It’s not me. It’s definitely you.
Okay, so I can’t deny that we’ve had our good moments. Like the end of the work day when you remind me to cram as much work as I can into the last few hours so that my evening is fun and not full of thoughts of tomorrow’s to-do list. And on the day before my wedding, when the details I had so carefully planned started to fall apart, and you convinced me to cut away the chaff, pick my battles, and acknowledge when something was just a trivial detail.
I think in our early days, back when you were just Stress, you were only ever doing what was best for me. You wanted to stretch me, to force me to be my best and not to settle for what came easily to me. Looking back, I can really see how you were loving me the only way you knew how, and I appreciate that. I would have appreciated it then, too, I think, if I had known better. If I had been aware of the alternatives, of the ways your love could quickly turn abusive, I would have leaned into it more, taken it more seriously. I have to admit my role in all this: my inattention let you become what you did.
Now most of our time together is pretty toxic. You paralyze me with fear over people’s expectations of me, zooming in on tiny social cues and reading into every little throw-away comment. You emphasize the most difficult parts of every project and neglect to mention my strengths so you can convince me that I’m destined to fail. You show me all the problems and none of the solutions. As I’m casting around everywhere, looking for whatever relief I can find, I eat everything in sight, escape into mindless television binges, hours of video games I barely even like. I find all the short-term conveniences, ignoring their long-term costs, just like you taught me. You darken my sunrises and lengthen my nights through sleeplessness and fear.
Lately, when I look in the mirror, I see more of you—dark circles under my eyes, a glassy, resigned look on my face, nails bitten down to the knuckle—than I do of me.
So, yeah. Maybe I should be sorry, but I just can’t say that I am. I’m not into this anymore. Honestly, if you want to know, I met someone. Confidence is so much better for me than you ever were. Those early days when you helped me grow, taught me strength, made me shine, those are my days now that I have Confidence. So, I’m going to have to call you and I quits.
I get it; this is sudden. You’re going to have a hard time coming to terms with this and learning to really leave me alone for good. But fair warning: Confidence knows all about you and our relationship, and they’re not going to be okay with you hanging around. Maybe they’ll be nice at first, but I can promise you that the two of us together are way stronger than you. You’ll get no free rides from me anymore.
So this is goodbye. I would say, “I know you’ll find someone who really deserves you,” but the fact of the matter is that I’m not sure anyone does. I would say “You’re better off without me,” but honestly I don’t know if that’s true and I don’t care. I would say “It was fun while it lasted” but, you know, it really wasn’t.
Mary Margaret is a 2013 English, history, and secondary education grad who went rogue and became a Social Worker in Pennsylvania’s Child Welfare system. Specifically, she works as a caseworker in the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network finding families for children and educating the masses about foster care, adoption, and permanency planning. She made it over the grad-school hurdle with gold stars and warm fuzzies and is on to the next big adventure: the unknown of adulthood. Her major writing dream right now is to finish her science fiction novel that explores the concurrent futures of child welfare and artificial intelligence.