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My Toxic Dad.

I am staring at this title, and I can’t connect the word ‘toxic’ with the word ‘dad’.

No matter how much I try, I can’t believe that a father can be toxic to his child. But the longer I think about it, the more I start having flashbacks of my childhood.

And in the blink of an eye, I can feel anger captivating my entire body. I can feel myself start to shake and tears start running down my checks.

The reality hits me with an unbelievable truth—I have a toxic father!

And while I think about it, I see myself trying to run away from that thought. But you can’t run away from reality, right?

You can’t run away from something that hurt you so much that even if you are an adult, you still feel the consequences.

Do you see what you have done to me dad?

Don’t you feel sorry for neglecting me?

Don’t you feel sorry for not giving me the love I craved when I was a little girl?

Dad, don’t you see that because of you, I am emotionally unavailable for everyone who tries to love me?

Don’t you see that you ruined me for every man who comes into my life?

Because of you, I never felt beautiful enough. You would always tell me how other children were sweet and cute while I was standing next to you in my pink tutu dress I put on just so you would like me.

And I hoped that you would look at me and tell me that I was beautiful as well, and that you were proud to have a daughter like that.

Because of you, I never felt I was worthy. You would always tell me that other kids were better students than me and that I should go the extra mile to catch up with them.

You never said you were proud of me for a good grade, but you surely knew how to punish me when I got a bad one, though—like I wasn’t punished enough for not getting your love.

Because of you, I couldn’t come home and know I could count on my dad when I got my heart broken for the first time. You never wanted to know about anything that happened in my life. You never asked how I was and if I had problems.

You were never a shoulder I could cry on, dad. And for that, I will never forgive you.

Because of you, I will never walk down the aisle with my dad. I will probably walk alone or with my husband if I ever find one—since after you showed me what men are like, I simply can’t trust any man anymore.

I feel like I will never find a man who will cherish me and love me. I simply feel all of them will betray me like you did.

Because of you, my children won’t have nice memories with their grandpa. Maybe they will never meet you since you probably won’t make any effort to get to know them better.

And I won’t even try to tell them about you since you are not so important to me anymore.

You were never there when I needed you, and now that I am an adult, I don’t want you in my life anymore. So, don’t try to seek me when you realize what you have done.

That little girl who was crazy about you doesn’t exist anymore. She died the day you didn’t choose her.

She died the day you had and affair and chose other women over her. And no matter what you do, you will never bring her back.

Instead of her, there is another woman who knows what she wants in her life. And one of her wishes surely isn’t a lousy father.

You know why?

Because she deserves a lot more than that. Because she suffered, and now she wants a calm life without worrying about why her father doesn’t love her enough.

She doesn’t want to think that she made some mistake and because of that, her father couldn’t love her.

She can’t question herself every day about why she wasn’t enough for a man who was supposed to love and protect her. She simply can’t do that anymore. She is tired, tired to the bone.

And it is about time for her to move on. It is time that she lets go of a toxic dad who was never there for her.

Because she can’t continue like this anymore.

I know that you will maybe feel sorry for not being with me when I needed you. Maybe, one day, you will be proud of the woman I became, but you will never get an opportunity to tell me that face in face. I don’t want to see you.

I don’t want to have any contact with you. One toxic man was enough for my entire life, and I just want to get rid of the toxicity you brought into my life.

So, dad, if you are reading this letter, just know that I forgive you. You probably had some reasons why you were never there for me.

I couldn’t understand them then, and I can’t understand them now. But to be honest, I don’t give a damn about it anymore.

This time, I am finally moving on with a clean heart, knowing that your behavior wasn’t my fault. I am moving on surrounded by people who would give their lives for me.

I am moving on because life goes on, and I have to live it like I deserve. But, just know that, once upon a time, there was a little girl who counted on you.

Once upon a time, you betrayed her by not being there for her.

Once upon a time, you broke her heart. And I just hope that you will be able to live with that.

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Forgive Me, But I Love Me More.

I used to believe in fairy tales while growing up and watching all those romantic comedies.

Dreaming about my knight in shining armor and that one day he will come and save me from my horrible teenage years. Today this seems to be a blast from the past.

I used to be such a clever, yet insecure girl, looking for a guy to fill my insecurities and make me happy.

Growing up with a father barely around, it took me years to become aware that I was looking for him in all my men and relationships. I always had a pattern, finding the ones that were not available, just like my daddy wasn’t available for me and my mom.

