I remember sitting on the front porch, waiting for my best friend to return. He had left with all the other kids to an arcade. I was invited as well. My best friend told me that he would return in the car to pick me up. He assured me. I waited three hours on that front porch. I had no clue why my mom was inside, staring at me through the window with a concerned look on her face. I mean, he would come. I trusted him. The sun had gone down when I accepted he wasn't coming. I held back tears as my mom tried to console me. She told me that I was going to be OK, and that I was a good person and there was nothing wrong with me. I ran to my room to cry in silence.
Shit like that happened too many times in my childhood. Some scenarios were more intense than others, and they could have led any kid to have trust issues. However, for some odd reason it did the opposite for me. I trusted even more. It didn't destroy me when I was avoided, ignored or "ghosted" by people I loved in my life. Instead, my heart would break over and over again, and I would keep on as the same boy who trusted. I don't know why I kept on, I just did. As I am writing this, age 25 and thinking back to that day 18 years ago, it breaks my heart all over again. But I think it is time I share this story.
How I matured after the heartbreak
I've always liked talking, and probably always will. Making sense of the abstract was my main topic of interest; I liked things to be clearly defined. A lot of guys and girls my age didn’t like to converse as much though. I had to find other ways to decongest my brain from all the thoughts and ideas that had jumbled up. So I voluntarily went to seek out a professional that specialized in conversation: a therapist. At first it was by accident. I was 13, and my English teacher at the time was very concerned about my silence in class, so she referred me to the school's therapist. After my 3rd or 5th meeting, the school therapist deemed me “completely functional, normal and non-suicidal”, and led me out the door. But by then, I was hooked.
Google HQ, NYC 2014. 16 years after the heartbreak.
I was completely honest with my teacher when I asked her to refer me to the therapist once more. I simply wanted to talk. She said that I didn’t need it, and that it was reserved for other kids that were struggling. I had to go back though, so I devised a plan. I wrote a very concerning letter to her, expressing my “thoughts” about life, and our “racist” small town. The letter was all lies, of course, but it earned me another appointment with the therapist. She was a short Hispanic woman, with long hair and very well-spoken. She agreed to see me for an hour every week. I called her the "professional listener". We talked about my dad leaving my siblings and I as kids, and how people in my life would choose to walk away instead of telling me the truth. Most importantly, we discussed about my heart and how it seemingly stayed intact after all the heartbreaks. We spoke about these things in one session. We were nearly done when she smiled, and pointed at the door. Our session was over. She said thank you, and waved me goodbye. I lashed out at her then. I demanded she answer why everything I shared with her happened in my life. She answered with an "I don't know". Was that not her job though, to know? I thought. I questioned her qualifications as a therapist. She giggled a bit after that. Then I laughed after I realized how dramatic I had been. After a good laugh, she officially ended the session. I started walking out, when she called out "Hey." I turned to her when she said the words that would stay with me to this day. She said: Keep your head up and don't question why your heart is OK, and not shattered. Accept it.
I haven't questioned much ever since...
18 years later, and still talking
I continued the habit of speaking to professionals. No, not by forging notes that would raise concerns, but by honestly stating what my needs were, how I felt and what I wanted to accomplish. I hear the same question every time after my first or second session, "Why therapy?". I simply liked to talk. That'd be my answer to them. Sometimes I would elaborate by saying:
I am not your traditional type of dude, who grew up in a lovely home, to lovely parents that didn’t divorce, or who transitioned nicely into manhood. Far from traditional I am. I've had to find alternative ways to get educated, socialize, and become an independent person. I've had to fight to establish who I am in this world. I've had to fight to mature, and not only be my mothers son, but a man. Not only my siblings' little brother, but an adult. Not a person to abandon, but to respect.
Thanksgiving with family. California, 2015. 17 years after the heartbreak.
That day on my front porch should have left me broken -- I felt betrayed, disheartened, and like the ultimate outcast. But as I sit here writing this, thinking back to that day, and that sad 7 year old boy, I remember I am no longer waiting on my best friend to return. I am no longer looking for a room to cry in. I remember I am not broken.