I sit at the end of my bed–-a young, elementary school aged girl—wanting acceptance. Every decision centered around the person I think I should be. Nevermind discovering who I am, I only want to become. The N’Sync posters on my walls, flare jeans parachuting over my ankles, and the fuzzy journal tucked away on the shelf next to my Babysitter’s Club book collection all tell a part of my acceptance journey. I want the kids at school to be my friend, the crowd beneath the stage to be in awe, and for my existence to make an impact on the world.
As I sit, I carefully flip through the pages of one of my books reading tales of heroic acts. My mind imagines being in the heroine’s shoes fighting dragons or turning a pumpkin into a horse and carriage that brings together a love story for the ages. It feels good to save the day, so I determine at that moment to live my life in pursuit of a story much like the ones in this book. A story where I would be known and make an impact.
So I worked hard to become the best at everything. My middle and high school years were spent pursuing music and sports while maintaining honor roll and an active social life on the side. The pursuit was one of excellence. If the story wasn’t admirable and if I didn’t fit in, I was failing. The story needed to be one of success, so I could feel as though all the hard work mattered.
But as I grew and continued to create my story, I was suddenly introduced to my fairytale’s villains: anxiety and self-doubt. I spent these years in school fighting two evils and, despite coming out on the other side, they continued to fight hard. Sure, I had a group of close friends, played volleyball, and had many musical opportunities, but one day, those all came to an end. That day was called graduation–the day when who you had worked so hard to become goes into a whirlwind of changes and transitions.
I couldn’t take the characters or the plot of my story with me after high school. The only thing I had was me, and I didn’t know who I was. I had worked hard at doing and forgot about being.
Deep down, I wanted to be bare and exposed and yet still understood and wanted–-not for what I could do, but for who I was.
My journey was changing…
In college, I was introduced to a collective of people who carefully worked to translate a person’s inner being. This collective took lost souls who played a role for far too long, helped them dig down deep, and pulled out their hidden parts–the parts of themselves that were raw and true but often not yet explored. These parts were too unique and set these people apart from the crowd they fought so hard to fit into.
But nonetheless, the collective affirmed and nourished these hidden parts: You are brave. You are a protector. You are creative. And they helped me write a new story! One where I was known for more than what I could do. When one victory was over, I was able to remain firm knowing my soul wouldn’t change, and no matter what the next journey held, I could show up as my whole self–-accepted, wanted, and real.
What I learned on my journey from that young girl to the woman I am today is that one of the most important things you can do for yourself and for those around you is to shine the light on the heroes of the story. Not for what heroes can do, but for who the heroes are. Affirm them, help them discover and explore the parts of themselves that have been there since they were created, and remind them to hold onto themselves when the rest of their story changes.
Celebrate who you are, and who you will become will soon follow in a more authentic and transformational way.