History is Not Kind: For Women Who Are “Damaged”

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“I hardened under the last loss. it took something human out of me. I used to be so deeply emotional I’d crumble on demand. but now the water has made its exit. Of course I care about the ones around me. I’m just struggling to show it. A wall is getting in the way. I used to dream of being so strong nothing could shake me. Now. I Am. So strong. That nothing shakes me. And all I dream is to soften.”
― Rupi Kaur

During my Master’s finance class, I learned two fundamental rules when it came to business and life: First, be worth more alive than dead. Second, don’t let sunk costs make you dig deeper holes. In business, entrepreneurs often make the mistake of going further into debt or clinging onto a failing business because they’ve invested so much time and resources into the venture. That mindset and unwillingness to pivot often leads to the demise of a business and the entrepreneur. As humans, when things are going south in our relationships with others, we often use that same method of thinking, “I can’t end things I’ve known this person for 10 years,” “We’ve spent so much money towards planning our wedding” etc. We dwell on the road we’ve traveled, rather than looking at the road that lies ahead. Don’t let sunk costs make you dig deeper holes. Chalk up the time/money that’s been invested and move on when something isn’t working, or else you’ll just find yourself in deeper shit.

When I was working at Amazon, a speaker on the Women in Finance panel, was talking about how women take longer to move up in their careers because they don’t know when to let go. She shared an anecdote about how when she goes to bed she makes sure the dog is let out to pee, the children’s lunches are made, the doors are locked, all the lights are off, and then does primping before she goes to sleep. Whereas, when her husband says he’s going to bed he brushes his teeth and goes straight to bed. This story is indicative to how men and women handle responsibility – men wrap things up quickly whereas women tend to dwell because “something needs to be done”. She said, as women we need to stop coming up with justification when we let go, and like Tarzan, we just need to take leaps.

I could never relate when people say business isn’t personal because the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in business have trickled down into my personal life. These business narratives were transformational in my understanding of endings and new beginnings. However, having knowledge and acting on it are two entirely different things. This summer was the first time I implemented what I learned. History isn’t always kind – and refusing to let go leaves calluses – I learned this the hard way.

There was a friend of mine who knew me like no other. I treasured our friendship because it’s so rare for someone to know you inside and out without judgment. It’s a different kind of intimacy when you can be that vulnerable and honest with someone – even about the topics you might not be ready to be honest with yourself about. We spoke on the phone for hours, ran errands together, even enjoyed doing nothing together. I’ve never felt my name more protected in anyone’s mouth but theirs. Then, to my dismay *poof* they disappeared and stopped responding to my calls and texts.

We didn’t speak for over a year and when I saw them in public I’d avoid them. It felt weird acting like we were strangers when we both knew the depths of each other’s soul. I wasn’t sure what I had done to be cut off, or if they were just in a place where they needed to be left alone. I wasn’t going to press the issue, and months later it took liquor and hookah for me to mount up the courage to say hello.

It’s crazy how easy it is to break the ice – small gestures as a “hello” or “I miss you” can move mountains. We picked back up immediately but didn’t acknowledge the elephant in the room what happened? A few weeks later they told me the gambit of why they distanced themselves from me – one of them being they felt like I was changing in a negative trajectory and wasn’t the same Rahwa that they first befriended. To be honest – they had a point – but damn that was harsh. How could you throw away so much rich history because of a few events right? Wrong. As much as that hurt me I admired their ability to let go of what no longer makes them happy – but nobody likes feeling disposable.

We tried making the friendship work, but what once felt so natural now seemed so forced. There was asymmetry – my friend was interacting with the new me and I was interacting with the old them. It was extremely hard for me to accept that our friendship had changed, and we’d have to get to know each other again. -I’m sure my friend felt the same about me. How do you mourn someone that’s still living?

I wouldn’t expect anyone to make room in their life for me if I am toxic to them or if I make them unhappy. I wouldn’t want others to demand that of me and I’m not on a high horse where I feel that I’m perfect to everyone. I’m flawed and sometimes I fuck up. We often exacerbate the wrongs of others but excuse the faults of our own.  I want people to keep me in their lives only if I make it better – because everyone deserves to be happy.

So often I hear stories about women who say they can’t let a man or friend go because of “history”. They spent so much time and that person pulls at their heartstrings. People aren’t stagnant – we’re constantly changing, and history is best left in the past. I always felt that women who are “damaged” cling especially tight to the past because they feel they can’t do better, have something to prove, or feel societal pressure e.g. “body count management.” Justifying actions due to history just means you acknowledge you’re being treated like shit and will allow yourself to continue being treated like shit.

I have a lot of healing that I need to do from letting others treat me poorly due to my lack of self-respect and confidence. When you accept less, you’re honestly accepting even less and that sets the bar for how others down the line will treat you. I get mad at myself when the simplest gestures excite me due to not experiencing that caliber of care. I’m at the point where I’d rather be alone than in bad company and am becoming increasingly vocal on what my expectations are of others, even if we have history. I intend on holding people I just meet to the same bar as individuals I’ve known for 10+ years.

Ladies, history can lead down to a destructive path of codependency. When you keep people in your life that make you unhappy you’re doing you both a disservice. One – you’re compromising your own happiness and that’ll seep into every part of your life. Two – you’re taking up unnecessary space in the other person’s life as they too deserve to be with someone who they’re able to make happy, because happy people make others happier.

I can’t count how many women (and men) I’ve seen that have become hard who were once soft due to unhealthy human relationships. With every negative experience it’s as if our shells harden, and we poke our heads further in. As humans, we really do need social interactions and strong relationships whether we want to admit it or not. We build walls hoping someone can see through them, yet build more when they can’t. In all honesty, we are our own perpetrators of pain and unhappiness. – We’d rather be uncomfortable with the familiar than uncomfortable with the unknown – at the end of the day we just don’t want to be alone. Letting go of my dear friend was by far one of the toughest heartaches I’ve ever endured – there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of them.

But, Sis, you have to pull out the weeds to make room for flowers to grow.

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