I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T

I’ve always been the independent girl. My parents will swear that I came out of the womb independent, and I’m not exactly sure how I became this way; that’s just who I’ve always been. In fact, my earliest memory of independence was at 4 years old.

You should know, 4-year-old Kaelly’s favorite candy was Fun Dip – which, let’s be real, it’s still delicious. Anyway, one afternoon, I decided that I wanted some Fun Dip, and my mother was napping while Rhett was asleep since he was a newborn. I went into Kirk’s room and found his money. He couldn’t stop me because he was at school, and I, being the conniving child that I was (and still am) knew exactly where he hid his coins. If I remember correctly, I took as many as I could shove into my Minnie Mouse coin purse. Then I went into my mother’s room where she was napping, gently tapped her on the shoulder, and said something along the lines of, “Mommy, can I go get some Fun Dip?”

My mother is one of the heaviest sleepers that I’ve ever met in my entire life. She almost always has conversations in her sleep that she doesn’t remember. This day was no different. This day, she was bothered with my waking her from her sleep, mumbled something at me, and waved her arm. 4-year-old Kaelly took that as a, “Yes, daughter, go get Fun Dip by yourself.”

So there I was: my coin purse packed, my mother’s permission, and my tricycle ready. All I had to do was pedal the mile to the gas station. We lived in a small town in Missouri with only one gas station, so I knew exactly where to buy my Fun Dip. After I had pedaled all the way to the gas station, I parked my tricycle at the gas pump (apparently my parents only went to the gas station when they needed gas, so I thought that’s where everyone parked – even tricycles).

I went inside the store, grabbed my Fun Dip and paid for it at the counter with my brother’s stolen coins from my Minnie Mouse coin purse. The gas station clerk, alarmed that a 4-year-old was there alone, called my mother and told her that I was there. In the mean time, I put my Fun Dip and coin purse in the basket on my tricycle and pedaled the mile back home. When I got home, my mother was waiting on the porch for me. I thought she was going be proud of how independent I was, but apparently, she was not exactly happy. Actually, I think that she had been planning my punishment from the moment she got the call from the gas station clerk – let’s just say that she was less than thrilled.

Fast forward 17 years, and I’m still the exact same independent girl that I was at 4 years old. I got my first job at 14 and decided that financial independence was going to be my thing, so that’s what I’ve always worked for. Even in college when my rent was outrageous, and I was a full time student, I still worked multiple jobs just to make ends meet, but I rarely had to ask for help.

After graduating college, moving to a new city, and attempting to start multiple careers at once, I’m learning what it’s like to ask for help. I’ve been living with my brother rent-free for more months than my ego will allow me to admit, and I hate it. I’ve struggled a lot lately by having to constantly ask for financial help, and I’ve been counting down the days until I can finally repay everyone.

Just last week, after knowing a man for only a couple of hours, he said to me, “What is your ridiculous need for independence?” And I didn’t know how to respond to him, except for the fact that it’s who I’ve always been. He spent around an hour trying to convince me that it’s OK to ask for help, and that someday, I will get to repay everyone. And maybe, other people will eventually need my help. He kept telling me that everyone has to ask for help at some point, and that it’s not something to be ashamed of.

So this week, I’m trying my best to find my identity in anything other than my bank account. This week, I’m going to be the girl who got published for the first time, and the girl who’s working her butt off for the salaried position in her office, and the girl who’s going to blow her internship out of the water. This week, I’m going to do my best to remind myself that I need to work as hard as possible to make money, but that it’s not the only thing that defines me as a person.

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