OPINION: Only you can judge yourself

Gabriella Killett, Editor in Chief

I, like any person, have gone through difficulties in my life. In some cases, I’ve even overcome the unimaginable. This includes people having been ruthlessly mean to me – in a variety of spaces – throughout my childhood and early adulthood.
But for some reason, now, when I am the happiest I have ever been in my life, in a relationship in which my partner is 14 years older than me and I am helping him to raise his 5- year-old son at 21 years old, I have been disrespected over and over again about my choice to engage in my relationship. Some people have even suggested to me that I’m being manipulated. I’m not.
Before this era of my life, I had been, and I felt sometimes like someone who had an eating disorder but who was being complimented on their weight loss: desperately sad but luckily able to hide it.
But now is not that. I am more sure of myself than I ever have been, and I am open about it. I am happy. I am safe. I am grounded. I am strong. I am powerful. Brave. Healthy. Professional. Intelligent. Successful. Sure. Absolutely, positively sure that I am doing the right thing.
So, I’m curious. Why is anyone concerned about me when I’m happy but no one was quite as interested in my private life when I needed help?
If you think this is about you, it’s not. I promise. Really, it’s about each of us, including myself, actually, who think it’s okay to judge someone else’s reality or to try to guess someone else’s reasons they make any particular choice.
The world has made us so nervous and intimidated that age-gap relationships or really anything out of the blue concerning major life decisions can only be exploitation or mistakes. And a 21-year-old person like myself who is making these decisions is often seen as a baby or a freak – and even by her own peers.
But I wish each of us asked just one question before judging the people around us: is this hurting anyone? If it’s not, why don’t we look the other way?
I’m happy, and that’s all that matters, and that’s all that should matter to you, too, right?
I can travel wherever I want. I can meet whoever I want. I can eat whatever I want, sing whatever I want, exercise however I want, raise whoever I want and most importantly, love whoever I want. And I can do all of these things with the people I adore most in the world, all while showing Oscar, the five-year-old, that generational trauma stops for my family with me.
Listen. I did the ‘hookup culture’ thing. I did the ‘long term high school relationship’ thing. I did the ‘take time for myself’ thing, ‘make as many friends as possible’ thing, ‘make the relationship work at all costs’ thing, ‘spend all your time with your family’ thing, ‘go out by yourself’ thing, ‘come home late when you have to get up early’ thing. Even the ‘I have a paper due tomorrow, but I spent tonight on a person I am not actually physically attracted to’ thing. I’ve done the ‘let’s date because you’re nice’ thing, the ‘our last hook up was bad, but I’m lonely so I’m calling you tonight’ thing, the ‘spending all of your time with friends who don’t try to reach you when they know you’re depressed’ thing. The ‘I am going to do everything physically possible to get the people around me to like me’ thing.
Quite like my life does right now – in assuring that I am happy, healthy, and able to make an impact on the world around me.
I am stable. I am at peace. I am free. I am unapologetically allowed – within my own home and with a loving partner and with a sweet little one who looks up to me – to be me.
Finally, no matter what happens, or where we’re going, or why we’re going there, or how we’re going to get there or who we become in the process, I am allowed to exist – just as I am. With my family right there lifting me up. Waiting to catch me if I fall.
Doesn’t that sound beautiful? Doesn’t that sound like something I deserve? Well, it is.
But also, it might not be your version of peace, and you deserve whatever that looks like for you, too.
As long as you’re not hurting anyone including yourself and as long as you’re working towards your goals and making your best guess as to what is going to get you there, you’re on track. And you are the only one who gets to decide who you become, or more so, who you unbecome.
Shed the past that is holding you back, release self-judgment, forget that people who are hurting will always have something to say, and jump.
And for all those who are judging someone else’s life choices right now, I hope you get the courage to jump, too.
Because everyone deserves this freedom, and if I leave any kind of legacy here at Loyola as I round off my last semester, I hope that sincerely it’s this: love isn’t supposed to hurt.
So follow the love that doesn’t hurt and even more so, follow the peace. Mine might not look like yours, and yours might not look like mine, but that is how it was always meant to be.