Found Myself by Shayla Crawford

I came to California on a trip to find myself. Somewhere along the way, somewhere way back when, at some point in the past 4 years I lost who I was and I needed to find her again. 

 

I was in this place where I felt like I was on top of the world, but at the same time I was suffocating under depression and emotions too strong to describe. I thought I had everything figured out until I realized I had nothing figured out. I felt strong and independent but behind the curtains I was being manipulated so much I could barely breathe. I was the girl every guy in the bar wanted but I would leave to go be with the guy who didn’t want me. In the eyes of several guys I was the perfect woman, but in his eyes, I was nothing more than a toy. Most people viewed me as confident, but he made me lose that confidence. I preach self worth, but because of him I have none. On social media I’m a different person than the girl he made me become. 

 

I was a young mom going through a divorce after a short term marriage. Somedays I'm still unsure if I didn’t love him or if I didn’t love being married. I’m a hard person to love. I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth and a stubborn attitude. The on-going depression and crippling anxiety didn’t help matters either. I know he loved me, I know he wanted our family to work, but I couldn’t convince myself of it. I resorted to sex. I depended on alcohol. I craved attention from men. I had several vices that not many people knew about. I took myself to hell and back more than one time. I was overweight, addicted to cocktails, and on a path of destruction. I was considered a borderline alcoholic and thats only because I didn’t drink at work. You best believe once it hit 5:30 I drank until I couldn’t stand any longer. It wasn’t a playful saying that I drowned my sorrows. I numbed the pain with sugar filled cocktails. I was empty and needed fulfillment. 

 

The night before Thanksgiving we headed out on the town, I had on my favorite cowboy boots and a shirt on that said ‘tits”. I was looking to drink and forget my pain just as I had any other night. He caught my eye as soon as he walked through the door. I told my friends “i’m going home with him tonight.” My friends knew I wasn’t kidding either. I made the best of the evening. I kept my eye on the mystery man in the glasses. My friends referred to him as a CPA. The night was coming to a close. We took our final lap around the club. I used a party trick of mine to snag us one last free drink before we left. I spotted 2 groups of men and a small gap in between. I put a smile on my face, stuck my chest out, and squeezed my way in. As soon as I said excuse me, he turned around and put his arm around me. That was the moment I met the man who became my best friend, the man I would fall in love with, and the man who would make me lose myself. He was tall, attractive, and the only man in Grahams wearing a pair of $250 designer jeans. I went home with him that night. We were both so drunk, I ate pizza naked in his kitchen, and I left glitter all over his bed. The next morning he drove me back home to Chickasha. We talked, laughed, and ultimately connected. Days went by and we stayed in touched. One day I realized I was in his area. I sent him a short text asking if he wanted to meet up. He took me out for Mexican food. I would say the rest is history, like this is some sort of fairytale where we ride off into the sunset. Unfortunately that isn’t the way this story goes.

 

Tears filled my eyes after I received the update on what was going on. I tried keeping him at arms length but I was still filled with so many strong emotions that it was hard to disconnect from him. He continuously told me I knew too much and could never get away. A part of me knew that but I also knew I needed to try. I took the plunge. I opened up my computer and typed in “Which airport is closest to Napa Valley?”. I had the option between Sacramento or San Fransisco. Thankfully google results informed me Sacramento was less busy and within a few moments I had a flight booked that departed less than 12 hours from the time I booked it. Next decision was picking a room. I chose what was familiar and then I began to pack my bag. I had no plans other than being at the airport by 10am.

