“Your 20’s are your ‘selfish’ years. It’s a decade to immerse yourself in every single thing possible. Be selfish with your time, and all the aspects of you. Tinker with shit, travel, explore, love a lot, love a little, and never touch the ground.” – Kyoko Escamilla
I grew up watching the women in my family pour every inch of themselves into others. My grandmother would always be on her feet at family gatherings. From the early morning to late in the night, she’d make her rounds from the kitchen to the living room, to the porch. She’d ensure that everyone was comfortable enough to have a good time.
Like many women, her dedication to her family didn’t start or end with family dinners. Her sacrifices spanned a lifetime. I never learned how much of her own dreams she gave up to make everyone else comfortable. Yet I’m blessed to have seen the aftermath of such large sacrifices in my own mother’s life.
When I was a child, every year that passed seemed to allow my mother to reveal another layer of her life.
My mother’s marriage to my father had her emotions brimming over the edge of silence. Her grief would seep out over the kitchen table or afternoon trips to the park. Once I became a teenager I was privy to some of her biggest fears. The root of those fears came from her decision to place my father and her children before her own needs and wants.
She spent her twenties surviving and dating a man who knew how to make his life comfortable. The men in my life seemed to be either natural or educated on how to be selfish. While the women’s teachings highlighted the art of sacrifice.
Once married, my mother moved two states over to live in the hot wasteland also known as Florida. She knew no one except my father and his family — an unwelcoming group who viewed non-blood relatives like passersby. In the span of nine years, she bore four children.
Loneliness was like the grim reaper, always waiting for a decent opportunity. When us kids could finally speak and respond in thoughtful ways she felt brave enough to be candid. She’d express sadness about my father not having an interest in developing his relationship with her or us kids. And she felt lost with the realization she still didn’t know what her calling was in life. It hurt her that my father could still choose his career goals while she was routinely expected to choose us.
The biggest questions that came out of my conversations with her was: Is it possible to decide to be selfish and also be there for people who depend on you to support them? Morally, are you in the wrong?
Her fears and inner dilemmas passed down to me.
The effects of intergenerational trauma are unique for every family. But, as women, effects are often parallel. As pieces of my mother were replaced with pieces of us I’ve felt obligated to figure out how to give back. If not to her directly then to the universe. In some ways, I feel as though I own a debt. And the only way I can pay my debt is through the currency I received it: time. Time is payment I see many women give as they move through their lives as wives and mothers.
My desire to become wholly selfless for my future family isn’t intuitive. A huge chunk of it’s fueled with guilt and conditioning. Why should I live for myself if my mother, and her mother, and her mother’s mother lived so that I could be in comfort?
It’s a neverending cycle that could stop with me making a choice to not take part in always sacrificing my wants.
What would breaking my family’s cycle look like? First, it would be choosing to have money of my own. As I get more serious with my boyfriend it’s vital for me to have my own pocket of savings stashed away. I call it my “in case this goes South” fund. I know, not at all romantic. But if I learned anything from my obsession with the romance genre, life’s not like how things are on the page. And women should always understand no one can look out for their financial future/freedom like they themselves can.
Asking myself where I want to live is another way to break away from selflessness. The women in my family shouldn’t have been indefinitely tied to the jobs their partners decided to take. Of course, there’s some give and take in relationships when opportunity knocks. But, over the course of decades, one person’s career journey shouldn’t continue to eclipse the other. One person shouldn’t have a monopoly on dreams.
Truthfully, I’m still naive about this part of life. I have yet to start my marriage journey. Still, I can’t shake the discomfort that comes with imagining a life of me always standing on the sidelines while my partner is making moves.
According to the quote above, I have six more years of selfishness.
There shouldn’t be a cap on the time you have to choose yourself. Even when you’re a partner, a parent, or a caregiver. My mother thought once she married and had children those selfish years were long gone. In reality, exploring life and figuring on what she wanted from it never had an end date.
When there are other people involved I understand one can’t always get what they want. And even if my desire to give doesn’t come natural, giving still makes me happy. I enjoy seeing my loved ones feel supported by me as they reach for their dreams. But, I don’t plan on sacrificing my own goals as some sort of martyr.
I hope the women in my family stop ignoring their dreams under the guise of the greater good. I hope they realize no matter how much they give no one is going to ask them to stop. We never asked my mom to stop. I never asked her to stop. It’s because as kids and partners, well, we tend to be selfish. And life without my mother — life without a woman — giving me everything I needed felt terrifying.
No, there’s never a right time to be a selfish woman, but we still have to find time to do it anyway. Preferably, be selfish when it does the least amount of damage to others. I plan to take back my time, my career, and my joy. Living out my dreams is how I choose to repay my debt. Being selfish doesn’t have to be a negative thing. I accept the comfort the women in my family have given me. And use the comfort to chase my dreams. One day, I intend to pass that comfort done to my own daughter. I’ll tell her to do the same.
Making friends is a skill I still have yet to master. To be honest, I haven’t been actively trying since the third grade. When I was in grade school I transferred four times within five years before eventually being home-schooled until I graduated high school. So, that provides some explanation for my lack of refined social skills. Naturally, I gravitated to books and television as not only a source of entertainment but as a way to have company without any effort expected on my part. Stories will always be the place I feel most comfortable. And though it’s not a cure by any means, it makes the dark days a little less lonely. These are the characters have been my friends in throughout various important moments of my life.
