When we go through tough times inflicted by another, the strength that might keep us going is the thought of coming out the other end victorious. Mostly, the end involves our transgressor meeting the same fate they have dealt to us. It is not the pretty side of our humanity. It is animalistic and hateful. Yet, it keeps us going. Sometimes the revenge is minor like losing a job or breaking up with our stolen significant other. Other times it is catastrophic like a divorce, unable to regain a career, a health scare or losing dreams/hopes. When karma rears her head, it can feel poetic or just plain empty.
My person has now met the same fate they have dealt to me. I was barely out of my teens when my relative who had promised to pay for my education reneged. Reasoning and pleading did not change his mind, my education was not his priority. His wife told him I should be a secretary and pay for school myself. Money was not the issue; the responsibility was the core problem. He just did not want to do it anymore and he felt that our bond was disposable. At an age when my peers were whooping it up, I was white knuckled. How was I going to eat or pay for school? Money disappeared, as did all forms of support. Family gatherings were so hostile towards me that I would leave. My hair started falling out from stress and I worried that I would not have enough money to eat right.
I had to learn to be independent and quick. Rent came around every month and I had to budget every cent. Meanwhile my family member was paying for his wife’s family to have luxuries and treating near strangers to elaborate dinners. I remember walking down the supermarket aisle buying cans of beans and wondering how long I could stomach the taste of them to save money for gas. My dreams felt as crushed as my spirit and I could not find anyone to encourage me.
Time marched on, however, I learned to save and work three jobs while trying to be young. I learned to be fiercely independent and fiscal. I embraced these qualities for my survival. Now the man who disregarded his responsibilities has let his wife spend all of his money. At 74, he is working like a dog and feeling very sorry for himself. It was my job to work, she just had to manage the money he told me. I smirked as it was her job to make sure my college was paid for. He did not appreciate my comment, but somewhere in that thick skull, he knew I was right. I was finally right.
It was suggested to him that he should let me have control over his money so he could have some money to retire. He laughed his fearful laugh when something is absurd. I told him I managed for over a decade without a dime from anyone. He laughed and I said you taught me how me to manage my money. In that moment, I was grateful for the dark times. I had made it out the other side. He looked away. If he could have looked at me, he would have seen the empathy in my eyes.
Whatever I give to him in the future will be out of kindness, not obligation. This might be my greatest challenge.