 

It didn’t take very long for me to fall for him. He became my best friend. I was still relying on a bottle of vodka to get me through, but he protected me. Many of nights I made my way to his house. I would wander out of the bar, stumble in an uber, and walk into his arms. I felt comfortable with him. I was a mess but he made me feel like the most important girl in the world. For many of days this continued, every free weekend I had was spent with him. I would be with him for 3-4 days at a time. His spare closet was filled with my clothes, I had my own drawer, my robe hung in the bathroom, and I had my own toiletries under the sink. Our age difference always came into play but I still believed we were in a relationship. He referred to me as his friend but I considered him my boyfriend. All great things usually come to an end, and finally it happened. Curiosity got the best of me. I checked his messages. I had seen a name come up that I had wondered about. His excuse was it was his architect. I knew with his occupation that it was possible, however the timing of the texts were odd to me. The message I saw said “You’re so handsome!”. It was one of the same pictures he had sent to me that she was replying too. His architect was more than just a business associate. I kept my composure as long as I could. I finally broke down and cried, I cried until I couldn't cry anymore. He fed me my favorite meal and then we had makeup sex thinking that would fix everything. That moment I should have moved on, but I stayed.

 

When I boarded the plane to Las Vegas I was calm, energetic, and ready for adventure. There was no turning back. I was on my own and all I could think about was exploring and making new friends. Once I arrived at McCarran my stomach was in knots. I was shaking so much I could barely stand. Do you remember the anxiety I talked about? Well she must have invited herself along for the ride. “Was I really doing this?” I asked myself. “Maybe I should just stay in Vegas” I thought. I got the courage and slowly made my way down the jetway. Once I got to my seat I tried to rest but I had so many emotions that all I could do was stare out the window. I watched the Strip fade away and unfamiliar territory came into view. This was my moment of independence. The breaking point for a new future. 

 

The days following were hard. It was hard for me to understand where I stood. Was this just a playful business arrangement? Was he needing to flirt with her for a job or was it something more? I can still remember when we talked about it. He continuously told me “I told you I was seeing other people.” I just didn’t understand why he wanted to keep seeing me. He was attracted to me. He couldn’t keep his hands off me. He called me constantly. I was good enough for something but was I only good enough for the sex? Summer rolled around and his days were spent at the lake. I would lay at home staring at my phone waiting on an invitation. I knew his friends, his friends liked me, but I didn’t understand why I wasn’t ever invited. I finally decided I should try and date. I got back on tinder, but this time it wasn’t fulfilling. I went on a few dates, however this time all I felt was guilt. I would cry at night because I was afraid I did something wrong. Our rollercoaster of a love affair still continued. I would finally be ready to move on and he would look at me with his smirk and I would be hooked again.

 

When I arrived in Sacramento I had a sigh of relief. “I made it!” I thought. “I can do this.” I told myself. I followed the crowd, made my way to the rental car shuttle, and walked over to the hertz counter. I sat in the car and smiled. This was the first step in my search of something more. I pulled to the gate, handed the attendant my information, and I began setting up everything for my drive to wine country. “Miss?” She said. I look at her puzzled. “Your card has been declined.” I immediately panic. I made sure to contact all banks and inform them that I was traveling. I checked my bank accounts and there was money in all of them. I took a deep breath and tried coming up with a solution. “Can I pay in cash?” I wishfully asked. “No ma’am, only at drop off.” She replied back sternly. I back the car into its spot, I unloaded my items, and start walking to the front. I had tears in my eyes, but a possible idea. “Dad, I’m at the Sacramento airport and I need a car.” Within a few minute he called me back letting me know one was available at the Avis counter. I made my way to Avis and had no issues. Within a few seconds I was in the vehicle, maps was set to American Canyon, and the Revivalists were blaring through the speakers. In that moment all of my anxiety was left behind. I knew I could either sit in my room and sulk or I could have a hell of a time on my own.

