It was wrong for me to bury my inner voice in favor of the cards.
"There's a young man in your life, he has dark hair and he's very important to you." The tarot card reader glanced up at me with her chin still pointed down toward the cards.
"Yes," I said. "Yes there is." My heart began beating faster in my chest.
"You love him, but you can't be together right now. But you should hold on and wait for him. The separation isn't about you. He loves you, he just can't be with you right now."
I felt my palms begin to sweat. I was 18 and in my freshman year of college. I told myself I was coming to the card reader strictly for the purposes of research for a class I was taking on the occult. But I was desperate for information and insight into my love life that I knew was ultimately impossible to know.
My on-again-off-again, abusive boyfriend was moving out of state. I was bereft. I didn't know what to do. But then the cards told me to hold on. I had failed to mention to the reader that my significant other was a pretty horrible partner, and the cards neglected to detect this problem. I was too afraid to let go, so I let my better judgment slip under the Ace of Cups and I decided that this was a sign I should hold out and wait for him.
I waited and held on through a year in, with us in different states. I waited for him to tell me he wanted to live together. When he cheated or would hurl insults at me, I waited for him to calm down and remember who he really loved.
Because it wasn't that he didn't love me. It couldn't be. I felt it in my gut, and the cards had confirmed it years ago. So I kept holding on, too afraid to seek a better alternative.
My best friend also had a deck of tarot cards. "This spread means you are surrounded by people who love you, and that sadness is near,but there are people around to help you get through it. I think it's a sign."
She knew I needed to leave, I knew I needed to leave, and the deck of tarot cards knew I needed to leave.
I held out for several more years. Hoping things would get better, hoping that I wouldn't have to face the years of hard work that are necessary for healing after a traumatic relationship. Hoping the young man with dark hair who was so important to me would learn to treat me well.
Over and over, my friend's cards told me how strong I was and how great I would feel after weathering through a tough time. But it wasn't enough.
Eventually I told myself, "It's time to let go. You don't have to hold on anymore. Just let go."
And I did. It finally clicked, and I realized that the cards that gave me the reading I received when I was 18 were just cards. They might have been able to show me some important things, but they didn't know me. The reader didn't know me. They didn't know my boyfriend and how much pain I was in because I stayed with him. They told me to stay, but they were wrong.
I used that reading as a shred of hope, as a sign I concocted so that I wouldn't have to face reality, that I wouldn't have to learn to live a better life on my own.
I was wrong, too. It was wrong for me to bury my inner voice in favor of the cards. It wasn't OK that I stayed. But I finally got out, and I have myself and my closest friend (and their tarot interpretations) to thank.
Ultimately, I know it was my choice to make a decision based on the cards. I chose to withhold important information about the dark-haired young man, and I chose to listen to advice that wasn't right for me.
I still read cards sometimes, but see them now as a way to get a different perspective. Sometimes the cards are spot on, and sometimes they're full of it. Over the years, I've learned the importance of that difference, and trust myself over any tarot spread.