Field Biology was supposed to be fun, but it didn't start out that way. When we had to split into groups for the quarter on one of the first days, I was left standing on my own. I had no friends in the class. No one wanted me. Mr. Beattie had to assign me to the one group that still needed another person, and that was your group. A group of 4 guys and 1 girl, me. I didn't know any of you, and I expected it to be a pretty miserable quarter. You were all friends, and I was just the loser that nobody else wanted in their group. Even the girls who agreed to give me a ride to school on the days we were out in the field clearly didn't want me around. They were only doing it because Beattie asked them to. Some days they left without me and I had to find a ride with someone else.
But you were different.
You treated me like an equal. Like a friend, even. Most of the time it felt like you were the only person in the class who acknowledged my existence.
I ended up having fun working with you and your friends. You all made me laugh. But even the rest of them seemed to forget I was there half the time.
But the one thing that I will never forget is the day that we had to stay after school to correct some things on our river study. For some reason, I was under the impression that we were going to have to go back out to the river and redo some of the tests. I called my mom to let her know. It was raining, so she said I should call my dad and have him bring my raincoat. So I did. He was going to bring it over to the river and wait for me there.
Then I met up with you guys and found out that we didn't have to go to the river after all, we were just staying at school to redo some calculations and such. That's when I started to panic. My dad didn't have a cell phone. I called the home phone, but he had already left. I had no way of getting ahold of him, and he was already on his way over to the river and I wasn't going to be there.
I was so mad at myself. Kept telling myself how STUPID I was. I was freaking out because I knew my dad was going to be mad that he made a trip into town for nothing. I tried to hide how upset and panicked I was, but looking back, I doubt I did a very good job. It was probably pretty obvious.
You offered to give me a ride over to the river to meet my dad. As we walked out of the school, I remember saying something like, "I can't believe I made such a STUPID mistake!" And you assured me that it wasn't a big deal. You were so calm and kind.
On the way over to the river, we were talking a bit. I was still freaking out, I still felt terrible about myself because I was wasting my dad's time and I was wasting your time and our group's time. I felt like I should have known better. I was so MAD at myself, because I felt like I wasn't allowed to make mistakes. Especially when they resulted in other people going out of their way for me. That was one of the worst sins in my family, making other people go out of their way for you. I was so ashamed. I felt so stupid. I felt like I was a bad person and I didn't deserve anyone being nice to me, doing things for me, helping me out. But I didn't talk about this stuff.
Until I sort of did.
I said something about how my dad was going to be mad at me because he came into town for nothing. And then I freaked out that I said that and quickly tried to backpedal: "It's okay, though, I'm used to him being mad at me."
*facepalm* That obviously didn't work the way I intended.
You glanced over at me and said in a concerned voice, "That's not good."
I just mumbled something to the effect of, "Yeah, well, that's my dad..."
I was embarrassed that I had said that much, but at the same time, I felt a little relieved that I did. Because it seemed like you actually cared. And that you didn't think it was right that my dad got mad at me enough that I was used to it, that he got mad at me over little things like this. You almost sounded worried, and it made me wonder later if you thought maybe I was being abused. Maybe I was reading too much into it, but it made me feel better to imagine that someone cared, even if it wasn't true and you didn't actually think a thing of it. I felt safe with you, and that's not something I felt very often.
Because the truth is, I *was* being abused. Not physically, but emotionally. Being systematically torn down, called names, ridiculed, made to feel like a burden and a bother and a problem. Worthless. Unwanted.
My dad didn't say much that day, he didn't yell or anything, but that's the thing with him - he's unpredictable. You never know what to expect. And I felt kind of stupid for freaking out, but still. What's stuck with me all this time isn't the feelings of being stupid and ashamed of messing up, but the feelings of being safe and knowing there was someone on my side, someone who cared. I don't think you know how much that meant to me. And I hope someday you find this and read it so you know.
I still struggle with the effects of my family's emotional abuse. Still struggle with feeling worthless, unwanted, a burden, a problem. But every so often, I think about things like that day when you gave me a ride over to the river. I tell myself the story over and over and it comforts me, wraps around me like a warm blanket reminding me that people care and that I felt safe once. And it gives me hope that I'll feel that way again someday.
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