Kareem Devanté Rose’s path to happiness hasn’t come easy. Growing up surrounded by discriminatory classmates, parents in an abusive relationship and later an abusive relationship of his own sent him down the wrong path. But as he has grown, and overcome his previous obstacles, he has become comfortable in his own skin and hopes his story can help others do the same.
The most common mistake human beings make is not allowing themselves to be everything that they are at every given second in this temporary life. We’re too consumed with the idea of perfectionism and fitting into the stigma of being “normal” that we forget to see the beauty of being different. I detest the concept of conformity.
An introduction to who I am at the exterior: I’m Kareem Rose. I was born August 7th, 1995. I love many things: animals, music, tattoos, piercings, nature, art, politics, technology, dinosaurs, fashion, anime, comic books, video games, pop culture, foreign cultures, psychology, astrology, cryptozoology and literature. I consider myself an introvert. My personality type based on the Myers & Briggs Type Indicator is an INFJ, which is the rarest type. We’re the ones that can see things within people that others can’t. We take in information from those around us and apply it to ourselves. But most importantly, we want nothing more than to make a lasting impact on the world, to change it behind the scenes. We want it to be a better place, full of love and empathy. Still, there are things about myself that I wish I could change or that never existed altogether. Thankfully, I’m finally at the point now that I can confidently say that my imperfections are what make me so unique.
I can be domineering sometimes. I think I have to be strong 24/7 so I can give others a reason to be optimistic. I don’t take my own advice. I suffer from anxiety and depression. I can be lazy. I let my insecurities get the best of me sometimes. I can be massively hypocritical. I get distracted easily, and I cry over things that have nothing to do with me. I’ve always felt like the square in the crowd of circles. In the past, I’d look around me and completely feel out of place, disconnected from the world I should be proud to call my home. That has changed, but learning how to accept this took me longer than I had hoped.
The first step was accepting the fact that I would grow up being less valued and as privileged as my Caucasian counterparts. I remember, before even entering preschool, growing up in a racist community. I experienced frequent backlash and harassment from kids my age and older because of my skin tone and my features that included my lips and nose. My ancestry includes African American, Caucasian, Native American and Latino. Because of this, I would get called derogatory names. This affected me so much that I practically became numb to it.
It continued throughout elementary school, middle school and even the beginning of high school. Not only did I face oppression for my skin color, when my sexual orientation became more apparent among my peers, I felt I was even more looked down upon. Since I was a little boy, I knew I was different from the other kids. I never felt any attraction to the opposite sex. I found myself more fixated on the idea of falling in love with a man. I didn’t understand why I felt this way. I was convinced that I was choosing this lifestyle that was viewed as abnormal and a sin. No matter where I turned, something about me was looked at as incorrect or against the norm. From then on, I suffered in silence. I found solace in the only thing that made me feel human again — self harm and drugs.
I consistently wore long sleeves to hide my self-inflicted cuts and bruises. I would damage myself at home and even at school every time someone belittled me. I had no control over how much something external would affect me. Whenever I would punish myself, I had the decision to leave a scar and manipulate the level of pain I would feel. I’m not glorifying what I did, but it was the only thing that prevented me from taking my own life when I was sober.
Drugs were a way of escaping the reality I was given. At times I feel inane for turning to such self-destructive methods to feel at ease. Even now, whenever I get overwhelmed with too many negative emotions at once, I get temptations to relapse to be in control again. But through pain eventually comes clarity. I finally stopped when I met the guy I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with. He took me in and gave me a reason to be content with my life and who I was. The beginning of the relationship was some of the happiest days of my life. But as time progressed, he increasingly started to show his own demons.
He became more emotionally abusive, taking out all his anger on me. Like any person who’s in love at a young age, I let it slide because that’s what I thought love was supposed to feel like. I was already predisposed to abusive relationships through my parents. My father treated my mother as an object rather than a human being. The fear of me growing up to be just like him, and her own safety, is what made my mother decide to move back in with her parents. I naively thought that hurting someone was proving that you loved them.
As our relationship continued, the abuse became more frequent, and I found myself being sad more than happy most of the time. My self-esteem was the lowest it ever was, yet I still found ways of making excuses for him. I turned back to drugs and self-harm to cope with the pain again. After an overdose on medications that almost took my life, I woke up one day and said… “No more.” From that point on, I somehow mustered the will to cease all acts of toxic indulgences once and for all.
I’ve been sober for more than five years, and despite getting temptations here and there, I’ve managed to regain control. I have the people I’ve met on social media to thank for that. I personally think that’s what really saved me, knowing that I wasn’t alone. I may not be proud of what I did to get to where I am now, but I find myself questioning who I would be if I didn’t. I love everything about who I am at this moment and who I’m becoming as the seconds go by. I love being different. I love having physical and emotional scars. I love me. I don’t need to hide certain parts of myself to fit in with a specific crowd anymore.