Maybe we can start believing something is overly important, of greatest value. But in reality it is worth very little. The oyster with no pearl.
Often, also, we grow to believe those things which are very important are no longer worth anything. We grow to believe recognition defines value, appreciation determines worth.
And I really sometimes feel like the latter.
And fear I am the former.
I don't remember one particular conversation in my childhood about my worth. I don't remember a lecture about how boys should treat me or not treat me. Maybe they happened, but I don't remember them. I remember standing up conversations in living rooms with boys, scared of Larry. And I remember lots of good and valuable life lessons, which had much more to do with growing up and danger and heartbreak than sex ever could or did.
At most I remember maybe two conversations, before the age of 17, which went something like "don't have sex" and lots of conversations afterwards from lots of other people, which went something like "sex is bad". And I still roll my eyes. But not for the reasons you think.
I do distinctly remember breaking up with my first love and coming into the Long Avenue kitchen around midnight, breaking the news, and first being asked, "since the best birth control only works 99% of the time, what are the chances you're pregnant?" Strange foreshadowing. But I don't remember thinking I deserved more. Or ever being told I did. More than the jealous selfishness of that first relationship nine years ago.
Or after the second relationship, which ended because of major differences in values. A relationship I was mostly admonished for ending. (Understandably.) But I was never quite able to process how I wanted, needed, to be a priority.
I have a laundry list of regrets between then and now. Over the years I have had friends preach repeatedly about how much I'm worth. They say I'm beautiful a lot and talk about how much I deserve and I just quietly laugh at the word "deserve". We don't deserve or earn any of this.
I allowed a lot of bad things. Disregard, disrespect mostly.
I was admonished for bad decisions. Judged for them. Still am. And most of you right now think I'm mostly talking about sex, which I'm really not talking abut at all. You think I should be, but I'm not. Because regardless of what you believe, sex or the lack of sex, has nothing to do with this worth I'm talking about.
But, one of the hardest things you will ever do is change your own perception of yourself.
I remember someone once saying the Vaughan girls were the kind of girls you married. At the time I remember thinking he was right.
But I haven't thought about that in a long time. I haven't trusted someone with so much of a future, and no one's tried to stay yet. And the tendency for those of us, for whom love comes slowly, is to repeat mistakes. Or to give up entirely.
I wasted two years on one, who despite his good heart, had no idea. I spent another year on someone who, to this day, remains a mystery to me. Two weeks was spent on one, who turned out to be dangerous. Because of him I proved to myself my ability to put Judah first, no questions asked.
This time around, it took roughly nine weeks.
Nine weeks and I asked myself the question about six weeks in.
This, this is the breaking of a cycle.
Do I still believe I am that kind of woman. And I wondered, quietly, if maybe I have been overestimating my worth. Or have I been ignoring it?
Is it possible I am worth as much as some say and it is wildly acceptable to set the standard high. And to look someone square in the eye and let them know. I will work hard and love well, but I expect the same in return.
Is it possible, instead of believing my worth had been overestimated, it has been underestimated?
And if so, is there any redemption to be had?
I don't know, really. If you can come back from all this. But here I am trying.
Is it possible I can wake up tomorrow and reclaim a greater sense of worth?
Maybe that's what I've been doing already. Since the beginning. Since the first time I walked away and closed a door because I knew whatever it was I had, was not what I needed.
Because it seems to hold true, your worth is not determined by how you are treated.
And so it follows, you may not have to wait to be treated differently to experience restoration.