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I'm a cynic. Gone is the youthful idealism that I possessed those few short years ago that now seem a lifetime apart. I barely remember what I was like before. I had a strong conviction that I must believe everything would be alright. In the end I would grow up, meet a girl and be happily married for the remainder of my lifetime. God owed it to me, because I was a good little Christian boy. I obeyed my parents to the utmost of my ability and prayed for forgiveness when I faltered. Everything was so simple. Everything was so right and wrong. We were so right and the world so wrong. Nothing could shake my beliefs in the happy life that awaited me as I would grow up.

Then she came into my life. We loved each other, but it was all wrong. My parents did not approve, nor did any of my family. She did not share my worldview and belief in God. I had a choice to make - either follow my family or follow my love for her. I chose love. If I had not chosen it I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. I would not be the stronger person I am now. I would yet be secure in my complete faith that everything was going to be happy in the end. Perhaps I could have rested comfortably in that false comfort, but to me now it is only that - a false comfort.

When she began to break down, part of me died inside. I realized that my perfect dream of lifelong happiness was only a dream, never to be grasped. After all, the most beautiful dreams are the ones forgotten and never realized. The kind, sensitive part of me died when I saw how helpless she had become. In the futility of our situation we would both break down crying. Suddenly I knew that if I continued to cry, she would surely worsen and lose her fragile grasp of reality. I stopped crying that day and never again could let myself break down to tears. Only in my dreams on occasion I will soften and wake up crying for the pain of memories that will never leave me. I could not cry because she needed me to be strong.

Strong I became - and colder and harder. I lost my faith in happiness entirely as I saw her condition deteriorate. Holding her in my arms, I begged God to restore our dreams to us. She sobbed "I'm broken" and fell asleep as I contemplated the truth of this. Her emotions and mental state ranged widely. She would use profanity and say the most unimaginably hateful things to me one night, and not remember what had occurred by the next morning when we spoke again. She did not want to remember. The knowledge that she was often not herself was more than she could bear, so I bore it myself and learned to live with it. I lived for the times when she was again the little helpless girl I had grown to love and would thank me for putting up with her sickness. It was worth it to me for those moments alone.

After several years, those moments disappeared completely. She was angry and exhausted from the time she awoke to when she slept. Often we could not even talk and I would leave her alone, checking up occasionally to make certain she was safe. Her anger was often directed at me for treating her as a helpless child, but that is what she had become. The burden of emotional pain that never lifted from my heart became heavier without the support of her love to lighten it. For months I deliberated on what to do. I loved her and always would, and feared being alone again. Finally I left her.

I do not like who I have become - but I despise who I was before. My ignorance and naivete were even greater than my innocence. I had no reason to question the belief in good, godly happiness that was instilled upon me in my youth. Still that is no excuse for the sheltered, vulnerable boy that I was. I am proud of being able to think for myself and deal with things as they come. The kind little boy is probably still somewhere inside, but he is so battered and bruised that he should have died completely by now. He was replaced by an insecure young man who still wants desperately to be loved, but distrusts any promise of happiness. How can you want to believe that everything will be ok, yet become angry anytime someone tries to assure you of this? I am at war with myself and no peace is in sight.

The world is a sick place. A continuing melancholy pervades my life, with brief interludes of amusing diversions. One day there is hope, the next a disappointment so great I rage against myself for hoping at all. The cycle repeats itself more often than I would like to admit. I want so terribly to hope and believe that something will change, that I will find the girl who can love me and accept my love. I also want to stop hoping completely and armor myself so well that no one will ever reach me again. Physical touch is almost painful sometimes as I instinctively want to reject any invasion of my person. People and emotions can hurt, and I want no part of them.