I've been thinking about how to start this post. The title, I have ready, 2 simple words, that have become the mantra to my life.
The content, I also have, spilling from my tongue and my thumbs, always shared too honestly.
But the beginning, has been hard to formulate.
Afterall, how do you tell the world that once upon a time, you were emotionally insecure?
I want to talk about a pretty dark time in my life that almost ended my relationship with Daniel. But no, this isn't a story about couples, and how to manage relationships.
It's a story about me, how messed up I was and how it kept me from living 100% of my life.
Back when I was on exchange in China, Daniel tagged along because he had just finished his service in the army and was waiting for school to start.
He secured an internship, so we went over together, living in the same house, and going about our days together.
But nearing the end of my semester abroad, Daniel had to leave 1 month earlier to start his own semester, so we said goodbye and he left, while I stayed to finish my finals.
That's when it began.
I'm not sure if it was the physical distance, or my lack of friends and family over there, or the complete insecurity that's coded into my DNA, but I became really really really clingy.
I'd get mad if he didn't reply, and I'd like on the couch, not moving, for hours, just waiting for my phone to beep with a message from him.
The best thing was, I hated the way I behaved, but I couldn't stop the way I did.
I'd cry over the phone and demand answers as to why he didn't text for the past 5 hours, accuse him of having fun when I wasn't with him and told him to never call again since he didn't want to anyway.
And then after we hung up, I'd draft text messages, pages long, to repeat everything I had already said previously.
I spent my days endlessly waiting for a message from him, a social media post, a tag on Facebook, anything.
I built my life on the premise of someone else's.
And soon I had come to realise that without him, I didn't have a life of my own.
Eventually, time passed and time came and I booked the first flight out of China, back to Singapore, thinking it would solve all our problems.
It was just the spell of LDR, the curse that got me behaving like…someone else.
Being phsycially together would break the curse. I said.
But it didn't.
We went back our daily lives, but I realised that whenever Daniel went out without me, and didn't reply to my messages, I'd get really unhappy.
I'd think that he was having fun without me, instead of moping and wishing I was there.
And it got to the point where I couldn't be left alone if he went out with his friends.
I'd have to do something more exciting, to show him that I too was capable of enjoying my life without him around.
When deep down inside, I couldn't.
But life continued to pass and we got engaged.
And then, he said he'd want to go on exchange to Buffalo for a year.
There were a lot of discussions and technical arrangements that involves both of us being able to spend a year overseas together.
But it didn't work.
Nobody wanted to give. And this was something he had decided that he wanted to put his foot down about.
He wanted to go. And that's it.
I spent countless nights thinking of what to do. To go? To stay alone? To beg him to stay?
I thought of the days I spent in China, being someone I didn't recognize and the insecurity I still felt when he would disappear from my radar, hours on end.
And I knew I couldn't do it. I couldn't spent 1 year away from him without driving myself mad.
So I wanted to call off the engagement.
I literally told him that I couldn't do it without losing my sanity.
So if he went, we would have to discuss the whole marriage thing again.
And that's when I realised. I had a huge problem.
I had built my life around Daniel. And without him around, I literally did not know who I was and what I wanted to do.
I would turn down opportunities for work so I could spend more time with him, and always take the easiest way out at school so I could give him more attention.
I had literally told him that I put him first, which is why I couldn't accept it if he didn't reciprocate that feeling too.
And I realised that was a dangerous move.
Ultimately, Daniel stayed. And on hindsight, it was an asshole move to have coerced him into staying, but it really helped me reprioritize my life.
Don't Let Anyone Be The Center of Your Universe
I had uncannily began to realise that a lot of these emotional problems I had towards Daniel were eerily similar to the way my mother had projected towards me.
During my exchange, she would call and yell at me when I didn't contact her for a few days. Accusing me of forgetting about her and not wanting to come home anymore.
She would get upset if I didn't come home for dinner on most nights, or get upset if I went out with siblings without inviting her.
My father used to tell me it's because she loves me and that when I was born, she gave up her job to take care of me.
I was the center of her universe and for a huge part of her life, she treated my life as her own.
When I learnt calligraphy, she did too. Same for Chinese painting and Guzheng.
I was her most prized possession, and her universe revolved around me.
It sounds selfless really, and I subconsciously did it to Daniel, all I thought was that it was romantic.
But it destroyed me. And I think it damaged Daniel too.
We're ok right now, and I think I've recalibrated my grounding anchors, which is why I'm able to talk about this with such sobriety.
You think letting someone in to the center of your universe is a selfless, loving act.
But what happens is that when you draw source from someone else, not only do you forget to be who you are, you literally suck the life of the person you love as well.