I met you and that was so typical of me. I broke every textbook rule for you. I saw from the start that you couldn’t show feelings; you couldn’t express yourself verbally, in that way or be a part of an adult conversation.

I wanted to save you for me, so I pushed you for years into becoming what I wanted of you. I was so in love and scared of losing you. You were that unavailable type from day one.

But my ego and my pattern didn’t allow me to let you go. I should have, but instead, I struggled in the battle that was already lost from the start.

I often wonder where my destructiveness came from, why I was not allowing myself to take care of me first. I worried about your worries instead. I was fixing your problems first. And deep down inside, I was suffering like never before in my life.

Today I realize that I was blaming myself for my parents’ broken marriage and for the fact that I take the blame for everything that happened between them.

Just a small girl who had to take care of her father, instead of him taking care of his daughter.

Boy, was I in denial, even though deep inside, I knew I was making a mistake with you. But it didn’t seem like one at the beginning. Beginnings are usually the best form of denial.

At the beginning, you are mad about each other – well, mostly, you are head over heels for him. Now, let’s go back to the story of romantic comedies from the 90s.

Years passed and I got so tired of making all the right choices for us. Asking you if you loved me, putting my needs aside because you have to come first in my life. And the funniest part is, you didn’t even ask me to do all that.

Luckily, I was smart enough to take my education very seriously, to push my career and knowledge, to expand my horizons.

And this brought me here, where I stand today.

On my own two feet firmly on the ground and my hands in the air, trying to catch my own piece of heaven. It took my years to leave you, but through that process I have finally reached out to myself.

I have started a new chapter of my life, loving myself more than anything or anyone else. And guess what? I’ve let go of the past too.

Loving my mom and dad, that was one thing, but holding on to their lives and the past didn’t allow me to grab for my future.

I only have one life and if I can love myself for me, then I am not able to love a man for himself.

I do hope that this will be the next step of my lifelong journey. But I will not hurry to get to him. Like I did with you. I’ve let you go and it was the best decision of my life.

I can tell you one more beautiful thing – I didn’t even suffer. I just gave myself the time to walk on the beach alone, eat chocolate, and read a good book.

I put my phone away and didn’t wait for your message. I decided that the only person I should wait for is me. And for the first time in my life, being alone felt good.

At that moment, I realized that he will come to me and I will not feel the urge to change anything. He will be the one for me and, finally, I will be able to be the only one for him.

But first, no matter how long it took me to get there, I had to be the only one and the right one for me.

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If You Think You Need A Dog…You Do!

This is a story about a girl named Lucky. Okay, she’s not named Lucky, she is lucky. And that girl is me.

I adopted my best friend on Black Friday, 2015. Let’s rewind a bit.

My family has had pets my whole life. Mostly dogs, but also cats, fish, bunnies, and guinea pigs. I’ve always loved animals. When I got my first apartment in New Jersey at the age of 20, all I wanted was a dog. Instead, I got three roommates and a cockroach problem. For years I would visit local animal shelters and pet stores (boo) to play with dogs. While these visits filled me with unimaginable glee, my heart would break when I left dogless. I just didn’t think I was ready to commit to caring for another living being.

My immediate family (and our dogs) moved to Pennsylvania a few months before I did. I came because I thought I would have plenty of opportunity for work out here (ha), and I knew I didn’t want to be that far from my family. I got offered my first apartment and took it quickly because it was a great deal. I signed a year lease – but they didn’t allow dogs. I didn’t think it would be a problem. I was still settling into life in PA and didn’t have a job, let alone any prospects – how could I take care of a dog now, anyway?

I continued to torture myself by visiting shelters and looking at adoptable dogs online. Why couldn’t they all be mine? I finally realized I needed a dog. It may sound silly, and I know that when I told people they thought I was crazy, but it was true. I needed a dog. There was a literal dog-shaped hole in my heart. I needed to care for something, to feel that unconditional love and give it right back. I was depressed. I lived in a new city and was having trouble making friends. Not to mention my life-long struggle with anxiety. Being around dogs always seemed to make me feel better. Some friends even said that I was like a different person when I was playing with a dog.

