As a child, I remember being fairly different from everybody else. I was the only kid in school with a tie-dyed backpack– probably the only kid in school who wanted a tie-dye backpack- and believe me, I got made fun of for it. As time went on and I grew up, the fundamental person inside never changed, though I often lost track of who I was. We are all like a jigsaw puzzle; a box full of unique pieces that only together can make up the whole . Often times, we encounter the wrong people. Like careless school children they mess with the puzzle, jamming the pieces together, carelessly tossing them around, before throwing them back in the box. Over time, pieces end up missing. First only a few pieces are gone, but the more careless people who we allow to mess with the puzzle, the more pieces disappear. Inevitably, if you have absolutely no discretion with your puzzle, you will end up with no pieces and an empty box.
About a month ago, I realized my puzzle was missing some pieces. I, of course was not the one who made the discovery, but a friend pointed it out. Parts of my identity were missing; they’d been stripped away by my last relationship. I didn’t realize I was just a pawn in his game of complacency. I was too innocent or too naive to notice. When my ex told me I was naturally beautiful and didn’t need to wear make-up, I believed him. What a nice compliment, right? Wrong, my friend pointed out it was part of his plan to get no one else to look at me. She had a point. Never before dating him had I dressed so casually. I explained to her why.
For one, he never got dressed up to go out with me. In fact, he might’ve picked his clothes up off the floor for all I know. After a few times of him arriving to pick me up dressed so incredibly down, I began to feel uncomfortable because I was over dressed. I wore beautiful scarves and jewelry, always bright colors, with make-up to match. I began to resent the fact that he didn’t try one bit to impress me, sometimes not even bothering to iron his clothes. So I began dressing casually, jeans, t-shirt, little jewelry, if any. “This isn’t the Hayley I know,” my friend said. “For the last six months, you have been dressing like you just rolled out of bed.” I again disagreed with her and explained why I had little desire to look good for someone who could care less about looking good for me.
After her close analysis of me, I realized that maybe she was right and that he was trying to “ugly” me up so no other guys would look at me. To me this was a crazy idea, especially with him always commenting, “You don’t need make-up, you’re naturally beautiful.” How flattering is that? I would always say.
“Thank-you, but I look even better with make-up, most people do,” he would counter,
“I like you without make-up better.” I wouldn’t say anything back and just roll my eyes.
Recently I made a new friend who has more style in his pinky finger than my ex had in his entire body. It wasn’t just his style that got me thinking about how many puzzle pieces I’d actually lost and left behind (as it turned out there were MANY more pieces missing than I’d suspected). While hanging out with my new friend, he played a Korn song on the drums. I used to LOVE Korn, but somehow it got phased out of my life and my likes because of another charming boyfriend I had in high school. I was madly in love with him and he was controlling and shallow. He wanted an Abercrombie girl while I was used to shopping at Hot Topic.
Even the last boyfriend, Mr. Naturally Beautiful, acted as if I was too wild for him, and that my Bohemian ways were to blame for why we would never work out. This I didn’t understand. Never had I hid these things from him. I was as an artist, I did tarot readings, and liked to put glitter on everything. He hated glitter. He hated when I wore it and said that I looked like a gypsy. I think that was supposed to be an insult, but I took it as a compliment.
I had already been a gypsy twice for Halloween. Once when I was five. It was awesome. I got to wear every necklace in my mom’s jewelry box, a baggy skirt, beautiful silk scarves, and I even got to tie one around my head. I even did the gypsy thing a few Halloweens back and brought my tarot cards along. It was definitely a fun night, tarot cards in one hand Samual Adams Oktoberfest in the other. I think I had so much fun because I was just being myself, and this is the very thing my ex hated the most about me:me. That and how I liked sparkly and glittery things so much. Because of these reasons and many others, I couldn’t understand why he even wanted to go out with me in the first place. Though I’d lost some of my puzzle pieces, most of them were still in the box. I never hid my style or who I was completely.
He also hated the fact that I played the guitar. I only played it for him once or twice because he quickly lost interest. Though he said I was good and had a nice voice, he couldn’t believe that I could play the guitar on top of all the other stuff I did. I could tell it made him feel inadequate. I didn’t think I was that good.
The guitar was beautiful and a gift from the guy I dated before him. He was a musician and bought me the guitar for my 22nd birthday. Though he didn’t play the guitar, he was trying to learn how to play so he could teach me. While we were together, I think I played that guitar one time. It was not until our horrendous break up that I picked it up. As I drove out of the mountains of Vermont and away from where we’d been staying together, John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads,” came on the radio. I began to cry. I drove out of those Green Mountains reluctantly. I had friends and family up there. From the time I’d moved up, I practically became part of a local family and worked during the day as their nanny. I loved those children, I loved their family. They even bought me presents for my birthday and smaller holidays like Valentine’s Day and Easter.
There was something I would miss about Vermont more than my friends or anything else that I loved about that state. From the time I moved up there until the time I left, I finally felt like I belonged. For years I traveled from place to place feeling like an outsider, but when I went to Vermont, I finally felt like I belonged. I left Vermont reluctantly, but knew I couldn’t stay. It was an unsafe and volatile situation and I had finally broke free. As John Denver sang on the radio, I vowed to go home and learn to play that guitar. That night when I got home I began to teach myself chords and as you could guess “Country Roads Take Me Home” was the first song I learned to play. I spent the whole summer learning the guitar. It was the only thing I could do solitarily that made the pain of the heartbreak subside.
I didn’t feel like myself again until the following January when I went to visit my best friends in New Hampshire. As I drove up the highway, the sun was just starting to set on the horizon and left a warm glow in the atmosphere, I began to remember. I was a free spirit. I would never be conventional. I was a dreamer. “Eye of the Tiger” is Rocky’s theme song and “Take it to the Limit” by the Eagles was mine.
I knew that if I didn’t forget who I was again, that I could find the other missing pieces one at a time and that maybe one day, I would be Hayley again.
“When you’re looking for your freedom, nobody seems to care, and you can’t find the door, you can’t find it anywhere, when there’s nothing to believe in, still you’re coming back, running back and coming back home, so put me on a highway, and show me a sign, and take it to the limit one more time.”