Embracing Solitude: Reflections on My 42nd Birthday

Embracing Solitude: Reflections on My 42nd Birthday

I recently celebrated my 42nd birthday, and this milestone sparked a profound conversation with my older sister. It was a conversation that unveiled truths I had never before explored during my 22 years of therapy. What she said hit me like a ton of bricks: "This is why we are perfect loners." Those words resonated with me, leading me to reflect on my lifelong journey of self-discovery.

As a child, I endured a tumultuous and challenging upbringing. My past is one that I've only begun to open up about recently, and even during the conversation with my sister, I revealed aspects of my life I had never shared before. I spoke about my distant relationships with certain family members and family friends, which were shaped by the hardships I faced in my youth.

Growing up, there was much I went through that no child should ever experience. It wasn't just the poverty; it was the underlying causes and the far-reaching consequences of that poverty. This conversation with my sister brought me full circle because, on the very next day, my son and I discussed poverty, discrimination against Black individuals, and the reasons behind higher crime rates in certain communities. It's all deeply rooted in history, and my life has been no exception.

As I've grown older, I've had my share of good days and bad days. For a significant portion of my life, I suppressed the memories of my past, believing that money and success would make those memories disappear. But as I celebrated my 42nd birthday, I realized that everything I had tried to escape from was rushing back toward me.

All those years I spent in therapy, discussing various issues without addressing the core of my struggles, were in vain. Why didn't I talk about the fact that, at the age of 18, I made a pact with myself to escape my circumstances and never look back? This decision was intertwined with my determination to refine my speech and eliminate the vernacular I considered "ghetto" or "hood." I had to work tirelessly to transition from saying "yah" to "yes" during my first year of college.

While I was striving to leave behind what I deemed as "ghetto," I found myself surrounded by college peers who came from supportive, loving families. Their parents attended parents' day events, while my mom was in a halfway house recovering from a federal charge, and my dad was distant. My childhood was tumultuous, and while I'm reserving the full details for a book I'm working on, I want to focus on my ability, need, and joy of being alone in the midst of chaos.

Being alone has always given me the space I needed to let my thoughts flow. The difference is that, as a child, I didn't have to worry about what anyone thought of my need for solitude. My parents were just happy I wasn't getting on their nerves amid their own troubles. I was also a quiet and introverted child, with few friends, if any. It was challenging to make friends when, prior to moving in with my dad at the age of 14, we changed homes every 2-3 months. I can probably recall more schools I attended in elementary school than most people can in their entire schooling experience.

In those moments alone, I discovered that music brought me comfort. Most of us probably had parents who turned to music during challenging times. I got to experience my parents listening to music to cover their pain, but it was taboo to speak about my own pain to them.

My 42-year-old self would undoubtedly encourage my 18 and 19-year-old self to confront those demons sooner. At the time, my focus was on escaping, but if I can share my story and lend a helping hand to someone, I want them to know that addressing their traumas early on is crucial. I'm giving myself a pat on the back because at 19, while at Cal State Northridge, I had the foresight to seek counseling when it was free. I remember my first therapist, whom I initially believed was "not for me," but she introduced me to the world of therapy. I didn't give up; I found someone else. I've been working on addressing my traumas since I was 19, and now, 23 years later, I'm still at it.

If you've never met someone who's been in therapy for 23 years, allow me to introduce myself. I'm Geneva, and at 42, I've come to embrace and cherish my solitude. This is my 42nd birthday message, and it's a testament to the power of self-discovery, healing, and the strength that can be found in being alone.

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1 comment

We are so alike. My childhood was tumultuous as well. Raped at 8 by an Uncle but never protected, I had to isolate from family but I couldn’t turn my back on the ones who needed me. That made me grow up fast. I have always felt cheated but blessed because although I’ve had many low moments in my life, I have enjoyed many joys too. My girls are 2 of my joys and you and Carol are 2 more.
I love you dearly niece and I’m so proud of how you have navigated so gracefully with humor and love, this harsh life we’ve been handed❤️

Geneva McJunkin

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