"My name is Rachel, I am from my van, and I will be sharing my story about abandonment in my childhood."
What is your story?
"It feels very unnatural to go back in time and attempt to recall my experiences and tell my story. It can be daunting and uncomfortable, there is so much information. But what I will attempt to do is recall some of the experiences and some of the pains that have formed in present day me and recall them without trying to rationalize or justify them.
I tend to recall a story and leave out the emotion, only emphasizing the utility or lesson, and downplaying the impact and importance of a life shaping experience. I might not be alone in that.
The particular part of my story I want to share (or that I am attempting to share with reckless abandon) is about my mother and my relationship with my family. I always tell people it’s complicated, but it really isn’t. There is unconditional love (without conditions) and there is everything else. My family is the everything else type.
When I was younger, I never felt connected to my family or to anyone who was “supposed to love me.” When there were fun experiences, it rarely felt like love. It was more frustration, passive aggressiveness, and contempt. My sisters and I were put into classes and were homeschooled and I suppose we were loved in some variation of it, but it always came with...stuff. Conditions.
My mother left when I was 14. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world that she would be leaving us. I believe I said, “just go” when she told us she didn’t love my father anymore and had been a “mother for 18 years and was done.”
Something that didn’t happen until much later (as I was telling this story) was being able to truly see how much grief and anger this experience held. While also acceptting the subtle and slow burn neglect had on my psyche. Not the obvious kind (like the abrupt abandonment that came when I was 14) but the kind of neglect that makes people venture out on their own because it can be less lonely to do life alone. These experiences might shape an independent, strong-willed, brave individual, but it is in the wake of these subtle and deep cuts.
The story comes to a head as I identify that my independence and strength has come from the depth of a pain that is not easy to see and has taken a whole lifetime to trace back and connect the dots on. The anger and fear of people not loving me for who I am has been a cage my entire life.
Accepting love, accepting help, accepting what people say at face value or understanding they are also communicating from the depth that they have accessed as well, these are all terrifying. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater though. I can be independent and brave AND be fucking angry that I wasn’t loved the way I would have wanted when I was younger or what I needed.
Independence and the ability to experience solitude is a gift.
I find my life is filled with more peace, joy, and presence when I allow both the experience of neglect to be painful and the outcome of independence being something that serves me, to be true."
In one word, how would you describe/define your experience?
Without pain, there is no growth but it’s missing the outcome...to see the experience as something that
triggered the life that I have now allows new positive perspectives and I can leverage the experience over and over again. It can be something that creates foundation rather than instability. "
What would you compare your experience to? And/or what analogy would define your experience?
"The ugly duckling children's story.
What’s beautiful about the story is that the ugly duckling doesn’t give up attempting to find her community...she keeps trying. Because she physically can’t, she never conforms to the community she doesn’t belong in. Instead, she searches until she’s accepted and loved, and ultimately learns she wasn’t understood because the ducks weren’t supposed to understand a swan.
As I get older, I find people who understand me in ways that felt impossible when I was younger, especially because I was rejected by my mother, the one person who is supposed to understand and love and accept you no matter what."
What advice would you give yourself or someone else experiencing something similar?
"To read the story of the ugly duckling and find comfort in the fact that this is a story (and essentially this archetype is something) people can connect over. "
Hear the song "I Am That Swan" inspired by Rachel's story: Available Everywhere 10.15.21