Emma Swan – Once Upon a Time
On a surface level, there’s not about my life that allows me to identify with Emma. No matter how much I hope, I’m not a displaced fairy tale character with royal parents and happy endings constantly on the horizon. And her tragic backstory doesn’t intersect with my own family history. But, her feelings and experiences with abandonment hit home.
When I originally spoke up about my mental health problems I was brushed off by my family. I was instantly lonely after realizing that the people who were expected support me at my lowest were nowhere to be found. Throughout the series, time after time, Emma’s hits a dark point with no one around to pick her back up. Instead, she moves forward for herself. She’s a survivor. She’s sloppy about it and that’s what I love about her. She reminds me surviving doesn’t have to look perfect.
Rae – My Mad Fat Diary
This series came at the perfect time of my life and I’m forever grateful for its existence. Rae struggles with an eating disorder and the series explores how she learns to manage her intrusive thoughts while balancing her friendships. I was in my second year of university when I watched the first episode. University wasn’t the space I’d imagine after years of society telling me it would be home to some of my best memories. And I was trying to re-invent myself like Rae but failed miserably.
Rae has an amazing way with people. Watching her with her friends made me long for someone like her in my own life. She was caring and non-judgmental (once she got over her jealousy). When I wasn’t wishing she was my friend, I was tearing up at how her thoughts about herself mirrored my own self-hatred. There’s one particular scene from the series I always go back to because it has given me one of the best tools for dealing with really bad self-talk days.
Bertie – Tuca & Bertie
I recently finished season one of Tuca and Bertie, and in an instant, Bertie became a comforting favorite. Her life mirrors what I’ve been experiencing since graduating from university. I briefly moved in with my boyfriend and got a job doing something that pays the bills but isn’t the most stimulating. And, now, I’m trying to hang onto the things that make me happy, like she does when it comes to baking.
Seeing her fight for a promotion at work after originally being insecure about talking to her boss was encouraging. I’m up for a promotion and battle thoughts of insecurity about the whole situation. Bertie is a snapshot of my present. And it’s nice to be reminded I’m not the only one that is anxiously stumbling through my days, attempting to feel comfortable outside of my safe zones.
I can’t be the only one who finds solace in fictional characters. Share some of yours below! I’d love to get some show/book recommendations. Your favs could also be potential candidates to add to my carefully curated “friend group” – cause I’m always on the hunt for more characters to add. Yes, you can sit with us.
I want to be a romance writer. It’s a dream I’ve had since I was twelve, reading Judy Blume and trying to sneak some of the more mature YA off the shelf and into my library checkout stack without my mom noticing. Because whenever she did manage to notice she questioned me with disapproval in her voice.
It’s always felt like a silly dream. I went through college telling people I wanted to write for big, important magazines about big, important topics. I applied for copywriter positions at marketing firms and got a replies asking for samples. None of which I had, of course, because I’m pretty sure chapters from my young adult novel wouldn’t do. So, I wouldn’t reply because anytime I tried to go open a doc and type up some piece that would resemble copy I’d freeze up, convinced that my brain didn’t/couldn’t produce that kind of content. But, I think having that sort of privilege has now passed. My no’s are soon going to have to turn into yes’s and eventually, they might even turn into please’s.
Things kind of crumbled at home after I graduated college. Well, they had been crumbling for a while, but I could ignore that because I was a three-hour drive away at college, separate from the collapse. As my parents began the divorce process nothing was stable anymore. I’m a firm believer in not telling someone else’s story without letting them at least say their piece so I can only tell you what happened from my end. From my end, nothing makes sense anymore. Our home is in foreclosure and we’re all struggling to somehow build something out of the quickly shattering pieces. It’s like trying to build a sandcastle in high tide: useless. And I feel so abandoned most of the time. I still have most of my family, but we’re fighting an uphill battle and I feel so helpless.
Last week we got some news that revealed we might have less time at our house than we originally thought we would. There had been a small hope before that we would keep the place, but that looks like an impossibility now. I can’t put into words what it feels like to hear that homelessness is a possibility. I can only say that my bones felt hollowed and my tongue felt heavy after learning the news. The draft that I was outlining didn’t matter and my thoughts of holding out for a job that I would enjoy felt like the stupidest decision I’d ever made.
I don’t have the luxury of waiting for a job that will allow me to do something that I love. I don’t have the luxury to finish my novel and dedicate my time to making it the best that it can be. I’m not writing this to say, oh, woe is me. Because I know that there have been plenty of authors that were close to or under the poverty line. What’s in my bank account will never interfere with my love for writing. But, it will interfere with how much I can do it and what I say with it.
Currently, I’m in a desperate hunt for a job in a larger city. I’m fortunate enough to have a boyfriend that doesn’t mind if I stay with him while I job hunt for the next month – I’ll forever be thankful for him. I’m applying to any and every full-time job. And a lot of them are positions where I know my mental health will suffer. It scares me, but it won’t be forever.
I know homelessness is hard to recover from and I don’t want my family to get stuck trying to recover. I’m currently the only one who is qualified to get a full-time position so it’s on me. And that’s the scariest thing. I’m afraid of what will happen to my depression. I’m afraid I’ll be so exhausted I’ll stop writing because there just isn’t enough time or energy. I’m afraid dreaming will only be dreaming.
This isn’t how I wanted this blog to go. I wanted this is a place where I ranted and raved about romance and pop culture. But, I feel this is something I can’t ignore on here. This is my life right now and I want to document where it’s going. I’ll keep updating about my job hunting for the next few weeks. And, of course, write about some romance because it’s my perfect escape, even if it can’t last longer than an hour or so.