some poor lifestyle excuse—it’s about raising awareness that not everyone is built with the same metabolism. Some people also don’t have the budget or knowledge to eat healthy and exercise, or in my case, the weight gain was medically induced. I went from laughing at those plus-size modeling posts to becoming an advocate for loving yourself no matter what shape or size you are.

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To date, I have stopped taking the medications and have been able to lose a lot of the weight by attending a local yoga class and routine exercising. Additionally, I have stepped away from Catholicism. I have instead adopted the practice of believing in karma. Even though I’m only 24, I get told often that I have an old soul, which I attribute to my experiences (what I believe is karma) throughout the years. I have learned to channel negative energy into productivity by meditating.

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I truly believe having opinions about other’s actions is just a part of life for many of us. Even when we don’t realize it, we judge the overdosing junkie or the homeless man begging for change. Why is it so hard for us to understand the struggles that other people go through? I’m now at a point in my life where I try to be the most understanding, humble person that I can be—because judging people has never worked in my favor.

Section Break

This is the story of Kari

Kari was born and raised in a small Pennsylvanian town. She lives in a small home with her amazing boyfriend and their two fur-babies. Kari had a very close-knit family and was subjected to a very organic Catholic lifestyle. Although she was brought up religious, she now considers herself agnostic with a firm belief that what goes around comes around, and in this story, you can see why she feels that way. While she still maintains a relationship with her parents, she has since moved several states away and is happier than ever now that she feels she can be herself without their judgment. She is finally in a relationship with a man who is supportive and open minded, in her words he’s “everything she needs.” Kari has accepted her past and dedicates her present to living in the moment with an overall focus on a kinder, more positive and open-minded future.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on August 1, 2018.

| Writer: Cassandra Douglas | Editors: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker |

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