My Own Worst Enemy
by Anne Tibbets
In “Shut Up,” Gwen is her own worst enemy. If she had been able to see The Creep for what he was, and was able to think for herself, perhaps the entire family would not have had to suffer as a result. It’s a sad truth in life, that it takes one person’s folly to wreck all surrounding people. But “Shut Up” wouldn’t have been as interesting if Gwen had not been a victim of willful blindness.
Being guilty of it myself, at one point (if not several) in my life, I can understand why Gwen refused to read the writing on the wall. One does not want to admit they can’t make the world exactly the way they want it to be…I’ll give you an example.
After High School, and at the request of my parents, I moved out and into the dorms of an in-state college and took out student loans to pay for tuition, as my parents were in no position to help. I was glad to go, and more than a little bent at my folks. In my seventeen year old mind, what they had said was, “We demand that you move out and put yourself in debt to go to college, because we don’t want you living here with us anymore and we can’t afford to send you away, so do it yourself.”
I’m quite sure that’s not what they had in mind, but that’s how it felt at the time. I had the presence of mind to NOT want to put myself in catastrophic amounts of debt, so I stayed in-state (tuition is cheaper) at a state university (again, cheaper than a private college), and took out the bare minimum of loans, and got three (count them! three!) part time jobs to make ends meet. I worked on-campus in an office before class, took classes, then worked afternoons at a private business as a secretary, and as a waitress on nights and weekends.
I was exhausted, I was sick a lot, I was still dirt poor, and my grades were horrendous. But at least I wasn’t in debt!
During all this, I had decided that everything of my old life was bad. My parents had always approved of my High School boyfriend, so, of course, he was the first to go. I then found myself the biggest Badass I could find and went about molding the relationship into what I considered to be a good one: one where I came first.
I had never come first, in my mind, to anyone.
(Psst! I had just broken up with the only human being who had ever put me first in my life so far – but I was too blind to see it!)
The Badass, of course, was too egotistical, too young, too immature, and in no way shape or form, interested in having a relationship of that depth, and of course, though I didn’t know it at the time, neither was I.
On and off for a year and a half I repeatedly broke up and got back together with probably the worst boyfriend of my pathetic dating career out of sheer stubbornness.
He was going to treat me like a princess! He was going to move heaven and earth at my command! He was going to worship the ground I walked on!
Yeah – he wasn’t having any of that, and by any rights, he shouldn’t have – but, by golly, that’s what kind of relationship I wanted, and by gum, I was going to get one!
Finally, at the bequest of my girlfriends, and from the advice from one of my bosses (Thank you, Linda!), I called it off permanently, swore off all men, and decided to put myself first.
That was my mistake all along.
I kept wanting some dude to put me first, as if that would somehow make me a worthy person – as if that was what made me whole. The entire time – the ENTIRE TIME – if I had once, just ONCE, made myself the most valuable person in my life, I wouldn’t have allowed myself to be in that horrible relationship.
I spent the next month being completely and totally selfish, as any college student (I was a sophomore now) should. I did what I wanted, without trying to please anyone else. I said what I thought, without censoring myself because I knew the other person might disagree. I stopped being a doormat.
And that, my lovelies, was my cure for being my own worst enemy.
I hope one day, for every ‘Mary’ and ‘Gwen’ out there, they are able to do the same.
Anne Tibbets is the author of SHUT UP and THE BEAST CALL. She is also co-author of the teen time-travel book THE AMULET CHRONICLES: BOOK ONE: THE JOURNEY HOME.
To learn more about Anne Tibbets and her books, watch out for her on the web!