 

After a few drinks at Logies it was time to head to the stadium. I sent a text to a friend and we were meeting him downstairs so we could go up in the lounge. While we waited my friend said “Don’t look.” The first thing I do is turn around and I see him. I see him talking to a pretty blonde. I take a deep breath but my eyes never turned loose. As I continue to watch I see her put her arms around him and lay her head on his chest. He embraces her. I remember how long they hugged. It was almost like they never wanted to let go of each other. Before she walked off, they kissed, they kissed deeply and passionately. He kissed her the way I begged him to kiss me. At that moment I screamed, I chased him through the stadium. With tears streaming down my face my friend carried me out. I screamed more than I have ever screamed before. How could this person cause me so much pain? The next day I couldn’t leave my bed. He had caused me pain but nothing like this. Finally he calls and without hesitation I answer on the first ring. I answer hoping he tells me he loves me but of course his excuse was one of the same ones. He told me she was an old friend who was in town. I loved him so I believed every word of it. I believed it was someone who didn’t live here. I made myself believe I was the only one. I convinced myself he loved me and that eventually we would have a real relationship. At that moment I should have moved on, but I stayed.

 

It was late by the time I arrived at my room. I watched a movie and planned out my next day. I had a whole list of things I wanted to see. I wanted to see the coast, I wanted to stroll around San Fran, and most importantly I wanted to see the majestic redwoods. I asked around for some recommendations and I woke up early the next morning. My adventure took me straight west out in the middle of nowhere. I drove for hours with no service. I drove through pines and across beautiful reservoirs. I drove alone with my thoughts through no name towns. I spent my time thinking about the reason for my trip. What was I searching for? Was I searching for self? Was I searching for self love? I was on an adventure to see if I could do it. I was on an adventure to see if I had the courage to do it alone. 

 

At the beginning of that next year, I began to make a lot of money. He began to view me in a different way. Our relationship turned more flirty. It was stressful and agonizing but we still couldn’t get away from each other. We talked every day. For me all I could think about was the good times. I always referred back to our Dallas trips. I always referred back to the time when we had the best sex of our relationship. The new times we had together drug on. We no longer had fun. Our friendship took work. He bent over backwards to make me happy, but did he really want to make me happy or was he using it as a control tactic? As the year rolled on my eyes began to open more. I began to see the person he truly was. He was this horrible narcissistic human being. “Had he always been like that?” I thought. I tried to convince myself that I was making it up. I was just hurt and upset. He loved me. 

 

Once I finally reached a place with phone service I immediately typed San Fransisco into my maps.I followed the lonely two lane road and made my way to the highway. Once I finally reached LTE I began to search redwoods. I didn’t come all the way to California to not see these magnificent trees. “ Googles Redwoods near San Fransisco” Friends, when you take that solo soul searching trip, google will become your best friend. Muir Woods located in Mill Valley came up in the search results. I realized a dear friend had already recommended that. After a quick direction change I realized I was only 10 mins away at this point. While driving I saw a sign mentioning needing reservations for parking or the shuttle. I followed the signs, pulled in the parking lot, and made my reservations. I took a few moments to collect my thoughts and take a deep breathe. I finally headed to board the shuttle. The drive up to Muir Woods was incredible. Beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Mill Valley down below, and the Pacific Coast up ahead. 

 

As our friendship and relationship began to go down hill, my anxiety began to increase. All I could think about were the words “I’ve told you I’m seeing other people!” The words rung through my head constantly. If he was seeing other people I couldn’t quite understand why he still wanted to see me? One day when I was at his house I saw a Thank You card from a wedding he attended. While he was in the other room I picked it up. I did a quick skim and saw the words “I am so happy for you too, she’s amazing.” I knew I wasn’t in attendance to that wedding and I knew that wasn’t my name. As he walked back in the room I had tears filling my eyes and I screamed at him “WHO IS SHE?” I couldn’t control my tears, just like many times before. The answer was always the same. “She’s an old friend.” He said with confidence. “We’ve went on a couple dates.” He assured me. “I’ve taken half ass people to weddings, it doesn’t mean its serious.” He boasted. I believed him. Just like every time before. I should have moved on but I stayed. 

