Be Selfish With Who You Let In When You Hurt
"Like a ghost. Like the moon. Like a god. Like a truth."
Route 33 runs straight through Ohio. It isn’t particularly majestic. Memorable isn’t how most would describe it. But before we even got on it, I knew it was coming and that it would change me. In a car with three rooted souls, I found myself on Route 33 and homebound.
For weeks I’d been shedding pieces of myself — the parts that I knew I didn’t want to carry into the next stage of my life. Most days, it felt like ripping off instead of shedding. It felt like grieving instead of joyfully giving up. Every day, it all felt necessary because there were other parts of me that needed space to exist.
I was breaking myself into pieces so I could put myself back together in a way that felt right. In a way that felt mine.
So often we run away from pain like it’s the last thing we want to take ownership of. Like the scars that brand every inch of our skin are too ugly to be stared it, too raw to be exposed to others. With every mile we drove down Route 33 I was picking up the pieces I’d run away from for too long and inviting them back into my life, where they rightfully belonged. Where they should have always been.
Down the road, with only our voices for music, I navigated through my own mind and anchored myself in the beauty of this moment. Real beauty, it’s what we were seeing, what we were creating, what we were enjoying. To belong to a moment so purely is something that I had never experienced. But here I was and here it was.
Being on Route 33 wasn’t an accident, it was my reaping.
"She's the heart of life
She's the dreamer's dream
She's the hands of time
She's the queen of kings"
This moment was my becoming. Together the four of us navigated ice patches, ducked under nature’s low ceilings, danced along trails that were fenced in by trees that touched the sky. I walked each step intentionally knowing that the girl who walked off of the plane wouldn’t be the same woman who would be scanned by TSA a few days later. In Ohio I pieced together all the growth that I’d fought for every day since October.
With it my biggest lesson learned: you don’t just get to invite people into your more joyous moments, where the champagne flows and the backdrops are made for Instagram, you also get to choose who you let into your darkest seasons. You stand guard at the door of your pain and it is not selfish of you to only let in those who you know will take care of you and put you first during trying times. Because that is how love is defined, that is what showing up looks like, that is self-love.
I kept the door locked for so many people in my life through the darkest of these moments because they just didn’t deserve to bear witness to parts of me that were beautifully painful. Because in their eyes the “beauty” part would be missing — to them it would look like dead weight, like a moment to scream “I told you so,” like the reason to justify their own perceptions of brokenness and love and life.
My life, my pain, isn’t the lesson at the end of a parable. It isn’t the butt of a joke. It isn’t an excuse that should enable anyone to stand on a soap box.
It is the most raw representation of who I am, it is the greatest example of who I always choose to be.
Through my pain you see my greatest strengths. On Route 33, when the conversation turned to legacy, we both agreed that we would fight to death to go down as people who cared, who were rooted in things bigger than just other’s perceptions of us. To walk through a season that made me question everything from my own skin to my own last name, and come out loving myself more — that’s why I love my pain. It’s why I protect it like my biggest treasure.
Because my right to live through it and come out the other side of it, it’s not something I’ll give up for anything or anyone. It's not something that I should have to package nicely for other's consumption or deliver on a silver platter for other's entertainment. It is raw. It is mine. Mine to thrive through. Mine to own. Mine to share as I see fit.
It is mine because when I look in the mirror tonight and see a swollen left breast with six strips of tape on the side, all I'll see is a visual representation of pure beauty and self-love.