I read this article about saying “sorry,” about how this word was so ingrained in the author that she even ended the article by saying “I’m sorry.” I’m here to put a stop to that because she is me. I’ve been saying “I’m sorry” since before I can even remember how I interpreted speech.
The things we go through mold us. Sometimes, they can make us whole. Other times, they reinforce the bullshit that we’ve had stuffed down our throats without even realizing we were choking.
When I was a child, I was told that children and women were not to speak unless spoken to. I have a very strong mother who tried to fight against this, but I watched her spirit wither as these oppressive ideas were reinforced time and time again. Even today, I am not welcome to speak about my childhood experiences to my family, and I hope that I do not alienate nor do I wish to be alienated by what I say here today, but I refuse to speak anything but the truth as I know it.
I was a strong yet shy child. My imagination was beautiful and free-spirited; I lived in worlds so far beyond the little town I grew up in. I didn’t understand why I was different at first. I sat at the top of a slide crying one day because I was not allowed to join the kickball game. It was only for boys. I soon realized what that meant. It meant it was not for me. That was all I really understood.
So, I made friends where I could, but I did not compromise on the playground. I refused to sweep or iron. I established huts, and foraged, and hunted for food. I built empires out of blocks. No one questioned me as long as I kept to myself and just a few close friends. I didn’t know if I was a matriarch or a patriarch, but I was always a benevolent leader.
As I grew older, I knew I was even more different than I’d ever imagined. Many called me names like dyke or lesbian, but I never took those as my own. I went into therapy at seventeen because I didn’t know anyone like me, and I was afraid. I used to say “I’m sorry” every time I didn’t know if I was saying the right thing. Then it became, “I don’t know,” when I just didn’t want to say anything too troubling. Suddenly, “I dunno” was my mantra, and no one seemed concerned.
I went to therapy for years and said, “I’m sorry; I don’t know.” It just seemed like part of it, at that point. Like, if I didn’t simultaneously apologize for my feelings and pretend like I had no understanding of them, then I would not be worth analyzing. I finally found a therapist that refused to let me say either. She said: “That’s a cop out. What do you really mean? YOU KNOW!”
I didn’t know how to articulate it then, but she was right. I did know. And why should I be so ashamed of understanding myself when I’d been putting myself at bay for years? Who was I apologizing to? Was it my parents because I’d been told I was hurting them? Was it women because I didn’t know if I really was one? Was it just simply to anyone that could hear me because why the fuck should I have a voice? There were so many questions, and all I knew for sure was that I was sorry for existing and I didn’t know if I could speak my truth. It took me years to even believe I could.
I dunno if I can now, but I’m not sorry that I want to try.