2009 – 2019 The Decade of Personal Growth (A Slow Journey Towards Happiness)

The decade challenge has made its rounds on social media again. Most people posted pictures on how their looks have changed – weight lost or gained (but mostly lost) and other silly reasons.

I joined the inked club at the end of May when I got my first tattoo, six weeks before I turned 30. I was always too afraid of what mom would say because when I was 18-22, she said as long as I lived here, no. For the past two years her stances have changed since 27+ is a lot different than a teenager and very young adult. I’m not 18-22 anymore and I was proud of myself for going through with it, doing something I’ve always wanted to do. I love my piece and I love flaunting Wraith.

I got my second tattoo three weeks ago, on the sixth anniversary of my rape. 2013 and 2019 have the same days and I wanted to write love on my skin, as well as the day. It also reframed the day and as I was getting “for when I am weak, then I am strong” tattooed on my back, I felt so much love. I was feeling loved as I shared my vulnerability with the artist. Getting a tattoo and two in less than a year is transformative.

I posted two photos from 2009, when I had henna tattoos painted on my hand. My caption: “2009 was all about henna, 2019 is all about permanence. Don’t get me wrong, I still love henna; I really love my ink!”

The pictures I posted from 2009 were from a festival in West Chester in September, a few weeks before my boyfriend at the time broke up with me. This was before hypothyroidism, Celiac disease, the weight gain and even though I was pretty and thin, you could see the unhappiness in my eyes. I was with my boyfriend that day, we fought before we arrived at this festival, we were fighting a lot then; I’m sure my expression gives it away too.

I was miserable. I hated dating Danny, he was such a jerk. He used to call me a lesbian because I wouldn’t do anything physical with him, in which I would fire back, “I’m not a lesbian because I wouldn’t sleep with women either!” I felt like a freak of nature, especially when he made of the way I looked, but was too afraid to end it because I didn’t want to announce to Facebook that I must be abnormal with a lack of relationship. He ended it three weeks later over AIM and I never saw him again. Looking back, what a coward.

I only had two relationships, both three months long and they were the same in intensity. Both thought I was a lesbian or something because I wouldn’t commit physically. In 2010, I decided that I wasn’t interested in relationships and in 2011 I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I gained 80 pounds and was depressed. I wanted to be more involved with people and that fall I became an ally through West Chester University. As an ally, I discovered asexuality and that was me. The lack of interest was me and it felt good to know I wasn’t alone.

I wish I could say that the discovery brought instant peace. I was 22 in 2011 and was heavily influenced by Facebook; I wanted to look normal because I wanted to fit in and belong somewhere, but I also wanted to experience what girls my age experienced, love, getting engaged, and getting married. I didn’t know any other asexuals, even though asexuals could do all of those things too. I also knew my hypothyroidism had no effect on my sexuality because I felt this way even when I had a healthy thyroid.

I continued being an ally and I continued to learn about myself, however, I still felt uncomfortable in my skin, but not dangerously uncomfortable yet. I made friends, mostly female since males didn’t seem interested in friendships – 20 somethings, I found, preferred something physical. I also made tons of friends on Facebook, about 1500, and I felt something good, although it was hollow. I connected with a few in real life that I thought were real friends.

Sadly, Nan died on 25 January 2013 and that began a year of depression and loneliness. The friends I thought were true friends weren’t really interested in my well-being and I started feeling dangerously uncomfortable in my skin. I was very uncomfortable in my skin in the fall of 2013 when I connected with Steven on Facebook. He was a Juggalo in Ohio, but became a very dangerous Facebook friend when he blamed me for ruining his life. This was also around the time I met Brandon and the owners of the cupcake shop in West Chester. While the whole thing was weird, looking back, I failed to listen to myself during this time. Steven and I had a text fight, then he blocked me on 7 November 2013, I felt like an awful human being who failed at life and I wanted to drown my sorrows at the cupcake shop. Sweets tended to bring temporary relief. Brandon came in, said I looked like hell, he took me out, I got really drunk and he raped me. For those who are new, here is the story (read this one too).

I spent the entirety of 2014 and 2015 depressed. I was blamed after it happened and I felt like the ultimate loser. I was depressed and anxious from PTSD. I became a Muslim again, even though that attempt in 2010 failed, I wanted to try again. I lasted for three years, but that added to my unhappiness because some Muslims on Facebook said I couldn’t be associated with my Catholic and atheist family members. I still was, I believe in co-existence.

