My path of self-discovery has been a long one. It's been trying. It's hurt myself, as well as those around me. It's put other people's happiness at risk. It's been brutal. And wretched. And left me wondering how I could go my entire life before this not being able to see myself, and the world around me, more clearly. It's been a journey I could never--not even in a million-word essay--articulate to another living soul and have them truly understand the depths of this Hell-slash-awakening-slash-joy-slash-rebirth.
Because it is mine.
I am so grateful for the life I've had. I wouldn't take back a thing. But, oh, how I wish I would have loved myself sooner. How I wish I would have seen my potential at a much younger age, and held the conviction that what I wanted mattered. How I wish I would have known myself, loved myself, and been confident in those things.
I'm not the same person I once was; but I couldn't be happier about that. Subtle wearing-downs and beatings of the soul have changed me. And, unfortunately, most those beatings have either been by my own hand or by others whom I've allowed to "steal my wind." I'm sure any lovers of the TV show, Friends, know what I'm referring to, but in one episode, Rachel, Phoebe, and Monica get on a high from reading a female self-empowerment book. It eventually makes them turn on each other and is meant to be a comedic plot device. But I think there is so much truth to that statement, as ridiculous as it sounds.
Do not let anyone steal your wind. *cue snickers from Ross, Joey, and Chandler*
You own your soul, your body, your mind, your spirit, your intuition, your inspiration, your choices, your mistakes, your heart, your worth. You own them. You own you. Do yourself the greatest service you can ever do, and realize that, before it's too late and you've left a warpath in your wake.
Own yourself. Own your space. Own your freedom to choose, your freedom to be a smart, powerful, and talented woman (or individual). Be proud of that--not ashamed. Being ashamed of your strength is the greatest disservice you can do to you, your family, God, and even those around you.
Be YOU. No matter what anyone else thinks, be YOU, dammit. You might feel alone in a sea of opposition, and I know that is one of the single hardest things you will ever have to face, but I can also promise that you will be happier for it. You owe it to yourself. And believe it or not, you owe it to God, too.
But to whom you don't owe anything is other humans.
Another promise I can sadly make is that if you go through your life living in a matter that says, "I'm not good enough--my wants don't matter enough--to live for me. I must live for others, I must make others happy, unceasingly. My feelings don't matter, and others must always come first," you WILL discover you are wrong. You WILL suffocate, drown, or become trodden beneath the feet of those around you, even those you call your loved ones. You might think the altruistic way to be is weak, passive, modifiable, and agreeable. (Note: it is possible to be agreeable, selfless, charitable, and loving while still putting your own happiness at the forefront, right alongside the happiness of those you would do anything for. THIS is the thing we must learn. Sometimes to learn selflessness, we must first experience being selfish. Not selfish as society labels, but selfish in that you can't save anyone else if you're already dead.)
But you are not weak. And being weak is not the answer.
Because you are strong, you will realize this. You will discover the years and years of pain you've caused yourself, the trauma you've brought to your psyche, and the heavy amount of healing that must take place. Because you are important, and you are strong, you will discover that to start the healing--to get better--you might even have to hurt others on your path to becoming healthy again.
To become YOU.
The real you.
The you who you know inside and out, who you can feel happy for and proud of, despite what every person around you thinks. Despite the current of opposition you swim against. You will know it HAS to be done. You must fight. And for once, you must fight for YOU.
But the road will be dark. Almighty Heaven and Earth, it will be dark. But you will fight. Because you are worth it. You will fight through those dark times, when releasing the flowing tears of despair is all that gets you to the next moment--the next moment you are too blinded by sorrow to see that the tears you shed are actually tears of bravery and not tears of weakness.
You will have times when you will feel like this, when you will tell yourself:
Before an explosion is an implosion. Everything stops. You take in everything. Every surrounding, you absorb. They soak in through your skin, into your soul. Sights, sounds, absence of sound, emotions--or lack thereof--from those around you. None of it matters anymore. You've absorbed it all; it's all become a part of you, a part of your world and your reality--the only reality that now exists, but the reality that is really just a dream. Because nothing is real. Nothing but your emptiness and your cry for help. Your ache to shout everything at the top of your lungs. To stop hiding. Stop hiding what you feel and say what needs to be said. Stop pretending. Stop feeling weak and worthless. Feel good enough, not for them but for yourself. ...And since none of that is possible, you ache to disappear, forever. ...And since that isn't possible either, bury it and go on with your life. Be at everyone's aid because that's what you have to do. Because that's who you are. Take no thought to your own deteriorating mental health, or the way you beg God to take your life so you can stop disappointing everyone, including yourself. So you don't have to feel weak anymore. So you can be free.
I jotted those words down in one of my darkest moments recently (the past few months have been full of them). But that voice is wrong. I know that, and I knew that then. Do not let that voice win. That person the voice tells you you are is not you at all. The person you really are is the one waiting on the other end of this refiner's fire. The flames are too scorching, too bright to see anything else while the fire rages. But that fire will refine. Please, allow it to refine.
Some people are blessed to have a strong sense of who they are from the moment they're old enough to have memories. Others discover it later, but while still young enough. However, others--like me--don't realize it until well into adulthood. If you are the latter, you are not alone. You will be alone in the sense that only YOU can fight on your battleground and trek on your journey; but know that others have fought their own, with blood, sweat, and tears.
Do not let any anyone tell you how to fight that journey--no one. Only you can know what journey you need to trek, what path you need to take, and what weapons to bring to the battle. No other man, no matter how great their rank is in church, society, etc., can approve or disapprove.
Find yourself, love yourself, BE yourself. Make yourself happy. If you can't do it for you yet, then do it for others. Save them the pain, and be true to you from the beginning. Even if others see you as selfish, worldly, weak, or evil, it DOES. NOT. MATTER. All that matters is that YOU know you're doing what needs to be done. That YOU feel your worth.
Listen to your heart. Listen to your soul. Be YOU, and love YOU.
Don't let anyone steal your wind.