I used to spend a lot of time looking back at my past, wondering why things happened the way they did; why things didn’t work out the way they were supposed to; and wondering what in the world I was thinking! As I approach my late twenties, I’ve become so much more self-aware of my idiosyncrasies and which experiences from my past have influenced their development. As I build a bright future, I find myself making peace between my past and current self. I am who I am. I’ve done what I’ve done. And there’s no denying or changing that. As my best friend always says: “People don’t change, they just improve.”
I think this type of self-acceptance is exactly why I, along with so many gays, love Lady Gaga. Whether it’s for mass marketing, image perception, or for a sincere desire to change the world with her message of “Born This Way,” Gaga has long since been a musical idol and inspiration to my life. So how perfectly fitting for my fiancé to propose back to me at last week’s ArtRave in Atlantic City, during the encore performance of “Gypsy.”
Thought that I would be alone forever, but I won’t be tonight
I’m a [wo]man without a home but I think with you I could spend my life
And you’ll be my little Gypsy Princess
Pack your bags and we can chase the sunset
Bust the rearview and fire up the jets ‘cus it’s you and me…For life
It was the perfect proposal from the perfect girl, and it moved me to tears. For so long, I have been a vagabond on the road to love, looking for a person with whom I could make a home.
The bitter words of a previous love rang through my head for so many years after: I would never find anyone to love me. I was told, over and over again, that I would never find anyone to accept me the way I am. And I believed it.
A surreptitious glimpse into my past reveals a series of mentally and physically abusive relationships with people who sought nothing more but to mold me into their own fantasy, as so many of us do with our partners. But why did I stay so long? When a college boyfriend broke up with me because he was “tired of looking at billboards and models in magazines and wishing his girlfriend looked like those women,” instead of leaving, I lost weight..and went back. When my first girlfriend hit me in the head with an iPhone, I took her back the very next day. When I found a cheating text 18 days into a relationship, I stayed for two years after. Where was my strength, my sense, and my self-preservation? Why is it that so many of us get stuck in abusive relationships? What are we missing?
Research has shown that the majority of gay and lesbian families are as happy, healthy, and well functioning as that of straight families. Similarly, domestic violence in same-sex families occurs at comparable rates to straights. And women, regardless of sexuality, will always be susceptible to mental and physical abuse. From the time I was 17 until the time I was 26, I was one of those women. The cycle of physical, emotional, and psychological mistreatment left me in a state of fear. I was so scared to be alone. So I clung, time after time, until the very end.
I don’t know if it was time, or maturity, or just having the right support structures in place, but I have since broken the hold of abuse in my life. We all joke, “Why am I so attracted to the crazy ones?” For some of us, there is an answer, and it lies in making amends with our past, determining our future, and sometimes seeking outside resources to help guide us in making healthy decisions in your present.
Until recently, I battled with a majority of my past decisions. There will always be people with whom I could reconcile; there will always be things I’ve done that I wish I could have done differently. But at the end of the day, I have learned to love my gypsy life. I appreciate and accept my poor decisions, my unstable upbringing, and all of the hurt and pain I’ve experienced along the way. Because it brought me here, to this beautiful place, where I can breathe. And begin rebuilding.
Instead of looking back and asking myself why, I look forward, knowing and appreciating how.