I’ve been working since I was 5 in my parent’s upholstery shop. Because of this my early life was always school to work and back to school. I never got to know what summer vacation meant. My dad was extremely physical with me until I was about fourteen. Physical torture and belting were the worst of the physical things, escalating to my finger being shattered by my dad kicking me too hard. But the physical doesn’t compare to having somebody who threatened to kill me, who exerted complete dominance over me and reminded me of it almost every day. I had to endure over a decade of hearing how worthless, pathetic, lazy, and insignificant I am screamed directly into my face in a language I couldn’t even understand. And after he worked me up to the point of sobbing so hard that I couldn’t breathe, he would belt me or just use some random object to get me to stop sobbing. My mom would try to comfort me after my dad would abuse me, but she always maintained that I deserved all of the pain that I got. She explained to me that other people had it much worse, so I should be grateful and shouldn’t be a bad boy. I idolized her because she didn’t hit me like my dad. For every school paper when we would have to write about who was our hero, I would always pick my mom because she would make me feel better after the pain. But the truth is my mom hurt me the most in this world. She is the reason that I never got the help that I needed to get out of the Hell I was in. Because she made me believe that I belonged in Hell.
And there was always that feeling of crippling loneliness. My thinking was all those things my dad is saying about me must be true because I don’t have a single friend or person I can talk to because I had no life because my life was constantly being controlled by my parents. Fortunately, after he shattered my finger he really cooled off. It was only little physical things like getting punched in the face or something like that. By the time I was in my junior year of high-school the physical violence stopped. But I still wasn’t allowed to want anything. I couldn’t want anything because then there would be no room to obey what my orders were.
My survival technique was that I was innately so stubbornly optimistic that I would pretend the bad things that were happening weren’t real, and I would try to focus on the good moments (usually at school) whenever I could get them. So, by my freshman year of college I had enough of my past memories repressed to forget why underneath my superficial happiness I felt abandoned and ashamed.
Then I found pot.
After a while, and after getting over the initial rush of getting high, I felt I could look at things from a different perspective. So, I introspected into my past as hard as I could to find answers, and I simply could not handle the reality of all of the trauma I went through. Even if I felt meaningless, I never wanted my life to be meaningless. So instead of just completely giving up on myself two years ago, I decided to join the Marines. It wasn’t the Instant Ready-To-Eat way to foster self-respect that I naively thought it would be. I found myself feeling more and more hollow as time went by, and I began spiralling down again.
About two weeks ago, on a whim, I began studying Zen (which as I learned is the most Zen way to approach Zen), I started watching YouTube videos on Buddhism, listening to talks by gurus, and I absorbed everything on Alan Watts that I could find. I still can’t say that I know enough about eastern philosophies to talk about them at any length. Something about hearing people talk about the interconnectedness of everything, seemed to give me some comfort but it also made me ask of myself again. Who am I? Except this time instead of confusion the answer came to me in an instant and suddenly hot tear of understanding started streaming down my face. I finally cracked through the illusion and saw my whole life over. This time it clicked that my parents weren’t purposefully trying to make my life hell. Both of my parents grew up in their own versions of Hell and Hell was all they both knew. Forgiveness rushed into my heart because I know that they were once me. I finally understand that despite everything, I always deserved love.