In November, I heard that hundreds of shelters across the country were participating in a Black Friday event where Zappos would cover the cost of pet adoptions. I was still in the apartment that didn’t allow dogs, but I knew that I could make it work. Plus, my lease was almost up, and my parents lived close by. I looked online at one of my local shelters – Bucks County Women’s Humane Society – and that’s where I saw her: Presley. She was perfect. She was a crazy-eyed mutt and she was meant to be mine.

The next day, my family and I drove out to Bensalem to get her. I literally ran from the car to the entrance. I was so excited! But my heart sank when I saw Presley, the perfect dog – MY perfect dog – walking out with someone else. My mom stopped the woman to ask if she had just adopted her. It so happened that she was just fostering her. “Turn around,” I told her, “she’s mine.” I still thank my mom for stopping that woman. As I was adopting Presley, I learned that she had a slew of medical problems. She was on three different medications for an arthritic condition they weren’t even completely sure she had. I didn’t care. In fact, it made me want her more.

She had been in foster care for four years because no one wanted a dog with medical problems like hers. It broke my heart, but I was so happy to be taking her home. I’ve now had Presley for nine months, and in that time I have not once woken up in a bad mood. It’s impossible when I am so happy to wake up to something I love so much. Instead of crying from sadness, I cry because it physically hurts me to think about how much I love her. She has turned my life upside-down in the best way imaginable. I’m sure a lot of people think I’m crazy for feeling this way about a dog, but I don’t care.

I feel less anxious, less depressed, less lonely, and more loved. It has been nothing but a positive experience.

The other day she got poop on my shirt and I didn’t even care. My only regret is that I didn’t listen to my heart and get a dog sooner, but then I wouldn’t have Presley, so never mind. If I could offer any advice, though, it would be to get a dog (or cat, bunny, fish, guinea pig) if you think you need one. You’ll make it work. In the past few months, I weaned Presley off all of her medication because it just didn’t seem to be doing any good. She is now doing 110% better. She used to limp and be lethargic; now she runs and is full of energy. My friends have noticed the change and say that all she needed was me. Wrong. All I needed was her. Cliché, don’t care.

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The Most Beautiful Rainbows Come After The Storm.

You can do this.

You can finish whatever it is that you are struggling to start or have already started.

You are just as good as anyone else, and you don’t need to think of yourself as any less.

You don’t have to give a shit about what anyone else thinks.

You will finish this program—even if it’s tough, even if you think you aren’t good enough for it—you can do it.

You will graduate and get to walk across that stage. The stage that you may have missed in high school.

You will get to toss that graduation cap up high in the air and celebrate.

You will get to call that day yours, because you will have deserved it.

You will get to travel with your BFF and go on amazing adventures.

You will one day, find yourself to have become a grown, smart, and independent individual, and it is that day that you won’t find yourself so alone and helpless.

You will get to leave school with a career and realize that every bad day and painstaking night was worth it.

You will get there.

You will find the job of your dreams.

You will wake up every day loving your life and being grateful for everything and everyone that’s happened to you.

Maybe not today, but one day.

You will find the love of your life when you least expect it.

You will find the person who takes your breath away, who will love you and be beside you forever.

You will get to buy a house and decorate the kitchen, however you want to.

You will get to have a house full of kids, or pets, whichever you want—or both.

You will get all that and much more because you will find solutions to life, and its problems as they come.

You will get past it.

The good will come.

But for now, remember that it’s easiest to quit when we’re almost there without knowing it. So ask yourself: Do you want to quit now and miss out on something amazing that’s right around the corner? Or do you want to keep pushing, eventually get there, and be glad that you didn’t give up?

Lastly, remember that the most beautiful rainbows are created after the worst of storms. And in order to be there after the storm to see the rainbow, you gotta stay standing—you gotta face the storms.

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The Definition Of Family.

Family means constantly wondering about the argument of nature versus nurture. It means thinking to yourself, “Did we really come out of the same vagina?” It means feeling like The Other, like you’re truly adopted and must find your birth parents.

Family means feeling safe and loved, like a back rub on a late night car ride. It means holding your father’s hand in public when you’re a 25 year-old male and refusing to feel weird about it. It means sleeping in their bed and having somewhere to go on Thanksgiving no matter what.

Family means never holding back, unless you’re stuck in a family of WASP’s. In which case, you’ll spend your entire life holding back. Family means being able to be the most disgusting version of yourself. You can cry, fart, burp. Ain’t no shame in the family game! They have to love you as you are. Wait, that’s actually not true. Your family judges you for the littlest things, but at least you can get away with clogging the toilet.

