When I was just 6 years old, I felt the pain for the first time.

I’m not talking about any kind of pain like when a small child falls and cries—I’m talking about real pain.

The pain you feel when someone abandons you or when someone just doesn’t care about you.

When I was 7 years old, I envied other children.

I wasn’t jealous of their clothes or perfect pencils, their shiny, pink Barbie bags or glitter stickers—I was jealous because of their true happiness.

I was jealous of every time they ran to their father when he came to pick them up from school.

I envied every hug they got and every ‘tap’ on their shoulder when they got A for their homework.

I was jealous of their freedom and how they didn’t have to pretend that everything was fine—because for them, it was.

When I was 9 years old, I saw my father drunk for the first time.

I remember that I thought it was apple juice.

We would take long walks and then we would go to some bar; he would always say he needed a rest and ordered a beer.

I don’t know why but I always thought he was drinking apple juice.

I wanted to drink the same as him, so he would order me an apple juice and just by sitting there next to him and drinking it, I felt happy.

When I was 10 years old, my father yelled at me.

He started coming home very late.

Our walks were no longer interesting for him, so he replaced me with some strange, tall people with long beards.

I couldn’t understand my mother but I felt her pain.

It was hidden during the day but at night, it spread like a virus. We all felt it.

At our house, nights were alive and filled with fights, words and screams from my parents.

My father would come home at 4 am, drunk, messed up and dirty, and he would hit the light in the hallway, making sure we all knew that he was home.

We were supposed to be in our beds, pretending that we were asleep.

But that one night in February, I woke up and went to the bathroom. It was 4 am and the lights were on.

He yelled at me for not being in my bed, not knowing that anger in his eyes would create an image of him in my brain that I would carry forever with me.

When I was 14 years old, my father left us for the third time.

Him leaving was always uncertain, just like his mind was.

We never knew what he would do next but one thing is for sure—we got used to him leaving.

He never said, “Goodbye,” when he was leaving. Sometimes, he left when I wasn’t even home.

This time, I was talking to him about how happy I was about going to high-school; he just looked me straight in my eyes and squeezed my hand.

That’s how I knew I wasn’t going to see him for a very long time.

When I was 19 years old, I realized how strong I actually am.

In all the pain, my father taught me one thing—to cherish moments, even those that you think are not important.

You never know when the presence of someone is going to be taken away from you.

Not having my father in my life made me realize and see everything I had.

It made everything and everyone in my life so important.

I cherished every moment of every day that I got to spend with my mom and my brothers—and I still do.

I am so sensitive with and protective of them.

The pain taught me about kindness, humbleness and care.

It taught me how to be thankful for everything that I have.

It taught me that you can’t choose a family member, nor can you change them.

You can’t control every move or choice someone makes.

You can’t make yourself hate someone when you don’t.

The battle that I created inside of me, between pain and love, always found a way to light me up.

It made me strong, humble and kind, when I just wanted to be young.

I went to college and I didn’t know anyone there.

I was so alone and the one person I couldn’t stop thinking about was my father.

His absence hurt me so badly, created trust issues and an emotional wall that I had whenever someone tried to reach me.

I didn’t have a lot of boyfriends and I didn’t know how to love someone, even though I tried.

But I learned how to love and take care of myself.

I’m forever grateful for that.

When I have my own children, I will teach them what forgiveness really means.

I know they say that women should look up to their father when they search for the man to spend their life with.

But I don’t believe in ‘looking’ or ‘searching’.

I believe in faith and that one day, someone special will hold my hand while I thank my father for making me outgrow all the drama and pain.

I will let my special one look in my eyes and squeeze my hand while knowing that he will stay.

One day, when I have my own children and when they are old enough, I will tell them that forgiveness is not saying, “I forgive you.”

Forgiveness is a process. It takes time and sometimes it lasts for a lifetime.

Forgiveness is not choosing between things and people or being afraid that you will lose everything.

Forgiveness is the strength to pick yourself up and move on. It’s holding the hand of darkness while knowing that your heart is light.

Now, I can’t imagine my life without moments that break me down but they only taught me how to pick myself up and be stronger than ever.

I’m filled with love and patience; that’s all I have for the people around me.

There are positive thoughts and there is compassion and unconditional love in me for every person who I lost contact with, hurt me or left me.

I hope that somewhere out there, in the world, my father knows this.

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