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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Moving Out was the Best Decision of my Life

“A house is not a home...” My house was not my home, it was not my safe haven, it was not my sanctum sanctorum. I was an only child and I grew up to be a lonely child. I grew up an introvert. I had a few select friends. My parents didn’t get me, I didn’t get them either. I was a disappointment to my father on a lot of fronts. I was a girl, I didn’t study medicine, or law or engineering. Instead I studied Literature. “A fat lot of good that will do you”, my father said when I told him about my decision on a major. On the night of my graduation, my parents hosted a dinner party to commemorate the occasion. I will not lie, I was surprised by this tremendous piece of courtesy. My father wasn’t particularly fond of my career choice, something which he had made abundantly clear in the course of three years of college. But you wouldn’t have been able to figure it out that night; he played the part of a proud parent to perfection. After dinner, when everyone had left and I was in my room, feeling guilty for having judged my father too harshly, he came into my room, with a whiskey in his hand. He had a faraway look on his face and gave me a forlorn smile. “That was one of the most excruciating dinners I have ever hosted. While everyone of my friends’ kids are doctors, engineers, lawyers, architects, or are studying to be, I have to say that my daughter wants to write. And she has had no success so far.” He turned his back and went away. And that is how it has always been; with him turning his back on me whenever I stumbled in life. Nothing I did was good enough for him; he always expected more than I could provide him with.Sure I was no valedictorian or salutatorian, but I wasn’t an ignoramus either. And then one day I decided to stop, I stopped seeking his approval. 

My father was the reason why I had so little self-confidence; I suffered from low self-esteem, and an overall feeling of being utterly useless. As I grew up, I doubted my ability to work and produce effective results. As a result of being constantly criticized and doubting my own potential, my grades in college suffered. This provided further fuel to my father and served as an open invitation to demean me some more.

I could not turn to anyone because to the outside world he was the epitome of an ideal father. He had painted a picture perfect portrait of our family on the outside.He was the perfect husband, the perfect father. Among our neighbors and friends, he was my ‘Daddy’ and I was his ‘little girl’. He played the charade of a doting father very well indeed. As far as people were concerned,he was my champion, my hero, my pillar of strength, my biggest supporter. He would go around telling people how proud he was of me, that he was going to back me up no matter what I chose to do with my life. Oh how I wanted those words to be true! I remember an instance from high school: I had got a C+ on a paper and my father refused to speak to me for two whole months. He even avoided making eye contact with me. He refused to have dinner with me at the same table. As an only child, how dare I fail his expectations? Did I not know that there were no replacements toddling behind me?  So I retracted further in my cocoon; he was successful in making me feel emphatically inconsequential.

But now that I have moved out, I have people around me who tell me that I am not without talent and I am definitely not worthless. I feel appreciated and accepted among my colleagues and my circle of friends. When I talk, they listen without interrupting me; they tell me I have the capacity to seize their attention with my words. They believe in me, they have faith. I don’t feel like a no one anymore.I have a job, I am able to make both ends meet quite comfortably, I have a roof over my head. I am trying to get over the inhibitions of me not being good enough, but it is difficult to grow out of them. I often go to the beach by myself; I enjoy the sound of the waves. A trip to the beach leaves me calm and serene.

It took a lot of grit and determination to get away from under the shadow of my overbearing and disapproving father, but I did manage to in the end. We talk every day now. He calls me at nine every night without fail; I find the routine ludicrous and tedious. He tells me that he misses me, I remain laconic. He tells me that he wants me to move back to the city, I am still laconic. He tells me he wants me to be happy, I don’t quite believe him. This was the man who made it obvious that my very existence was nothing but a disappointment. How can I believe him now, when he says so otherwise? Am I wrong in holding a grudge against him when clearly he is reaching out to make amends? I am sorry, but every time I sit down and try to make peace with my past, it is a painful recollection and I find myself unable to move past the hurt he has caused me. Moving out was the best decision of my life, and I am finally free from the clutches of rejection and disappointment that my father had infected me with when I lived under his roof. I haven’t been able to forgive my father for what he has done to me yet, but I hope that the first step involves moving out. I pray that I am able to one day.

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