I’d like to think that I’m now in a more mature place to see what I couldn’t in my youth. I was plagued with a lot of personal insecurities and grandiose expectations in my adolescence that caused me to take much longer than I’d hoped to get to this point. In so many ways my late teens and 20s were a ceaseless roller coaster ride, one riddled with severe depression, anxiety and an abundance of self-loathing.
Sure, our teen years and our 20s are known for being trying times. They try the patience of our parents and we somehow believe that we’re super human and know more than we truly do. It’s a period of our lives that for many, upon living through them, are happy that they’ve since left it behind. I often complain to my parents, who were strict traditional Caribbean parents, that I didn’t get to really enjoy that period of my life. I felt pressure to do well in school, to adhere to our Christian upbringing and to never be an embarrassment. For the most part I felt like I succeeded. At least, I did so in part. I did well in school and tried to be cautious in my somewhat nonexistent social life. The pressure, it turns out, was mostly in my head. My mother married my father when she was 19. For as long as I could remember I’d always wanted to be a young bride. I saw the success of their marriage and felt that if I were to marry I’d do so at a young age and that I too would follow in their footsteps.
I married when I was 19. It was a tumultuous union even before the I do’s. However, I was in love, or so I felt, and I believed I was invincible. During that brief marriage I went through so many extreme highs and even lower lows. For the first time in my life I struggled with the depression that now still plagues my adulthood. I foolishly believed that my love and devotion to the marriage would be enough for it to succeed. For many years after I carried the weight of the failed marriage as if it were a scarlet letter. I was embarrassed, defeated and a shell of my former self. For years I lived in the space of my perceived failure. It affected me so deeply that in many ways, for better and for worse, it both changed and defined the person I had now become. I realize now that at such a young age, going through a marriage and a divorce by the time I was twenty-three would no doubt be fraught with discomfort. It was an experience that would make or break me.
There were countless times during those dark years that I honestly thought about ending it all. The pain was so unbearable and my comprehension of what was occurring with me emotionally was so inept. I couldn’t understand why I was in so much despair. I didn’t want to accept that at such a young age and having lived a life of so few social experiences, I was simply not equipped to deal with it on my own. Learning to deal with it, learning to grow from the experience took many years. I suppose I’m still a student in that regard. I had to learn to love myself again. I had to regain my own identity. I had to grow up. I eventually would seek counseling and was prescribed medication for my depression. The medication wasn’t a magic pill and counseling was grueling. None of it was easy but in the end I began to walk a path of self-discovery and understanding. Disillusioned with dating I concentrated on myself and my professional career. All the energy I had previously had for my marriage I channeled into building a better life for myself. I purchased my first home at the age of twenty-four and by the time I was twenty-seven I had earned five college degrees, two of which were Masters.
Now, at the tender age of thirty-three I still have lingering issues but I’m at least in a place where I can see that we may not get the happy ending we’d hoped, we get the life that we’re given. From day-to-day my moods may change but I no longer live in the head space of utter despair. I take things as they come and I persevere. If I could go back and speak to my twenty-something self I’d tell her that it’s never as bad as it may look and that tomorrow is often much better than we think it will be. Every day is a new opportunity to become the person we want to be rather than being shackled to the person that we’re trying to shed.
This article appeared on page 5A in the 5/28/14 issue of The Union-Recorder. The article appeared under the title, The Process of Discovering LaToya.