(Photo taken by me.)
I don't know why it happened that day in October, perhaps it just happens that one day, something finally clicks. But, suddenly towards the end of our session I stumbled upon it: Somewhere in the years of dating really terrible boys, of finding "Bethany is ugly" scrawled in a public place in high school, of being told by a man that I was too fat to be loved...I had decided that I didn't have a voice. That I simply wasn't worthy of having ideas or of being heard, and that these nasty incidents were just the truest reflections of who I was.
Our session ended, and as I clacked down the stairs from the fourth floor counselors office to the street, I got pissed. Really, terribly, very pissed...more so with every step. Pissed at people in the past for the hurt they caused. But, mostly pissed at myself for allowing it. I'd crumbled into a giant people-pleaser who formed my identity around what a handful of truly messed-up individuals had told me about myself. And I'd spent the past ten years believing it all was true.
But once the anger passed, I became determined. I shoved open the door to the courtyard, and it was like breathing air for the first time...sharp, chilly October air that catches in your lungs, but leaves you feeling fresh and new. I wanted to do everything differently. I wanted to allow myself to be the girl I'd always dreamed I could be, to simply live as me. Stop worrying about whether those around me thought I was fat, unattractive, over-the-top or boring. So, right there, I swore to myself that I was going to have a voice again. I was going to be me, and regardless of what others said or did, I was worthy of love and a voice.
After I'd settled into my usual booth at the coffee shop, I started thinking about Gabe, about our plans to elope. Eloping, I realized, had just been my way of crumbling again. A wedding had been too scary for me...too much attention. Too much room for judgement. Too much work to make everyone else happy.
I thought about what I really wanted: I wanted to marry the only man who had ever made me feel worthy and cherished. I didn't need a fancy dress or 200 people there. Regardless of what every wedding blog or magazine was showcasing at the time, what I really wanted was to have my father walk me up the aisle to pledge my love to Gabe. Mostly, I was ready to start living spontaneously and joyfully, two words that described the girl I once was, and the girl I so wanted to be again.
This was the first step. That night I texted Gabe;
"Idea: What if we have a surprise wedding on New Years Eve, with just our immediate families and our bridal party?"
He texted back that it sounded fun, but that I needed to really make sure it was what I wanted. Silly boy. I was a new girl. And I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to marry the first boy who had truly cherished me. I wanted to marry the boy who had loved me through this mess...
...and I didn't want to wait eight more months to do it.