Column: Flying my way back home

‘And then, reality hit me. I was Josie.’


Valerie Benzinger

“To me, the ring symbolized learning to take better care of myself and reminded me it’s OK to not always be there for someone when the person who really needs me the most is me.”

My eyes were glued onto the TV screen as I watched my favorite show, “Legacies.” One of the characters, Josie, was in her bedroom, shocked after having an unexpected conversation with her former lover, Penelope. Penelope pointed out to Josie something she never knew about herself: she always put herself last and sacrificed her own happiness for everyone she loved.

And then, reality hit me. I was Josie.



I was on a FaceTime call with my best friend and tension was high. The last few weeks, he and I had been getting into a million fights because of the way I’d been acting by having breakdowns out of nowhere and becoming secretive. During that time, unnecessary drama and fighting occurred not only with my best friend but with my other friends, too. I was not sure how to deal with them because I was busy taking care of everyone else’s problems to the point that I forgot to take care of my own.

My best friend looked into the camera and took a deep breath. “Clarise, I pray someday you will realize you don’t need to sacrifice your happiness just to keep everyone satisfied with the decisions you make.That’s not what I want to happen to you. I want you to succeed in life and be at peace at the end of the day, not losing yourself in the process.”

As I looked away from the phone with tears streaming down my cheeks, I realized he was right. I knew I was losing myself in the process of taking care of everyone else, but I’d feel guilty if I didn’t do anything to help them out with their problems.



“Remember when you dated that guy a while ago?” a close friend asked me.

I chuckled. “Which one?”

“I can’t remember his name,” my friend said. “But I know he meant a lot to you and still does even though you two are broken up now. I think it was your first love actually.”

That rang a bell.

“I remember when my girlfriend and I broke up, you felt the need to take care of me. Your love story with him was romantic and above all epic. You told me you always felt safe with him and he gave you the love you always wanted before the actual breakup happened. I know you wanted that happily ever after with him and you’re hurt because you can’t be with him anymore because of everything that happened. Although he gave you the love you always wanted and the best time of your life. You were going to break up with him because you felt guilty you were with someone while I wasn’t. The point is you need to start putting yourself first before everyone else. I’m a big boy now and I know I can take care of myself.”

I pulled him into a tight hug. I was glad he was finally becoming a man. I finally realized he didn’t need me to act like a mother toward him anymore; all he needed from me was to be there for him as a friend.



Last year, there was only one thing I wanted for Christmas: a butterfly ring. To me, the ring symbolized learning to take better care of myself and reminded me it’s OK to not always be there for someone when the person who really needs me the most is me.

On Christmas morning, I woke up to open my present and found myself gifted with products from Lush. I walked over to the fireplace where my stocking hung and dug inside, feeling the texture of a small square box. When I pulled the box out, I opened it to find a silver ring in the shape of a butterfly with amethyst jewels, my favorite stone of all time, engraved on the wings.

The moment I saw that piece of jewelry, I fell in love. I promised myself I’d start doing what was best for me before taking care of others. This was something that I haven’t done in a long time.



For a long time, I have felt the need to make everyone in my life content, even if that meant sacrificing my own happiness. There were days that I had to break down and some of my friends needed to at the same time too, and since I knew that I could handle my problems, I chose to take care of my friends first, this forced me bottle up my emotions on those days because I felt the need to take care of them first. I knew I could handle my problems but they couldn’t handle theirs, so I chose to take care of them first.

I didn’t know it was negatively affecting me until this year when I was dealing with various issues and still chose to take care of everyone else’s problems until it became too much for me. I was constantly falling apart and had no idea how to deal with my problems to the point I started to shut people out of my life.

As time went by, I knew I had to be selfish, but not to a point I wouldn’t care about what others feel due to my actions. I realized I needed to start taking care of myself first before taking care of others. This didn’t mean I wouldn’t be there for the people I love anymore, but I would know when it’s time to let stuff go and step down.