“I thought you were stronger than this, but it seems you are not at all, not when it comes to this.”
Those words were said in a moment of anger, during the heat of an argument, but whether or not they were meant, and whether or not they will ever be taken back or apologized for, those words found their mark.
I always thought I was stronger than this, and at one time or other I probably was. How many, many times before had I risen above all the difficulties in my life — be they personal or professional — and been able to divide and conquer, overcoming each difficulty with as little emotional attachment as possible? How many, many times before had I been able to sigh and say, “Fuck this shit, I’m out,” and really made good on my word? So what was so different about this that everything I had stood for, everything that I believed I could be, had completely gone out the window to the point where I can do nothing except curl up and pray for death?
And then I realized the difference between all those other times and this time: He was the one saying it. No matter how many times I had said it to myself, it was unnervingly different to hear it from someone else.
I’ve always tried to think of myself as a strong person. When my family moved back from Paris and I had to start my life here in a new school at the irritating age of 15, the kids at school started a rumor that I stuffed my bra and called me Tissue Girl and Asian white trash, but I laughed it off in their faces and waited until I got home to cry. When an ex-boyfriend in Buffalo couldn’t stop lying about his other girlfriend in California, I packed him up, threw him out of my apartment and shipped him off to the west coast. When I received my last job application rejection at the dawn of the 2007 financial crisis, I decided I’d had enough and needed to move back to Malaysia so that I could regroup. When Shirley got pregnant at the peak of her relationship troubles, I sat with her night and day while she contemplated raising Aiden alone; I thought that no matter what life teaches you, you don’t know strength until you have to be strong for someone else.
But when my now-ex-boyfriend’s crazy estranged wife 16 years older than I am decided to drag other people into the drama of our relationship by hacking into his email and stalking me with fake accounts on Instagram and Twitter, I became a blubbering mess.
I used to think that strength meant standing in the eye of a hurricane and still being able to hold my ground, no matter the circumstances, until I could find a way to calm the storm and get out of it alive. So I fought for my relationship; I watched myself become almost as insane as my rival, if only a little more ethically sound. But in the last few months, I’ve slowly come around to the idea that, just perhaps, strength isn’t in fighting tooth and nail for something that will never be ours; maybe it’s in knowing when to say, “Enough,” and walk away from the fight with something much more important — our dignity, our pride, and our self-respect — still intact.