 

When the cool breeze of the forest hit my cheeks, it also hit my soul. It opened my eyes and my mind to something new and adventurous. I walked to the entrance and proudly said “It’s just me!” and I handed the man behind the counter my $10. As I walked under the wooden entrance I immediately felt this relief come over me. I saw the trees towering over me. Loads of people surrounded me but I was all alone. I was alone with my thoughts and I was alone with my emotions. As I walked through the forest I reflected on my past, present, and future. I thought about the moments in my life and what lead me to this point. What lead me to boarding a plane and visit a new strange place. 

 

Not much had changed compared to all of the times before. He became more manipulative. Everything I did had to be done his way. I thought maybe if I did things his way that he would love me. The whole time I was with him I was so concerned with earning his love and his compassion. It was something I struggled with the entire time. Now that I knew I wasn’t the only one in the picture I constantly compared myself to her. After days and days of searching, I finally found her on Facebook. I typed in all of these names and different spellings. I typed in occupations. I did everything I could to find her. Finally I typed in her name, his name, and OU. There it was. Over a year and a half ago was a picture of them at an OU football game. My heart sank. I had a name and a face now. I had a face to compare my face too. She was beautiful, she was skinny, and she had a good job. I spent every moment of every day and night comparing myself to her. What did she have that I didn’t have? When I saw her age, she was closer to my age than she was to his. I held my tongue as long as I could until I finally told him I had found her and I had a timeline of how long they had been together. This time he had a new reply. He had a new excuse. “Well, Shayla, What do you want me to say?” he said softly. I will never forget that. Thats when I knew what we had was over.

 

Once I walked out of the forest I made my way to the shuttle, got back to my car, and put “San Fransisco” into my GPS. As I drove I saw the Golden Gate bridge coming into view. As I looked to my left I saw the breathtaking San Fransisco bay out my window. As I drove down Lombardi Street I smiled and soaked in the hustle and bustle of people. I followed the signs and continued to the pier. As I walked through the crisp air coming off the bay I realized that I had done it. I had accomplished one of my fears. I overcame my anxiety and I was living my life. I took the plunge and traveled alone. I enjoyed a great meal, walked in and out of shops, smiled at strangers, and took in every moment of being in San Fran. Once I got to my car I was stuck in traffic for hours trying to get out of the busy downtown. I drove through china town and up and down the mountainous streets. I had no one rushing me and no where to be. I turned up my music and drove back to wine country. 

 

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I spent most of my time occupied with the thought of “them”. I would check for updates and if anything had changed. There was no sign of him besides that one picture and she listed herself as single. So maybe they were just friends. I was unsure what to make of it but I was infatuated with it. We had several mutual friends. Most of them were mutual friends between the lover we shared. However, there was a few of my good friends on that list as well. Finally I sucked up my pride and decided to get to the bottom of it. “Hey girl, Can I ask you a weird question?” I sent to my friend. “Sure, what’s up girl?” She immediately replied. “Do you know this person personally or is it just some acquaintance?” I hesitated to ask. “Oh yeah, I knew her back in the day through my ex-boyfriend. She’s a really sweet girl, Why is everything okay?” She was quick with her replies and that made me even more anxious. I stopped for a minute and wondered if I should ask her all of my thoughts or if I should just let it be? I took a big gulp and began to write out my message. I asked her everything, I asked her if she was in a relationship, I asked her if this girl had some man in the picture. I needed to know every detail of her life. When I received the message back, it took everything in me not to throw my phone across the garage. I inhaled even harder on my cigarette and tears clouded my eyes. “I think she’s pregnant.” the message said. I dreamed of a family with him. All I wanted was to give him a baby. I was healthy and had a perfect pregnancy before. I was young and could give him that child I know he wanted. All I could reply back to her was “Wow.” I sat in my garage with my head in my hands. I lit another cigarette and immediately called him. No answer. I sent him a text. “You’re having a baby?” No reply. Hours went back and I never heard from him. In that period of time I threw up twice, my stomach was in knots, and I smoked half a pack of cigarettes. Finally he called me “What is wrong with you?” He slurred. “Is it true?” I screamed at him. He danced around the question and never gave me a response. Finally the words came out of his month and he said those words again that I hated so much. “Yes Shayla, What do you want me to say?” At that moment I should have moved on, but I stayed. 