Lost in someone else
Thinking back, I've always been a sucker for love, even from a younger age.
I spent most of my teenage life from crush to crush, relationship to relationship. And when I was single for a while after I turned 18, my life revolved around looking for love.
For a long time I thought it was because I was after the chase. The short fleeting period of time where you like someone but you didn't know if they liked you back.
But then I realised. I just wanted to anchor myself on someone else.
I would hop from guy to guy, messaging them every day and anchoring my daily activities down by the nights I'd spend partying with my friends.
I would sleep all day so the night would come faster. So so so so ridulous and foolish. But at that time, it just felt like I had too much time and too little entertainment.
I had given up on developing myself as a person or trying to make meaning of my life. Instead, letting someone else's take over mine instead.
If you're going through this, I understand how difficult it is to stop. Sometimes I think that realising that it's a problem is already a feat in itself.
I also wonder if this is a problem that comes with age, or maturity and is simply something you "outgrow", then I look at my mum and realise…
You need to want to help yourself.
Till today, I'm not sure if I took the first step to put myself first, or if the universe coincided to give me something to center myself with.
But it always starts with the small things.
Watch your favourite dramas, fall in love with it and spend hours on it.
Read a book, go onlkne shopping.
Do something for yourself, instead of for someone else.
When I compare Daniel with myself, I see all the jarring differences both in him and me as well as his parents and mine.
My parent in laws are very independent when it comes to their children. They don't emotionally blackmail and are very secure about their positions in their children's hearts.
In turn, Daniel is very secure in relationships. He isn't clingy, doesn't need repeated assurances and doesn't demand attention 24/7
I used to think it was a gender thing. Like maybe girls are hardwired to be more insecure and attached to things.
But it isn't.
Nothing to do with gender and a lot to do with how you were brought up and how you have been shaped to see relationships.
If you've been exposed to relationships based on time and company. You'll grow up expecting those in return.
I see so much of myself in my mum sometimes that I have to constantly remind myself that these are the things I dislike about her.
So please don't become your mother.
The good things, yes. The over reliance, guilt tripping and weird outbursts from the lack of affection?
My mum always gets upset when my dad goes out drinking with his friends and comes home drunk.
And I behaved the same way too.
Until I saw how much of her I had become. And decided that no, this is not the kind of life I want to lead.
What can you do about this?
Look at yourself. And look at yourself hard.
Don't leave room for excuses.
You cannot help the way you are feeling, but you can tell yourself that this is wrong, and that you don't want to end up becoming this person you know you are not meant to be.
I ALWAYS found excuses to get mad at Daniel when he left me alone. I found reasons to back up my anger and felt that righteousness was always on my side.
And that was bad.
Very very bad.
Because you feel entitled to the anger and the attention, you feel upset and mistreated when the other party does not want to change.
You ask yourself why, when you're doing everything for someone else, they cannot give the same back.
And that's where the problem lies.
You feel horrible, but you don't think that this behaviour is wrong.
Maybe it isn't, but it makes you feel horrible. So maybe it is time to stop.
I also found it helpful to NOT talk to someone whom you know will support your stance.
Talking to your girlfriends that will back you up, doesn't help.
I talked to my brother about this before, and he always takes the opposition's side. And it helped me realise, in utter embarrassment, that by anchoring my life on Daniel's
My ultimate goal was to have him anchor his life back on mine.
I wanted him to place me in the center of his universe. And I wanted to be the gravity that kept him grounded.
Basically, I wanted him to feel the same way I do when I have fun without him.
And when he doesn't (because he is a normal functioning human with healthy emotional quotients), I get mad.
Having someone to tell you that you're wrong, helps.
I know it's not easy, but keeping yourself busy with other stuff and coming to terms with being alone and enjoying it is really really liberating.
I relish the moments I have to myself now, I do everything and I do nothing sometimes.
I am anchored in the firm reality and the stable foundation that is myself.
I feel balanced, at peace and best of all, I feel happy to be left alone, because I am with myself.
It takes time to happen. I'm not sure exactly when, how, or what changed and my anchors shifted,
But I know it will happen for you too. One day.
Even my mum is learning to anchor herself now. Setting aside time to head out alone and do things she enjoys, without company.
Baby steps, we call it. And while it's definitely not easy and never fast, it is progress and it takes us somewhere else.
Knowing that you've placed someone in a position higher than yourself and wanting to get out of that rut is a good thing.
It's definitely a start. And with all things, the start is usually the hardest part.
So keep reminding yourself the next time you want to make a sacrifice for someone else, that without you, there is no room for love to blossom and for relationships to grow.
Nourish yourself first. And then maybe, you can learn to help someone else find their own anchor too. ⚓