Recently I’ve given a lot of thought to the idea of victims vs. survivors. I even started a blog about it because of my strong personal feelings on the subject.
Many of you who have been around the blog a while know what kind of circumstances I’ve survived with varying degrees of success, level 10 being healed and happy and level 1 being blissfully ignorant with my head buried in the sand.
Granted there have been more 1s than 10s, but one thing I reject, wholeheartedly, is the idea of being a victim. A victim is someone that things happen to, which is a very powerless place to be. Someone else did something to me, without my consent, without my permission, and yet somehow *I’m* changed for the worse, made lesser than or damaged? I don’t think so. Things have happened to me, some even dared to define me, but I am not a victim. I’m a proud survivor who has weathered the storm, even if I don’t have a spare inch of flesh left from the brutal whipping it gave me.
And that’s really what it kinda feels when you say, “I survived.” You beat nothing, you won nothing, you simply lived through something that have otherwise killed you. It doesn’t matter how tore up I am on the other side of the crisis… I survived something I didn’t want to go through, or shouldn’t have had to go through, so that indicates some kind of strength.
Or so they tell me. It sure doesn’t feel like strength at the time.
I’ve had people tell me they didn’t know how I got through most of the stuff I’ve gone through. My standard response is, “What choice did I have?” I got up day after day and I went on day after day.
Everyone kind of does that, really. Aside from offing yourself, you’re forced each day to put one foot in front of the other, no matter what title you claim.
But these were my two choices I was presented with, you see. When you are a sexual abuse survivor, especially, the power to claim one’s own status is an important part of the healing process. We can’t change what was done to us, only how we identify ourselves afterwards. When I say I’m a survivor, I’m reclaiming what someone tried to steal from me. It’s one of those bad things that dared to redefine me, but I have always had the power to decide exactly who that might be, so his attempt to destroy me failed.
That’s the power behind the word “survivor,” but it occurs to me that we’re still selling ourselves short. Every day we refuse to allow those things in our past to destroy us, we’re conquering our past and rewriting our future.
We’re not just lucky to make it through the crisis, we’re kicking dirt on it and marching onward.
Personally I think it deserves a bigger word. A better word. A stronger word. The only thing the word “survivor” really does is shift the power back to us. What we do with that power… now THAT is what truly defines us.
That’s what it boils down to, really. We get to choose who we want to be and who we’re going to be.
My problem is that I’ve limited down to two choices with some sad little either/or option, ignoring the obvious all along.
What if being a *survivor* is only a notch above being a victim? What if my life is still at the mercy of my circumstances, and all I can really say I did was hold on tight until the storm finally passed?
If the best we can say at the end of the race is that we lived through it, that really isn’t that empowering of a position. We’re battered, bloody and broken, but we survived.
We didn’t win. We didn’t thrive. We didn’t succeed. We simply made it through.
And yeah, that’s admirable in its own way. Even if you come in dead last in a marathon, at least you finished. The little battles are just as much a victory as the big ones.
I just think we need another identifier. And I’m pretty sure that Matthew McConaughey unwittingly provided one for us.
I can hear you scoff, but bear with me.
When Matthew McConaughey accepted his Oscar for Best Actor last Sunday, he spoke about the three things that he needed daily:
1.) Someone to look up to
2.) Something to look forward to
3.) Someone to chase
It was #3 where a little nugget of actual wisdom lurked, but not necessarily in the way he presented it.
He said that when he was 15, he was asked who his hero was. He finally answered, “Me in ten years.” Ten years later that person asked him if he had become his hero yet and he said, “No, you don’t get it. My hero is me in another ten years.” His future self is the one he’s been chasing, and always will chase, because that person is ten years more evolved than he is right at this moment.
This may seem like an egotistical thing to say, virtually having the balls to thank himself when he won his award, but I’ve given the idea some thought and it really does have actual merit.
The us we’ll be in ten years should be the person we chase. That person will be older and wiser, and hopefully further along in their personal ambitions, making their – and by default ‘our’ – dreams come true.
But I disagree that Future Us is the hero.
Every decision we make now will make that person everything they’re going to be. Your diet today impacts your health tomorrow. Your budgeting today affects your prosperity tomorrow. Your training and growth today affects your career tomorrow. Every thing you do reverberates into the future. That makes us, right now, Future Us’s heroes. We’re the ones putting out the fires and chasing the dreams and putting in the work and the effort, in hopes that we’ll craft ourselves into the people we want to be, regardless of our circumstances.
For example, it was Past Matthew’s decision to take the part that won him the Oscar. It is Present Matthew’s choices in what he will do with this experience in the roles he takes and the projects he gets behind. Future Matthew is nothing more than a silhouette that he is shading in one day at a time and one decision at a time.
Take a second right now and think about what you want for your life in ten years. You may want a better job, a nicer home, a family, advancement in your career, good health or all of the above.
What you do right now, today, will craft that existence for you.
You have that power.
I have that power.
And nothing that has happened to us so far, no matter how awful and tragic it may have been, takes that power away.
We don’t have to choose simply between “victims” or “survivors” anymore.
We get to be *heroes.*
How fucking cool is that??
Imagine what you could do with your life if you would embrace being the hero of it. What would you do? How would you act? What would you change?
That person looking back at us ten years down the line needs us to make our choices accordingly. What we do today, what we tell ourselves today, whether we act out of fear or courage today, will shade that empty silhouette into a person of our own choosing, no matter who that is, no matter what we do. We define him or her with our choices of how we react to the obstacles in our path.
Sometimes those obstacles suck. I, myself, have been staring at a faint light at the end of a tunnel since August of last year. Sometimes it’s been salvation, other times it’s been a locomotive ready to flatten me every single time I struggled to my feet. It seems the closer it gets, the more I feel like I have an Indy boulder behind me, scorpions, snakes and spiders in front of me and ninja assassins swooping in from both sides of the tunnel walls that are closing in.
So far I’ve survived, but barely.
But it stands to reason, considering that’s been my objective. I’ve been taught to withstand the bad times so I might survive to see the good times, and by no surprise that’s what I’ve been doing.
Such low expectations… no wonder I’ve struggled so much.
I need to remind myself that this is my movie and this is my story. Future Ginger is depending on me to buck up and keep fighting for everything she’s going to be. If I am going to be her hero, I better start acting like one.
The first thing I need to do is send a big thank you to Past Ginger for pointing me in this direction. She wasn’t perfect, God knows, but she invariably laid the groundwork for who I’d be today. And I am not ashamed to admit that I like that person. She’s all right.
In fact, she’s more than all right. She’s much stronger and smarter than she’s ever been, and she has the power (and persistence) to create the world of her choosing.
(Just imagine what she can do in 10 years!)
We are heroes on our own personal journey and that’s pretty cool.
So what are you going to do with that newfound power today?