 

As I drove through wine country the sun was beginning to set behind the hills. All you could see for miles was luxurious vineyards and rolling green hills. Evidence of the past wildfires were still noticeable on the hilltops but the beauty of the lands overpowered mother natures destructions. Once I arrived back at my room I decided to soak in the bath and then turn on a movie. I was exhausted from my adventure and ordered room service. While I waited on my food I began to write. I tried to blog, I tried to write my emotions, and I even tried finishing my bucket list. I was dead. I was at a blank and then it came to me. I started typing and the words began to flow. He called me as I was writing. Out of curiosity I asked him what his favorite memory was of us. He laughed at me. He said I don't know I guess going to the movies. 4 years of laughter, pleasure, and memories all he could come up with was going to the movies. When he couldn't even muster up an ounce of bullshit to spew to me. I trusted my gut instinct. 

 

I still hadn’t accepted it. That was suppose to be MY baby. I was suppose to give him that. The love I searched for for so long he gave to someone else. My mind was wrapped around wondering if they planned to have a baby? Was it a mistake or was it on purpose. I felt so much sadness thinking about if I would have gotten pregnant. If it would have been me would he have made me get an abortion? Would he have stepped up and been a father? Would he have left me alone? I wanted to be happy for him but so much jealousy ran through my veins I couldn’t find it in me to have any joy. As always he used his smooth talking vocabulary and made me come back to him. He knew I wanted him. I tried to keep my distant, I even tried to block him, but I was too weak to go through with any of it. I told myself “Well now that she's pregnant he will be more attracted to me.” In passing he mentioned “He” so I learned the baby was a boy. I was sure she was maybe a few months along. 4 months maybe and he just now learned about it. Theres no way he could have went without telling me. He told me he had been wanting to tell me, and why wouldn’t I believe him? He had never lied to me before. 

 

The next morning I woke up dug an outfit out of my carry on, perfectly placed my eyeliner, lipstick, and contour and grabbed an uber to the Napa Valley Wine Train. As the depot began to fill with people it became overwhelming. I spent most of the time outside waiting for them to call my boarding group. I was surrounded by couples, families, and parties. I felt people staring at me as I wandered through the building alone. I hoped I would be with the artsy people or near one of the big groups. As we boarded the train I was in a seat to myself. I drank my glass of wine as we headed north towards Saint Helena. As peaceful as it was I wished I would have hired a driver to take me through the countryside. The meal was awful and the ride consisted of highways and neighborhood backyards. I was skeptical but I accomplished it. I saw the Napa Valley wine region, all by myself. I didn’t need any company other than my own. I had a moment of clarity. I was this strong and independent person and I was in LOVE with her. She could do anything. 

 

I told myself we were just friends. We were just sleeping together that was it. No emotions. No strings attached. That would work, right? Of course not I was in love with him. Since his mother was no longer staying with him we had amazing sex. We had sex all over the house. Bed, bathroom, kitchen, living room, and sauna. You name it, he probably bent me over something in that room. “This is what I wanted I thought!” We had incredible sex and I was working on myself. In reality I was in a dark place. I had lost sight of everything. I was unsure of who I was anymore. I didn’t bathe, I didn’t brush my hair,  and I wouldn’t respond to emails or text messages. I kept comparing myself to her. All I thought about was his family with someone else. I wanted him to have a family with my daughter and I. I couldn’t fathom what was going on. I was living in dreamland and I couldn’t make myself make sense of the reality I was facing. 

