“I Want to Be Close to You,” You Said, “But I Want You to Do Everything Differently.”

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I’ve been living my entire life like this, on a thin isthmus of identity. Flanked on all sides by everything you’d rather I be. Everything you tried to force me to be.

I’ve never been enough for you, not the way I am.

“I want to be close to you,” you’ve always said to me, “but I want you to do everything differently.”

Sometimes you even said this in words. But most of times, it was with actions. You were proud of me in glimpses. You wish you could pick and choose through aspects of my personality, keeping some and discarding others. You wish you could piece together a nest of my best qualities and throw away the ones that embarrass you.

But that’s not how it works.

When I was younger, I used to think it was my fault, you know. That I was failing you somehow. That if I’d just been a better daughter, a better person, that you would have loved me. You would have been proud of me.

But I’m not so naive anymore. And as a grown woman, I can see now how you’ve done the same thing to everyone who has gotten close to you. None of them have been good enough. You always see people as their flaws first and foremost. Meanwhile, you are oblivious to your own. And you expect the world to reshape around you. So you never have to grow or experience any discomfort.

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As the years have gone on, that thin isthmus of identity has widened for me. The waters have receded. I built dams — healthy boundaries to protect my own sanity and my life.

I need nothing from you in a practical sense, which helps. No money for rent. No childcare. I don’t need a single favor from you.

I’m a happy person these days. Take care of myself.

We talk sometimes — at a healthy distance. And most of the time it goes fine. But every now and then, I can hear a voice in your wind. It’s a voice from the past, and it says, ” I want you to be exactly how I want you to be. Nothing more, nothing less. And I want you to do it here, in a place that actively tormented you.”

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