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OP/ED: Good Things Don’t Come To Those Who Wait

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When I was little, my mom told me, “Good things come to those who wait.”

So I waited, and waited.

And waited.

***

I watched her come to school; bruises on her legs, fear in her eyes.

Abused.

I swore each time I looked at her I saw a shadow soon follow behind. It didn’t look like hers though.

It called out to her every time she looked anything but lonely.

“Don’t forget who you really are,” it would say.

In the corner of the room, where no one knew she was, I watched, and watched.

And waited.

I knew who she was, kind of. At least I wanted to. But I didn’t say anything. I didn’t do anything. I just kept watching, waiting, patiently hoping she would notice me noticing her.

She had her head buried in a book.

“See Me,” it said on the cover. It sounded so familiar.

Maybe I had read it before. Or maybe not.

I thought about asking her if I could read it but then decided I’d be patient and ask to borrow it once she was done.

But she never put it down. She just kept reading as if the book had no ending. The thick red hardback cover hid her face from the world surrounding her. I assumed it was probably bruised like the rest of her body, but I was too scared to find out.

Page after page, she kept reading, not once glancing up. It was as if we weren’t even part of the same world.

She would get up at the end of the day and leave, face still buried in her book. I would wonder if that were the last time I’d ever see her again, hoping it wasn’t.

And the next day, I would patiently wait for her to appear in the same spot in the corner of the room, praying she would show, because then I’d know she was okay.

A year passed and she always showed. But every day, she had a new bruise. I started making shapes out of them, like people do when they look up into the clouds on a sunny summers’ day.

I made out an H on her right arm one day, then an E another day.

The book could hide her face, but not her arms or legs.

L.

I could’ve made out the entire alphabet on her if I wanted to, but only let myself see certain letters instead.

I started making a game out of it. Until one day, she stopped showing up. I searched for her, expecting to see her like I always had, but she never showed.

Did anyone else notice she was missing? I guess you can’t know someone’s gone if you never knew they existed.

So, I waited.

I looked towards the door, somehow still thinking she would walk in and show herself.

Maybe this time someone else other than myself would see her.

But the more I looked for her, the more I knew she was gone.

She wasn’t coming back.

The mysterious shadow suddenly appeared right next to me and whispered, “P.”

Then it slipped away.

HELP.

I looked around, frantic. No one else seemed fazed by what had just happened. Of course they didn’t. How could they? They didn’t notice her or the shadow in the first place.

I looked back at her corner again, thinking, “This is all in my head. Open your eyes, Laine. She is right there.”

But she wasn’t.

Her book was sitting on her desk though. So, I went and picked it up, finally able to read it.

I opened it to the first page to see who the author was and whom they dedicated it to.

“Good things don’t come to those who wait, good things come to those who strive. Be invincible, not invisible. –Laine Griffin.”

It was me.

The girl in the corner was me.

That book was mine.

***

I never had high self-esteem growing up.

My face was too round, my legs weren’t skinny enough, and my hips were too big.

I missed out on countless memories because I spent my time alone with my door locked, keeping the world at arms length as I cried myself to sleep.

The only company I let myself cling to, was the shadow curled up next to me in bed.

Its darkness was the only thing I knew. It was my comfort.

I would go to school every day and though from the outside, I was always the center of attention: laughing and cracking jokes, on the inside, I was the girl sitting in the corner of the room with bruises tattooed on my body.

It took me longer than any of the other kids to learn to count to 100, and it took me even longer to learn the alphabet.

I would sit in my room for nights on end, rocking back and forth on my bed, repeating the numbers until they stuck. Or until it got late and the shadow showed up and knocked on my door like my mother would, telling me, “It’s time to go to bed, Laine,” while gracefully tucking my arms and legs into bed, making me feel not only emotionally suffocated, but physically too.

“Goodnight. And don’t forget who you really are.”

***

I abused myself mentally until my emotional being surrendered to my will.

My dad wouldn’t let me come out of my room until I could recite the alphabet back to him. And my best friend had to teach me my own telephone number and address because I was too stupid to remember it myself. I grew older but things didn’t get any easier.

I started calling myself fat, ugly and stupid.

I couldn’t pronounce the simplest of words and hated myself when my teacher would call on me to read something out loud in class. My reading comprehension was below average and after days of professional testing, I was told I had a learning disability.

Not only was it hard to look at myself and like what I saw, but it was also hard to get up in the morning and go to school just to leave feeling even more degraded and dumb than when I had showed up.

I’m not going to tell you that things suddenly got better as I got older, or that I simply grew out of it, because that’s not the case. Not even close.

My relationships grew sour and I hated being near people even more than ever. I turned against those who were only trying to help me and became physically abusive to others, and myself.

I let my life get so low that I was practically staring death in the eye. I was waiting for the shadow to appear again at night to tuck me in again, for good.

Good things don’t come to those who wait.

So, I stopped waiting.

Ten years later, I can now look at myself in the mirror and I don’t see a fat round face or a dumb student who can’t recite the alphabet. I don’t see a terrified girl sitting in the corner of the room, bruised, waiting for someone to notice her.

I stopped waiting because, since when has playing the waiting game ever helped me?

I may have started off not being able to count, spell, read or comprehend, but now I’m where I never dreamed I’d be.

I’m a senior in college studying to be a journalist. I went from being so below average in all things English and now, I’m the Associate Editor of The Impact Newspaper.

I’m not who I used to be because I didn’t wait.

Underneath the darkness of that lingering shadow, there was a light that was trying so hard to be seen. And I know this because I noticed a little bit of myself shining through the seams of that book, waiting.

Waiting to be seen.

There is nothing wrong with patience. But waiting forever gets you nowhere.

Why?

Because to change your circumstance, your outlook on life, your future – you must act. Not wait.

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OP/ED: Good Things Don’t Come To Those Who Wait