As a little girl, all I wanted was to be Ariel. She had red hair, she loved the water, and she ended up with a gorgeous prince who saved her life. I had red hair, I lived on a lake, and I soon realized that all I wanted was a gorgeous prince of my own to save me.
In middle school, I found a prince with dark hair and olive skin. He played trombone and lived off of Life Savers mints. But he was raised in a family that never missed church and was well-educated on the Bible and their faith. My family and I never went to church. He was a Baptist and I was a “I don’t really know what to believe.”
We sat on a hill surrounded by blades of grass and warm sunshine as he taught me about how the world was created and what he believed. But while I obsessed over learning a religion so a boy could love me, he and his family decided that trying wasn’t enough for them.
My heart ached time and time again when the olive skinned prince or my beautiful best friend or any other peers showed me signs of doubt, disappoint, or distaste. My mom preached that you shouldn’t care what others think of you, but my feelings towards myself were built on the approval of others.
As I was tearing myself down brick by brick for not being enough, I became a mother figure to my group of friends: giving advice, a shoulder to cry on, any sort of comfort. I gave away my bricks to build up others.
I first became close to my high school sweetheart because I was setting him up with another girl. But when she found out that he was atheist, she was no longer interested. I was still a self-proclaimed “I don’t know what to believe,” so we hit it off and started dating.
We were a couple that you could spend time with and not feel uncomfortable around. We fit together like two puzzle pieces, building each other up with our own bricks, bringing our bricks together and supporting each other. Our friend groups started to merge, and we danced the night away at five high school dances. In the two years we were together, I was convinced he was my prince. He was ready to save me.
But as our relationship started to crumble from distance and stress, I couldn’t give enough bricks away from myself to rebuild our life together. After a period of on-again, off-again with this boy, I realized he wasn’t my prince.
My mom and dad were both born on September 20th, 1960. My mom had a crush on my dad in the ninth grade, they starting dating in high school, and they have been together ever since.
My parents went to the same college, but my dad transferred to a different school after just one year. My mother told me that she was thankful he did. She said that she loved him and always has, but she knew that if he would have been at school with her, she wouldn’t have ventured out to meet new friends, do new things, or done as well in school. She said that she missed him when he was gone, but she was able to grow as an individual instead of just grow as a couple.
My mom has been in a relationship with my father for almost forty years, but she is the most independent person I know.
I have learned a lot of new things in college. I’ve learned things through my classes: art history, design principles, anthropology. I’ve learned things through student organizations: I like to have control, organization is the key to life, loving what you do is important. And I’ve learned things through living on my own: I need alone time as much as I need time with friends, I can’t cook, I don’t need a prince.
Let’s say it again: I don’t need a prince.
I grew up wanting a mermaid tail and to breathe underwater and to be loved by a boy who would do anything for me. That was the ultimate goal. That was what would determine if my life was meaningful or not.
But my mother – a woman who is a vital part of the company she works for, a woman who would drop anything and everything to ensure I was happy, a woman who has been a committed wife for years – showed me that you don’t need someone else to make you happy. Happiness can come from your hobbies, your work, your family, your friends. You can build yourself with bricks from many different areas, not just a prince that hands them to you.
And if a prince comes, let him. He can have the dark hair that goes with my red, or he can have the awkward human legs that go with my mermaid-like swimming abilities. He can give me bricks and I can give him some too, but my life doesn’t need to be built on his bricks, because I have my own.
Assistant Art Director, What the F Magazine