At the Foot of the Mountain

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| This is the 344th story of Our Life Logs |


I grew up on a small Caribbean Island in the 1990s where I loved to play sports and solve math problems. I always looked up to my dad who was a successful accountant and I dreamed of following in his footsteps. Though, as I began my journey to high school, I found myself straying from the path I’d planned to follow. I couldn’t focus in school and started flunking my classes. Then, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd, which is where I met Sammy.

I had dated a few guys in high school but always felt like they weren’t what I was searching for. Then, I developed romantic feelings for one of my new friends, a girl named Sammy. I had never had feelings towards the same sex before, and I was still attracted to men, but with Sammy…I felt right. In the secret moments we had together, she was gentle and kind. She gave me the confidence to share the pieces of myself that I had never shared before. I was in love.

However, my classmates didn’t think I was meant to feel this way. In my country, having feelings for the same sex was frowned upon and would get you banished or even killed. Most people would rather leave an LGBTQ person on the streets and refuse affiliation with them than ever accept who they are. My classmates called me disgusting and alienated me from certain female students. They would gossip about me and laugh at my expense. Once, I overheard a girl whisper that I didn’t deserve to live.

What’s worse is that I had no one in my corner. Even Sammy, the girl I felt an emotional connection with, turned out to be a bully too. In front of our classmates, she blamed me, saying that I was the one who flirted with her, that I had tried to coerce her into doing horrible things.

I knew this wasn’t true, as I had witnessed Sammy’s affection towards me, but I didn’t know how to say it. And, honestly, a part of me believed them.

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When rumors about me became more explicit, the teachers determined to set me straight. They told me that I was a disappointment and deserved nothing good in life. As punishment, I was ordered to clean the offices and stack the books in the library.

Still, I was segregated to “protect the other students,” and I eventually became a loner. Everyone blamed me for “corrupting” Sammy to the point that the school called my parents about the circulating rumors. Therapy was suggested. My parents were ashamed and wanted to send me away.

These problems at school changed how my parents treated me. Nothing I did became good enough. I was forced to do all the house chores, even the ones assigned to my siblings. I was unable to retaliate because then I would be told I need psychiatric or religious help.

I felt like I had hit rock bottom with no way of seeing the blue in the sky ever again. I had no support and every day just felt like my body aimlessly floating through the hoops of my life with nothing to ground me.

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After graduating from high school, I felt like the suffocating was finally over. I started university, fulfilling my accounting dream, and became best friends with a girl named Dani. We became friends in September and by the beginning of November, I was falling for her. Her wittiness, intelligence, and love for animals were just the tip of the iceberg of the many alluring qualities that I fell for. Her kindness and love for other people was a beam of light that came powering through her.

I almost told Dani that I loved her in 2011, but I couldn’t get the words out. I panicked. I had been shamed before, and I expected to be shamed again. I believed others when they said that I was a bad person and I couldn’t bear to drag Dani into my darkness. Looking back on everything now…I wasn’t solving anything. Instead of letting myself be loved by a beautiful person, I wrestled with the lies I had come to believe.

I ended up meeting a new girl and tried to forget about Dani. We were together for a year, but it ended badly. During that year, Dani always seemed angry with me and I couldn’t figure out why. Then, she confessed that she had feelings for me, and it all made sense. Unfortunately, when she told me, I was beyond wrecked and in a habit of drinking heavily every day.

I kept insisting that she should date other people because I knew I could never be enough for her. I pushed her away. I would tell her to leave me alone and ignore her calls unless I needed something. I took advantage of her wonderful nature because I thought it would be easier if she hated me.

Yet, down deep in my heart, I still loved her, and sometimes, those feelings were hard to hide. One night in March of 2013 when I was drunk, but not drunk enough for my feelings for her to be numbed, I kissed her. It was our first kiss. It was the cruelest thing I ever did to her. I knew she loved me and I knew I was bad for her in every way, but I selfishly wanted her. A few weeks after we kissed, I told her that I didn’t love her and I never would. The day I said that was the worst day of my life. I remember doing drugs after and getting extremely intoxicated that I still cannot remember what happened to the rest of that night, but I know I went home alone.

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As I distanced myself from Dani and all my other friends, I continued partying and fell into a relationship with my friend Richard for the next few years of university. I felt a connection with him because we could hold intelligent conversations that made me feel challenged and important. Then, with two semesters left in 2016, I was given unexpected news. I was pregnant.

Richard disappeared after just two weeks, leaving me to feel more alone than ever before. I reached out to Dani who burst into tears when I told her about the pregnancy and that I had almost married someone else. She could barely look or speak to me, and I couldn’t blame her. I had come back into her life with nothing but bad news. She said she still loved me, but I was in no shape to return that love. Though we settled on being friends, I couldn’t handle being so close to her, so I pushed her away again.

We stopped talking for years. I almost called her but every time I picked up the phone, my hands would start shaking and my anxiety would blur my vision. And so, I raised my daughter without her father or my true love, Dani, in my life.

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It took me about three years, but finally, I got my life in order. I had a new job, I wasn’t depressed anymore, and I was working towards getting my own place. Feeling stronger and happier, I called Dani and we met for dinner to catch up.

It took a couple of beers, but I finally told her how I felt. I did the whole grand gesture thing in a restaurant. I got the restaurant to play her favorite song and bring out a cake that said, “I love you” and heart-shaped balloons. When she didn’t respond, I knew I was too late. I’d hurt her too many times, of course. I was crushed.

I couldn’t take the pain and relapsed into my depression. I tried to end my life by taking a handful of pills. However, I was too great at failing (thankfully) and didn’t succeed. Almost dying was the wake-up call that I needed to change my coping mechanisms. I had a daughter to care for now. I needed to let Dani go. I needed to hold on to what was left of my heart.

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Dani eventually moved on to a new relationship, and I’ve decided that I won’t come between her happiness. Maybe if fate exists, our souls will dance with each other once again in the years to come, but I have learned to keep that thought in an open hand. Hope can be the most riveting or dangerous thing in a person’s life.

My journey has seen more downs than ups, but I’m working on creating my own way to the top of the mountain through moments with my daughter. With her in my life, I have hope. So many times in my life, I let my self-hate get in the way of love, but I will not let it get in the way again. Maybe I’m at the foot of the mountain, but at least I am now strong enough to start climbing.

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This is the story of Sharia Richards

Today, Sharia is in and out of jobs but working towards her goal of owning a home. Growing up in a homophobic environment led to a lot of self-loathing for Sharia in her adulthood, which eventually led to her to lose the love of her life. Although she’s lost her, Sharia is making peace with the reality of that and looking for ways to find happiness through her daughter and new life. Sharia’s daughter is almost three years old and has started preschool. Sharia wishes the best for Dani and hopes she’s happy. She hopes her friendship can be rekindled with Dani someday. Only time will tell and only time will heal. Whatever happens from here on out, she knows that it was meant to be that way. Since Richard (her daughter’s father) left, she hasn’t heard from him and decided that she wouldn’t let him near her daughter if he tried. She doesn’t want her to be hurt by him. She has become a stronger person and matured greatly with understanding and accepting things she cannot control.

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This story first touched our hearts on May 19, 2019.

| Writer: Sharia Richards; Kristen Petronio | Editor: Colleen Walker |

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