Family means holding a grudge. These are fragile relationships we’re talking about here. They’re nuanced and have a unique set of complications. Resentment is the currency. Not writing a “Thank You” card for a gift, feeling slighted for something that happened ten years ago—these are the things we sometimes choose to hold on to. It’s a shame to spend all those years not talking to each other, it’s a shame to be estranged from someone who has seen and loved all of you. What wasted years.

Family means change. It means not being invited to Christmas at your uncle’s house anymore because you’ve drifted and time has killed any closeness you once had. It means crying about those changes and then accepting them for what they are. It means having traditions and then losing them. You have to make your own now. You’re an adult and have to find a way to not feel alone.

Family means loving someone in a way that’s almost indescribable. This love has its own set of rules. I think it’s actually the most vulnerable kind of love you can have for someone. Because when things go wrong, when there’s a fight, it wrecks you in a way that’s worse than any break-up. It cuts you off at the knees. If or when it gets resolved, it will feel like your life is full again and you can go on not answering their phone calls like you always have.

Family is weird. Family is hard. Family is beautiful. There’s no escaping them. As much as you try to run away and build your own life in a major city, (Have you noticed that all famous New Yorker’s seem to have no families? They come from a place like West Virginia and never speak about their upbringing. It’s very sad and Carrie Bradshaw.), you’ll always feel a need to fill that void. You’ll always need a mother and father. Hold each other tight this year, no matter how much they upset you. The alternative is much worse.

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A Letter To My Confused Self.

I know you’re confused right now. You have always felt lost, you have always wanted to do things, but could never figure out how. You have always had this fear in you, this fear of something that you can’t even specifically explain. You’re not getting any younger, that’s something you’re aware of. You know your life won’t wait for you, and you know that it is your responsibility to find what’s in store for you. But that doesn’t make you any less scared. Any less lost.

I’m here to tell you that its okay.

I’m here to tell you to stand up for who you want to be. Those big decisions that you have to make? Go with your gut. Never ignore your intuition, it will never fail you. Sometimes there are things that your heart knows and your mind can never explain.

Do what you love. You never have to apologize for doing things that you know can make you happy.

Not everyone will think the same way you think, but it doesn’t matter. Listen to what your heart is telling you.

It is never too late for anyone. If an opportunity doesn’t exist, create it. If an idea doesn’t exist, create it. Self doubt will be your worst downfall.

Everything begins and ends in your mind. Breathe in the future and breathe out the past.

If something makes you nervous, it’s worth doing. Don’t spend any more time thinking about it.

You will never find happiness exclusively from other people – it must always start by being happy with your own self.

Figure out exactly what you want and don’t stop until you get it. It will never be too late for you. Its never too late.

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What Keeps Your Story Moving Is Curiosity.

Have you ever noticed how some of the greatest moments in our lives began with the phrase, “I wonder…”?

Like, “I wonder where that is?” turns into “I wonder if I could get there?” until eventually the desire to make it happen becomes so intense, you have to make it a reality.

New discoveries and changes in our path are what we all yearn for, and yet so many of us get stuck along the way. I don’t think there’s one person out there who hasn’t felt emotionally stifled by their journey at some point. Life isn’t always easy, but that’s because finding the road ahead requires following what drives you. It sounds too simple to be true, but if you know what you want, you’ll know where you’re going.

Maybe the journey won’t always turn into a perfect fairytale or an epic adventure, but that’s okay. Most of us don’t expect our stories to be a reenactment of The Notebook or Lord of the Rings, and while you’re searching for an answer, it shouldn’t matter where you are. Not every part of your life is going to be amazing, and you should be prepared for that. Those are the moments you take five to take it all in. It’s a time for recollection, to admire where you’ve been and what you’ve seen, and then gather up everything you have experienced to help navigate the next part of your voyage.

Remember, every story has a beginning, middle and end, and liberation always begins with appreciation. You’ve got to realize what makes you tick and refine your identity before you can expect something great to come of your efforts. That’s a structure we all must understand.

So listen to that voice inside, continue to learn about what you love, and keep on living life to the fullest. Remaining curious is what will keep your story moving, and new chapters can only be found when you turn the page.

So keep going and keep growing, and you never know — one day, you might just find that happy ending after all.