“Little Tikes Didn’t Make Me”

“Little Tikes Didn’t Make Me”

First off, I’m going to be totally honest:

I didn’t make that line up. That came from a poem written by an old friend in high school. But it hits you kinda hard, doesn’t it?

Recently I’ve had to come to the conclusion that I am worth more than the lies that have been spoon fed to me for so many years. Even though it took me until I was 24 to realize it, I can now confidently say that I am a woman who is worthy of respect.

Better late than never I suppose…

Here’s the thing: I had to figure out that allowing myself to be used didn’t give me the comforting feeling I assumed it would. It’s easy to convince ourselves that what we’re doing is some form of healthy sacrificing, because that’s what it means to love another person, right? You sacrifice your needs for them as they sacrifice theirs for yours. Problem is, a relationship is no longer healthy when it’s only one party that contributes to the equation.

Sometimes it takes us longer to reach a realization of self worth than our peers. For some it may take the knowledge offered from someone else and their experiences while for others it takes that final encounter or conversation that makes your knees buckle and your eyes burn. I don’t think it matters how you get there just so long as you finally do.

I’m the kind of person who needs both: I like to be able to hear the trials and tribulations of others so as to lessen the shock of seeing the real world, but at the same time I want to experience circumstances for myself because let’s face it: not every situation is the same.

Though I have had my fair share of confrontations that left me feeling dehumanized, depressed and overwhelmingly belittled, the last one was enough for me to have a very vocal breakdown in my car in the middle of a Subway parking lot. It was Free Comic Book Day; one of my favorite days throughout the entire year. My little sister had gotten a job as a barista just a few months earlier at the town’s arguably most popular anime/comic book/game shop. She had to work that day and I promised her that I would be there for her entire shift so that we can hang around together afterwards. Thousands of patrons were expected to be there and while I was thrilled at the opportunity to see how many cosplayers I could spot, I figured I’d be a little lonely without my sister there.

I decided this was the perfect opportunity to invite an old friend of mine with whom I had recently reconnected. We’d known each other for almost 2 years and no earthly roller coaster could compare to the ups, downs, twists and turns we’d been through in our relationship. I believe the biggest factor that contributed was the fact that I was 4 years his senior, but with him still figuring out what he wanted and me trying to see where I fit in the lives of others, things had been rocky to say the least.

Regardless, he was into some pretty nerdy things like me, so I figured the event was up his alley. That and he had expressed just days prior that he wanted to hang out soon. With my expectations high and my defenses lowered, I decided to shoot him a text asking if he wanted to meet up. While he had initially shown interest as I expected, there were conditions that suddenly needed to be met for him to actually come and see me; one of them being that I needed to go to his house and wake him up.

I wasn’t cool with this for a number of reasons, but decided to just say no and be done with it. Didn’t know it wasn’t enough of an explanation, and before I knew it I was being questioned as to why I wouldn’t come over and pressured into believing that if I didn’t go and he didn’t see my face, it wouldn’t be worth the effort. After hours of going back and forth, we finally settled on my calling him to wake him up once I was at the event and then we’d meet. He seemed reluctant, but I let him know that I was excited as I was dying to meet him. To which he replied that I “obviously” was not because I wouldn’t come into his home.

I didn’t care that we were friends. My creep meter had reached a full 100.

I did my best to put my foot down and explain for the last time that me not coming to his house didn’t equate to not wanting to see him at all, to which he quickly replied, “Can’t use the word dying then”.

I was stunned to say the least- even though things like this would happen; as if to test my friendship or loyalty. But I went about my business. Free Comic Book Day was coming. I didn’t have a costume ready so I settled on something I figured Connie from Steven Universe would wear. I set my alarm, went over the plans with my sister and went to bed.

The next morning I pulled into the plaza’s parking lot and parked near the Subway. The corner of the parking lot by the comic book store/cafe had been closed off to make way for a DJ, stage, larping, bouncy houses and more. I let my sister go and called my friend. His voice was low and garbled as he muffled that he didn’t want to come. I quickly said alright and that was the end of it. I hung up the phone and cried.

I didn’t cry because he hurt my feelings.
I didn’t cry because I was alone.
I didn’t cry because he wouldn’t come after I called him.

I cried because I finally came to the realization that I was no more than a play thing to him.

So often I had been treated like if I set standards and didn’t readily topple them at the request of another person that it meant I wasn’t worthy of their affection. And for too many years I toppled those standards and sacrificed respect, self-worth, time and even at times my relationship with God all for the Scooby Snack that tastes nothing like love to be tossed in my direction.

Do not let the anticipation of another person’s loyalty blind you from the respect that you deserve.

For 10 minutes I sat in my car in the middle of a Subway parking lot just ugly crying. You know those crying fits where there’s tears, saliva and snot involved and mixed all together and you somehow end up with snot on your forehead and you don’t really know how it got there? Yeah, that’s what I looked like.

I called another friend who had known of the fluctuations I’d gone through, and though I was usually helping her, I finally decided that perhaps confessing that I needed help might not be so bad. And in her soothing-voiced and comforting way she reminded me of the advice I gave her for something too similar: Go and have fun anyway.

And that I did.

I hopped out of the car. Saw my sister. Stood in line. Got some comic books. Ate food. Sang at the top of my lungs. Met Deadpool. He called me sexy. Participated in a contest. Lost to my sister. A lot. Won some merch. Interacted with soccer-playing robots. Debated going in the bounce house. Remembered I was a grown woman wearing a dress. Skipped the bounce house. Met Ariel. Discussed why Midoria was such a perfect role model. Fangirled over an Archer t shirt. Offered compliments. Got some in return.

I had fun. I allowed myself to have fun without the assistance of another person.

I’ve seen the growing trend on social media about cutting toxic people from your life, but what exactly do toxic people look like? I can tell you right now that the answer is this: it depends. Not all toxicity manifests in the same way. Cyanide, arsenic and mercury all kill, but they each have their own way of doing it and vary in how you feel up until your death. We are all taking daily doses of harmful energy and at times you really can’t help it. But a lot of the time -I’m even going to say most of the time- you have a say in just how much you load up your needle. The hits you take may seem small, but how long will it take for you to realize that your spirit is dying? I can’t tell you exactly what it feels like because I am not you and you are not me. But I can say this:

If they are keeping you from doing God’s will, there’s a problem.
If they repeatedly make you question the standards you set for yourself, there’s a problem.
If they put in less effort than you do, there’s a problem.

Recognize the signs of health versus the signs of toxicity. Know who you are well enough to know when you’re being mistreated. Take time to date yourself, because you’re going to be stuck with him/her for a long time.

You are worthy and Little Tikes didn’t make you.

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