I started the Happiness Jar in 2016, then the box in 2017 and I still do the Happiness Box Project. I left Facebook, I left Islam and will not get involved in organized religion again. Facebook is a time sink that makes me depressed and since I believe in co-existence the rights of the LGBTQIA community, I rather be spiritual.  I use Instagram still, but have no problem disconnecting if I need to.

I started therapy through LGBTQIA groups, accept my asexuality, and I accepted that I was raped and it wasn’t my fault. I blamed myself for a long time because I went with him. I also shared that I think I was targeted because I mentioned I wasn’t really interested in Brandon and wasn’t interested in anything physical. I made a bad decision, but I didn’t deserve to be raped. I was validated and there’s something transformative about the whole therapy process. With my acceptance of my asexuality and past, I am also celibate. I also never wanted to get married; I am happy single and even though I am single, I tend to meet people when I travel. I love traveling and I love meeting people.

I also learned a few months ago that if someone crosses my boundaries, I will trigger and it lasts for about a week. I have also learned to let go of caring so much with what others think of me. I live my life and I am the boss of my own life.

It’s funny because before Brandon even came to the cupcake shops, I reached out to “close” Facebook friends for advice, and I also reached out to Christine, Christina, and some other college friends, but they didn’t want to spend time with me. Since deleting Facebook, I realized that Facebook friends for the most part aren’t true friends. In 2014, I let go of Christine after she told me that she was finally glad I got some action. No, just no. I recently let go of Christina and the people in my life now, they are true friends that I can count on. Through this ordeal, I learned who my tribe was.

Through my project, I have learned that I have a lot to be grateful for and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Getting these tattoos mean more than the physical changes, but the mental changes that happened in the past decade and the changes to come in the new decade. I will flaunt my transformation and will use it to fuel the next decade, where I continue the process of personal growth and joy.


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Creator of the Happiness Box Project Initiative, a project where you write your happiness or gratitude each day, then open the box in the New Year. The Initiative is to teach joy and gratitude, to pass it on to others.

2 thoughts on “2009 – 2019 The Decade of Personal Growth (A Slow Journey Towards Happiness)”

  1. Hi, Jessica Marie!

    Yours is an inspiring journey, dear friend. It made me verklempt to read about all you’ve been through in the span of the last ten years, how you have adjusted and grown. You have learned to avoid falling under the influence of pseudo friends on Facebook and other social media platforms and to establish a network of genuine friends who actually care about you. You have discovered the joy of meeting and embracing all kinds of people, turing strangers into friends. You have become much more comfortable in your own skin, proudly displaying the symbols of empowerment in the form of your tattoos. You have learned to set boundaries and stick to them, and to surround yourself with a better class of people, the ones you typically encounter at cultural events, seminars, art and educational exhibits.

    When I was your age my life was out of control. Loneliness and desperation and a yearning to fit in and to have a circle of friends caused me to make poor choices. I had a drinking problem and engaged in high risk behavior. I feel lucky to even be alive. Like you I eventually took charge of my own destiny, worked on self improvement and broke free of a lifestyle that was holding me back and bringing me down. I applaud you for coming so far over the last decade. Now that you have the tools I am sure you will continue to use them to fashion a future that is right for you, one that is satisfying and fulfilling.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend dear friend JM!


  2. Hi Tom,

    Thank you. My 20s were a wild ride, but they provided lessons that I’ll carry throughout my 30s and beyond. I’m thinking of continuing my Happiness Box Project throughout the 2020 decade and looking back on them in another 10 years to see how much I’ve grown, as well as the little joys. 🙂 Actually, in my heart, I know I want to continue the project because it does bring me joy and it makes my heart happy to read everything I write for the box. It has helped me.

    I am finding that it seems like everyone’s 20s are a wild ride. I know the 20s are really the first decade out of childhood, so I guess in our process of finding ourselves, we hit a few potholes along the way. Fortunately, most of us get our cars fixed from these potholes and we’re careful to avoid them for the remainder of the journey, but some people struggle. I find therapists, friends, and family are the mechanics that help us. I’m glad I got off of Facebook and honestly, I will never return. I’m happier without it, happier without the noise and judgement. I find that is what social media mostly is.

    Have a great day, dear friend!


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