I grew up in the foster care system, but I had a relationship with my birth father. I would see him sometimes during visitations when my foster parents would take me to see him. There was a time before foster care when my parents were still together when I was a daddy's girl. I used to want to grow up to be just like my dad.
Throughout my time in foster care, he was one of the only people I had to turn to for adult advice. I don't remember him being affectionate nor do I remember if he came to every visit, but I do remember feeling the love he had for me.
After some time in the system, I moved in with him, my stepmom, and suddenly I had a new family. I went through a lot of schools. If I counted correctly, I went to 17 different schools before living with my dad. I never stayed long enough to make friends, so I didn't learn how to make friends. I was used to feeling like the outcast because no one wants to be friends with the new girl.
There was one night in high school; I was crying in the garage when my dad came outside and asked what was wrong. I told him I didn't understand why no one liked me. I didn't understand why I didn't have any friends. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. My dad said, "teenagers are the most ruthless people you will meet in your life, Britt. It's nothing against you, honey, they are the ones missing out."
I moved schools again, and I thought this was my chance to start over and make new friends. I did at first, but then they singled me out. I remember my senior year in high school calling my dad in the bathroom before school started crying that I was going to come home and kill myself because things at school had gotten that bad. I still couldn't figure out why people didn't like me; why couldn't I make friends?
"Britt," he said, "you have to understand not everyone you meet in your life will like you. You can try everything in your power and people are still going to find a reason not to like you. It doesn't matter. You can't please everyone, and if you kill yourself, you're giving them exactly what they want." I know it hurt him to hear his child wanted to die because people didn't like her, but I didn't kill myself. He saved my life that day.
While I was in high school, I was in a toxic relationship with a guy who controlled me. He'd threaten me that if I didn't do what he said, he'd hurt himself. Now and then when I was at work and couldn't text him back, he'd have his sister tell me he was in the hospital because of me. My dad and stepmom saw me suffer the stress of not having freedom and being manipulated. My dad told me if I didn't get out soon, I wouldn't get out. It had gotten to the point he was stalking my younger sister and me. It took me moving to California to realize what I was doing. When I moved back, my dad was furious and dropped me off at my grandma's house. We didn't speak until my grandma forced him to talk to me. He said, "Britt, you can disappoint me all you want, but nothing you could do would make me stop loving you. And the boy you're with now is not the boy you're going to marry." He was still angry, but it took me a while to finally understand why.
Throughout the years, my dad has shaped me into the person I knew I was meant to be. I get my sense of humor, my beer styles, my habit of talking too much, my carelessness for how I look from him. I tell my dad everything, and he tells me when I'm an idiot. I have some secrets I hide from my dad, like what happened to the lasagna he was saving or what I buy when I go shopping, but he's not stupid.
And to my dad, who might be reading this, I'm sorry I hit that possum and didn't tell you about it for three years. But thank you for raising me to be the woman you always knew I could be. Thank you for your guidance and your unconditional love and support.
Thank you for saving my life.
It turns out you're the best friend I could ever have.