A few years ago one of my grandmothers passed away after living a long and fulfilling life. She would be deeply missed and her memorial service was a testament to that; full of people remembering the life she led. I remember waking up the morning of the funeral in a ball of grief and anxiety. There was a mix of knowing my grandma was truly gone and a fear of my adoptive parents’ presence at the service, whom I had an estranged relationship with at that time. It all had me feeling like a mess.
As I walked into the church, I was quickly informed by a family member that my mom was not there but my dad was. I felt the tension release within me a bit, as the relationship between my dad and I was less disruptive than the relationship with my mom.
Following the service, we gathered downstairs for a luncheon. My cousins and I sat around a table reminiscing on our childhoods at grandma’s house, trying to bring some joy to an otherwise sad day. The nostalgia mixed with grief made for a feeling of unexplainable closeness to them and it helped settle the wave of emotions we were all feeling.
In a pause in conversation, I looked up and saw my dad walking towards the table. My heart began to race, as the anxiety swelled up inside me. He asked to speak with me, and although a little caught off guard, I agreed and followed him to a corner of the room.
He began the conversation, “If you want to have a relationship with your mother and I, you need to go to counseling.”
I tried to explain to him that I was in therapy and I did not need to go to their approved therapist at that age of 27 years old for it to count as legitimate counseling. The rest of the conversation consisted of me trying to justify being a healthy adult and him attempting to convince me I was the reason our family was dysfunctional.
But what stood out to me the most was he kept calling me girl. Not my name. Girl.
Just a girl.
It felt to me as if my name was too hard to remember, like it wasn’t worth saying. It felt like me, his daughter, was nothing more to him than a girl.
“Brooke,” I said, “my name is Brooke. Your only other daughter.”
As those words left my mouth, I felt a shift within me. I realized that I was doing nothing wrong in choosing to see myself get better. I realized my parents no longer had the right to take up space in my mind to make me afraid; they didn’t possess that power any longer.
I realized I was more than just a girl.
It’s easy to define ourselves by what others think of us, but it can change us into someone that is untrue to themselves. Instead of letting someone’s words identify who you are, keep reminding yourself that you are more than that. That you are unique and you have a voice that’s worth being heard. That you are you.
That you are more than just a girl.