Warning: Very personal post.
Recently, while at work, a coworker mentioned that her proudest moment was the birth of her daughter. Another said hers was the first time she officially became a homeowner.
They then, of course, directed the question in my direction. I stuttered something about winning the state championship my senior year of softball (first softball state title in my high school's history, mind you), but I was lying. This is definitely on my list of proudest accomplishments, but my true proudest moment is something I was sure neither of them would understand. So I smiled, and kept it to myself.
I'm not upset I didn't share at that place and time what I am about to share with you now. This memory is incredibly personal, and I don't think work is the place to have to explain it. But just for the record, I want it to be known that this particular event was hands down the proudest moment in my entire life.
First, it's necessary that you know that my childhood was, to put it lightly, a bit dysfunctional. The fact that my adopted father was a diagnosed psychopath (36 out of 40 on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, for any curious psychologists out there) meant that punishments in my home were slightly more...um...creative. Forgetting to brush your teeth meant you slept in the laundry hamper for 3 weeks. And that was the "nice" option. Needless to say, openly challenging his authority was not encouraged.
So one night, when I was about 14, my father and I got in a fight that went the same route as mostly all of our fights. After roughly 6 hours I was left sitting on my bed in the middle of my room, surrounded by the debris of everything I owned. My dresser had been dismantled, the contents emptied, and the wooden pieces smashed over his knee one by one. Any trinkets I had been foolish enough to have on display had been shattered, and anything he could carry in one generous armful to the backyard was smoldering in the firepit. My head ached, I had cuts on the bottom of my feet, a curling iron burn on my left arm, and I was alone. Broken.
I went over and picked it up. Random pieces fell to the floor. It was strung out to around 3 feet, bits of wire, metal and plastic holding it together. A fallen soldier on the field of battle. Next to it was the Natalie Imbruglia CD. In perfect condition. Hmm...
I was going to fix my CD player.
Now keep in mind I was 14, didn't know the first thing about electronics, or the fact that this sorry heap of parts and pieces was about as far gone as most characters lying in a soap opera mortuary. But also, like all the delusion of a proper soap opera, it didn't matter. Anything could happen. In a true plot twist, it could still come back to life! Unrealistic, yes, but I guess sometimes focusing on one thing helps to forget everything else going on around you. So I went to work.
And I worked for hours. I used paperclips and hairpins (stripped of their covering) to hold wires together (probably dangerous, but come on, I was 14). The lid was already broken off, so I used it to wedge the little laser (used to read the CD) in place. I took the speaker apart and put it back together. For the buttons (play, skip, etc.) I was quite creative.
See the original buttons were flat on top, and then had a prong on the bottom that would go into a tiny hole. At the bottom of the hole was a little clicker. This is what needed to be pushed in order for the button to work. Being as most of the buttons were torn off, I bunched up tiny pieces of paper until I filled each hole, then taped the top to not only hold it in place, but to also create a little bump. Push down the bump and the paper compacted and pushed the little clicker on the bottom. Bam; working buttons.
Finally, around 5 in the morning, I felt I had done all I could do. This thing looked like it had come straight out of a Terminator movie. You could see all the working parts and moving gadgets. All but one side was completely removed, and the others were taped back on to keep the contents from spilling onto the floor.
I put the Natalie Imbruglia CD on the little spinny thing above the laser. I pushed play. It spun. I waited. This was the moment of truth...
I was ecstatic. It didn't even skip! The music carried throughout my room. I turned the volume up as loud as it could go, and it filled the house. I sat on my bed and faced the door. I protectively held my C3PO CD player in my arms and waited for the sound I knew would come. Soon it did. Footsteps.
One at a time, coming down the stairs. Heavy breathing. The door flew open and slammed into the wall behind it. He turned to me, furious. We locked eyes, and glared. Pure hatred from the both of us. After what felt like an eternity, he lowered his eyes to musical pile of junk I was cradling in my arms. He looked back up to me and in that instant, I saw a small flicker cross his face to the tune of, "How...?" I braced myself.
Nothing. He turned and went back upstairs.
I sat on my bed, held my radio, and cried. I won, and I have never, ever, been as proud as I was in that moment.
Now perhaps someday something will top it. Maybe the birth of my first child, or the day I pay off the last of my student loans, or maybe just the day I find my way to Walmart and back without having to call someone for directions. But until then, this will be the standard, and I'm happy for it.
My radio has since passed on, but I still have the nightstand it rested on. It's the only piece of furniture he never broke, so I think it's earned it's place in my eternal belongings. I also still have the CD of course, and listening to it always provides me with an overwhelming feeling of triumph. There has still been times when I have been taken advantage of, mistreated, and used as a complete doormat, and I know I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to standing up for myself (which I am improving on, see this post). But anytime I'm scared to do something, I just go back to when I was 14, sitting on my bed, and I think, "I know I am strong, and I know can do it, because there was this one time when I was unbreakable. And I proved it."
So tell me, what is your proudest moment?