I've often been one to wonder when people say they want to know you, see ALL of who you are, do they have the slightest clue as to what they're really asking? Often times we ask this of loved ones, frankly, with no idea of the magnitude of the request and upon such revealing are not equipped to handle what we see. For most of my life I felt as if I was in competition with who I truly am and the idea of what others assume I must be- whether hero or villain or not part of the story at all. As much as I longed to be seen, I also found a strange comfort in these presumptions. They became a hiding place. I reasoned that whomever others made me out to be was far more acceptable and less disappointing than who I actually was. If they saw all the scars, all the pain, and knew all the secrets, I so desperately and meticulously kept hidden in my darkest places, would anyone still care enough to know me beyond that or would these unfortunate happenings of my life become the moniker by which I am now solely defined?
I was always a "good girl" growing up - I had a bit of a smart mouth... well, let's be honest I still do- but I wasn't a kid you had to worry about getting into anything too racy. I had a Christian upbringing with not one not two, but three pastors in the family. I have two of the world's greatest parents (seriously, they're amazing!) who love the absolute mess out of me and did nothing but build me up, support my dreams, and shower me with unconditional love. Yet, somewhere down the road, thoughts of unworthiness and not being enough slowly began to stake their claim and take up full-time, permanent residence in my mind. It started with the everyday, run of the mill self- degradation. Speaking things over myself like, "I'm ugly," "My hair isn't straight enough or long enough," "I'm too tall," and "I'm fat" (this bad boy still likes to hang around from time to time). One might say, this is just normal stuff young girls struggle with, but it's like I received this starter kit for insecurity and with every new subscription the damage was deeper and deeper and harder to recover.
I wouldn't say I was boy crazy when I was younger. I mean, I had my fair share of crushes, but I was such a tomboy back then that the fellas usually saw me as one of the guys rather than an actual girl. I was, however, and still am the BIGGEST daddy's girl you'll ever meet. My dad has been and will always be my hero. He taught me everything from how to hoop to how to spot a no good punk (as he likes to call them, lol) from a mile away. He gave me my love for music. He taught me to be strong, to be daring, to dream recklessly, and to not give a **** what other people think about me. Well, he can't get all the credit because my ridiculously bombastic momma was right there showing me how to do all the above with dignity and class. Coming from such deep love I often ruminate on how I would eventually drift so far and become so unaware of that love. What was the seed and at what moment was it planted?
As I got older, I couldn't find any value in myself, so I placed it in the hands of others- particularly boyfriends. I had developed this amazing ability of finding the worst absolute option for me and then convincing myself that based on how much they changed and loved me, in response to my naive, unwavering love for them, it would show once and for all that I am valuable- I am worth something. Problem with this theory is that 1). It sucked and 2). IT NEVER WORKED. In fact, I would always end up worse off than I started. I got to a place where I felt so broken and so desperate to feel whole. This desperation caused me to look for completion and validation just about everywhere except the right places. Poor judgment calls and compromise were all too familiar. I became unrecognizable to myself or maybe this is who I just am, I would question. All in all I hadn't been too kind to myself, but I wasn't a total lost cause. Then came the decision that changed me forever.
The day I found out I was pregnant all I remember is that I felt frozen. I hadn't been feeling well for awhile and thought maybe I had some kind of stomach virus so I finally went one day to the college clinic to get checked out. I thought it was just a matter of getting some fluids, an antibiotic and then I'm good. Boy, did I totally miss that by a long shot. It was like a scene out of a movie, when life is happening around the main character but they're stuck in slow motion. Yep, that was me. I know the doctor was talking because her lips were moving, but I couldn't hear a word. Hundreds of millions of thoughts must of been running through my mind at the same time. "How did this happen?" "This doctor is all wrong," "this can't be happening to me," "God is punishing me," "I'm not this girl." It felt as if every thought in my brain was screaming at me then suddenly silenced by one sentence, "here are your options should you decide to terminate." Terminate, what does she mean terminate? Never did I think I would be in this predicament, but I was so sure that, if by chance I was, there wouldn't be any other choice but to keep the baby. Nonetheless, here I was barely 18, scared out of my mind and all alone with a haunting whisper of one word playing over and over... Terminate.
I sat in the waiting room, for what felt like days. I kept imagining myself getting up, busting through the doors and sprinting out of there, but every time I opened my eyes I was reminded I had not been so brave. They called my name and led me down, what I like to call, "the hallway of the conflicted." Never had I so clearly been at war with my mind and heart before. My mind was muddied with the opinionated voices of the obligatory counselor, who had no problem reiterating 77 times how young I was and that I had my whole future ahead of me so don't ruin it...the one friend I had confided in by default because I needed someone to drive me home, who pretty much shared the same views as my poor man's Dr. Phil...AND the 50% partner of this grand mess who was very adamant that I was doing this all on purpose and any other option would destroy his life. Every now and then I would hear the faint cry of my heart pleading with me to just walk away. Reassuring me that as hard and scary as it all appears, God is with me and won't let me drown. The cries weren't loud enough and, In the end, I denied my heart, went against everything I believed in and made a fear-driven choice that, 12 years later, I still live with everyday.
The years following were pretty tough to say the least. I didn't take what I did lightly and I carried it as my own personal scarlet letter. I wore shame and guilt like some sort of twisted prize. Not many knew of what I'd been through. It's not necessarily the best conversation piece and, honestly, I couldn't handle seeing the potential disappointment and maybe even disgust on the faces of people I love. But don't worry, I judged myself more than enough for all of them. I did this until one day, years later, locked in my room, crying my eyes out and praying hysterically I realized I needed to stop punishing myself. I had convinced myself I was so undeserving of love and forgiveness that I accepted with arms wide open any all hardships and heartbreaks. Then here comes God, in the midst of my darkest moments, swooping in with what felt like a blanket of grace covering me with the very love and acceptance I had been longing for all along, telling me that I am not the sum of my mistakes. I am more than my failures and misdeeds. Thus began the work of putting back together this broken vessel. I had to go back to the beginning and face every insecurity that had taken ownership of my spirit. The road has been a long one and sure as hell ain't been easy, but I wouldn't be the woman I am today without it. I may be a portrait of flaws, but I am His masterpiece. In this truth is where I have found my hope. Now I can, wholly, be seen.