 

That one late night I was talking to him just like I had any night before. I don't remember much about our conversation, he was still mad at me for the way I had acted the last time I was at his house. He said I was acting like a bitch and honestly, I think I’ve had a lot of good reasons to act like one. He brought up the baby, normally I tried to brush off the subject. I asked “When is she due?” The words he said next was the moment that changed everything for me. “The baby will be here anytime within the next week.” he hurriedly said so he could change the subject. Once again the only word I could think of to say was “Wow!”. I was speechless. I had only just found out he had a girlfriend, I only just learned this mystery woman was having a baby, and now I’m discovering the baby will be here in days? I walked into my garage, grabbed a cigarette out of the pack, and took a second before I lit it. I should have left. The universe pushed me so many times and I was oblivious to all of the signs. I finally listened to the stars and decided it was time to make a move. I relit my cigarette and wondered how I would go on? The person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with was planning to spend his life with someone else. He had a family now and I was the outsider. After all the years of jokes and playful banter, I realized I was the mistress. Side bitch Sunday was no longer a half ass joke. I was a play toy for him. I was treated worse than a puppy your kids no longer want after its a year old. 

 

I walked into my house and decided to take the plunge. I had no plans, Cayman was at her dads, and a bank account full of money. I was on a mission of self discovery. For years we had talked about a trip to Napa. We would visit Napa, we would cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway. We would see the sights, but mainly we would spend the time together. All of that time I considered it a possibility. I thought that was something we would really do. Once I finally realized there was no chance, I knew I had to do it alone. Napa seems like a weird place to chose. It’s romantic and filled with happy couples basking in the sun and huge groups of women celebrating bachelorette parties. If I'm trying to get away from love why would I go to wine country? I can’t even stand wine, why would I go to a place that offered nothing but wine? For me visiting wine country was more than seeing the sights or tasting the local vino. This was my first trip alone. This was my time to remember back on who I was. This was a point in my life when I realized I had many obstacles to overcome and I knew for a fact the west coast would give me those answers. 

 

As I headed down the highway towards SAC International I tried to preoccupy myself with memories of my adventure. “What had I accomplished?” I asked myself. I came on this trip looking for something and I still couldn’t decide if I had found it. I was still talking to the person that destroyed me. I hadn’t had that moment of clarity yet where I told him to “Fuck off!” for good. So what was it I learned. Through my path among the redwoods, on my jaunt across the Golden Gate Bridge, and my journey through the famous wine region of California, what was it exactly that the planets were trying to tell me? As I began to write my social media post consisting of bullshit rhetoric, I realized what my journey had taught me. My time on the west coast was liberating and spiritual. Not only did I learn about myself and overcome my anxiety, but the universe taught me that I can be alone. Through all the times when I was dependent on alcohol and men, I no longer needed to go down that path. For years I was scared to leave him because I had convinced myself I would go back to needing alcohol to get me by. I knew I would go back down the road I was so frightened of. He helped me become a new person. I knew our paths crossed for a reason. I realized why he came into my life. He came in my life to save me. He came in my life to destroy me, because God knew I was strong enough to handle it. Everything happens for a reason and the events leading up to my trip were for a reason. I was at a point when I felt like no one would ever love me. I was broken. No one could love someone who was broken. Through my weekend of searching I finally made my discovery. I didn’t need anyone else to love me because I loved myself. I was fragile, I was vulnerable, and I was filled with heartache. I knew I was strong. I was strong enough to go on. At that moment I knew I needed to move on, so I did.


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3 comments

  • I am so proud of you. You are one of a kind and an inspiration, beautiful lady. ❤️

    • Ariel
  • Honestly Shayla, that was the most honest thing I’ve read in a long time. Although I’m considerably older than you, you’re actually my daughters age I recognize myself in your story. Reading it was therapeutic for me. Thank you for being real, raw, honest and most of all courageous. The world needs more Shayla Crawford’s.

    • Tracey Scales
  • Shayla. I’m glad you posted this. I’m glad you finally had clarity. I’m sorry for everything that your mind and heart have gone through the past few years. It’s like a living hell being with someone who has that kind of control over you. You can be alone. You can have fun being alone. And when the time comes you’ll be head over heels for someone who is deserving and will want to be everything for you that you’ve tried to be for other people. Much love, girlfriend.

    • Shelby