Hang tight with me a few minutes. I know this is not the most concise thing I have ever written, but it is probably by far the most personal I have ever placed in front of another human being. I know parts of this don't make sense, and I know this site would be the same -- maybe better -- without its presence, but I want you to understand... If you are viewing this page, chances are, you have made a difference in my life. From the hundreds of friends who advised me thoughout the years, to the two or three who actually did nothing short of saving my life, to those of you who always knew just when a hug was needed--I appreciate it, really.

The Love of My Life

Sometimes you are smacked in the face with something that should have been obvious all along. And it changes your life instantaniously. You wonder why it took you so long to see the truth. And you eventually begin to wonder how you lived before you possessed the knowledge.

That is what happened to me this summer.

I am still in the phases of sorting out the confusion that has set in due to my epiphany. But I am optimistic the cloud is lifting.

Let me tell you my story. This summer I fell in love.

This summer I also realized I have never lived my own life. For the last nineteen years, I have had someone making all of my decisions for me. I have had people telling me how to act, what to think and even how to feel about myself.

I lived life with the help of others because it was easier. I never had to truly believe I was worthy of anything and I never had to make a decision on my own. At even the slightest hint of pain or struggle, I could run to one of my many "comfort zones." I dug myself in a hole and forced myself to be dependent on them, to the point of not knowing how to funcion without a friend there to support me.

I thought I knew who Leah was. In elementary school, she was the actress, the beauty. In middle school, she was the smart kid. In high school, theater companies were producing her plays. She was the writer. In the town of 2500, everyone knew who she was. They all knew her passions, and every citizen of Chickamauga knew whose daughter she was. And I thought that was what made me who I am -- other's opinions of me.

I have always thought about myself as an independent person. The people who knew me in high school said I was "out-going," "out-spoken" and a leader. But I am none of these things.

I was completely dependent on other people to tell me I was beautiful, to tell me I was worthy and to tell me my choices were acceptable. I could not work out problems on my own--not that I have that many problems in the grand scheme of things... My biggest problems last year (aside from my own emotional instability) were solved when the VCR ate Steph's a.m. yoga tape and when the editorial staff at the paper got a disgruntled mother off of my back.

But early in 2001, I was forced to face challenges on my own. For the first time in my life, I had no one there to do it for me. I was four hours from my parents, in the opposite corner of the state from my best friend and the one comfort I had established in Athens during the fall 2000 semester was living 3000 miles away.

And that hurt like hell. I was surrounded by people, but I was alone.

There is a Red Hot Chili Peppers song with the line "it's so lonely when you don't even know yourself." It's so lonely when you don't even know yourself.... It never made sense to me until the beginning of spring semester 2001. And then it made far too much. Suddenly, I became no one. Even I did not know who I was because no one who knew anything at all about Leah was there to make my decisions for me. And that was scary.

Terrifying, really. I will admit, I did not know how to handle the situation. I spent the months of January, February and most of March in tears. I aimlessly wandered though my day-to-day life curious as to who Leah was. And waiting for someone to come along and scoop me up off of the ground.

But no one ever came.

By the time May arrived, I felt that my lonliness could not grow any worse. But I just thought the campus of 30,000 was bad. At least in Athens people spoke to me. Once back home, things did indeed grow worse. I had no one to make conversation with and no job that occupied the majority of my time. I had nothing to do but be alone. I couldn't even write. I sat in my room staring at the blue walls or the hardwood floor or the white ceiling for hours on end. Thoughts rambled through my head. Pointless thoughts, world-shattering ideas and entire novels drifted through my consciousness. "Leah Time," I called it.

Then one day, I realized it.

I'm in love.

But there is a problem. I have a list--qualifications, things I look for in someone who I could love. Not like the joking list found on this site, but a real list. Real priorties in relationships I have established in my mind. And my love meets none of them. So I guess they will just have to change. Because I don't see any chance at altering my new-found love.

As I said, I still bounce back and forth--I'm still sorting things out. Some mornings I wake up feeling lost and wondering why I am worthy of the things God has given me. But now I wake up most mornings wondering how I ever got into the position of not wanting to be me anymore. For the past month, I have awaken everyday in the first aforementioned mindset, a goal I never felt I would accomplish. I'm actually, for the first time in my life, enjoying being me.

I always tried to catagorize myself: "I'm not good enough to hang around them," or "He's too good for me." But nothing positive ever came out of it. The only places it got me was in a pit of inbearable self-esteem problems and depression. And I have nothing tangible, let me repeat NOTHING, to be depressed about. So I had to break the bad habit. Now I am worthy of every guy that falls into my line of vision (go ahead: laugh, I don't care) and I am deserving of every compliment that is tossed my way.

I also had to step outside myself and really watch Leah taking part in some of the things she does. This helped me to realize how many things I participate in because I was raised to or I am socially obligated to. It also made me prioritize my to-do lists and helped me to recognize passions I had never really acknowledged.

And while I still have many lessons to learn, I can learn them without the clouds of lonliness and self-doubt hanging over my head. Because it was not the love of another that thought me how to trust myself. It was the confidence I found when I met Leah -- the security I obtained the day I fell in love with myself.

Thanks to all my "comfort zones." I know some of you (JS, SR) never even realized the position I placed you in on the pedestal of life, and some of you (MH, AB -- I miss you both!) aren't really a part of my day-to-day life anymore, but I still wanted to say thanks. I trusted you far more than I thought I would ever trust myself.