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Sweet Sixteen

Time doesn’t really heal. And I don’t mean in the more significant of ways, like when tackling something as complex as grief, but I mean it as a whole, that time itself lacks that very ability. Time is mere structure we’ve added to our lives deliberately and it does help keep track of our worldly journeys, but things that do not fit into the mold of all that is man-made – elements of our being that transcend into spirituality, cannot be confined by something so arbitrary. A distinction I wish I had recognized early.

Because when I think back to me at sixteen, I can’t relate to that girl even slightly. I look back at her with compassion as she navigated a social life polluted with teenage-toxicity and even though she had her bubble of protection amongst people that still have her heart despite our distance, she spent most of her time picking and choosing acceptable parts of her personality. And although sixteen-year-old me would be mortified to admit it, but so much of who she presented herself to be was a deliberate attempt for acceptance and to test the waters of her likability. Dark, awkward, plain and a twig-like skinny, I’d hide behind exaggerated self-esteem – speak louder when a joke is made at your expense, make sure people know your lack of capacity for bullshit, avoid any chance of rejection by entering the room announcing your disinterest; I became the archetype of a best friend – the shoulder to cry on indiscriminately, the wingman when appropriate and a safe name to throw in any time others got caught with a smoke or glass of whiskey.

I went from the shy and uncomfortable and self-decidedly ugly middle schooler to ‘sherry’; an independent woman who believed herself to be above acceptance for she had grown out of her phase to people-please. As I left a home that was as much a home as it was a minefield, and as the hailstorm of trauma pelted me relentlessly, I began to pride myself on shedding whatever I used to consider weak – the little girl too scared to sleep if her older brother’s bed was empty, the one who had been abused into avoiding men’s attention purposefully, the one who believed enough time had gone by for those old, now-insignificant wounds to heal.

And that’s not say that I believe my strength or resilience today is fake, by any means. Having come out the other side from events that have crushed my soul and yet I’m putting one foot ahead of another and still daring to dream, means each of those traits I worked to grow into carry an element of authenticity. When I look back to the girl who would crave affection or support or the sense of belonging but never felt worthy, I no longer relate to that kind of anxiety but all this while, I thought it was because a decade is enough time to heal.

It wasn’t until recently that the impenetrable wall I had created began to crumble around me because I was in the presence of a soul that looked past everything worldly and just saw me. And for some reason, believed me to be so worthy, the love seeped in deep to greet the little girl inside, still stuck at sixteen. A reality that was so far from the realm of possibility that when the hailstorm began raining down again inevitably, it destroyed parts of her she thought had died already. A hailstorm accompanied by whispers in the wind that shattered illusions she had been building consciously, reminding her that just because you’re strong and independent does not mean you overcame those difficulties. That who I am today is the amalgamation of a defensive wall built around a wound that’s been left open indefinitely, rather than growing into who I am today naturally as a product of healing from long-held fears and insecurities. A reflection that I can no longer seem to overlook now that it has presented itself to me, but I keep wondering how many more little versions of my inner child are trapped within, still waiting to be seen.

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