I literally cannot count how many times I’ve moved throughout my life. It’s heart-wrenching to think about, to be honest.
Trauma does more damage than we often consider across the span of a lifetime.
Trauma left me without a strong support network for most of my life. This lack of familial tether meant I would fight the world to figure out where I fit and who I was. It also meant I would fight myself and deny the existence of the pain that was more than evident but not devastating enough to make me admit that I still carried deep wounds left by those who should have been responsible for taking care of me.
Being untethered means you become accustomed to living like a vagabond.
My early adulthood was spent searching for a family who would fill the hole my parents left behind. Searching for fulfillment in families who never signed up to claim your unmanaged pain sets you up for letdown, time and again, mainly because I couldn’t receive love or kindness without a deep sense of shame.
It was as though I was unloveable because I couldn’t find a way to love myself BECAUSE being abandoned by my parents meant I didn’t understand what safe and consistent love was. Love was unsafe for so long. It threatened to let me down. It threatened my sense of abnormalcy. It threatened my equilibrium. Love was only longing, never realized.
I met myself by grasping for love from families who saw glimpses of need within me. I yearned to be accepted wholly and cared for as one of them. They often desperately wanted to help heal the hurt I held so deeply. I’ve learned wanting and ability are not always simpatico.
Upheaval, uncertainty, unhappiness- all of these withouts left me in a state of constant shifting, from sofa, spare bedroom, storage unit, to here to there. I moved and reset. I ran and moved. I fled my shame and grief again and again, or at least I thought I did. I hoped I could.
Moving so much left me with little. I left things behind repeatedly because traveling light is easiest when someone already has nothing to show for their life.
But through all this pain, inconsistency, and loss, I somehow held onto a set of journals from when I was a teenager, a young adult, a struggling to know myself as a human person. These journals that I scrawled pain and poured word after word into stayed significant no matter how little I could hold in my world.
When I think of all the belongings I’ve walked away from and how I refused to leave these behind, I know it wasn’t necessarily about what was written on those pages but that the story existed. This story, my story, could be tangibly touched, even if I had nothing else to show for my life.
Those days were bleak and blurry. They are days I don’t often think back to because of how much pain still lives in them. I clung to these journals because I needed the world to know I lived. I wanted to be valued despite my life appearing a meaningless mockery to so many. I longed to leave some part of me behind because I feared my life would be cut short and I would have been nothing to no one. I would be that unattended funeral.
Today, I work in spaces where stories live on.
Stories full of heartache, hope, and humans. Stories that tell the world we exist.
My work has become the journals I refused to leave behind. This work of seeing people as they are and not shying away from the hard spaces for want of soft and superficial. Stepping in when so many step aside.
Living my life has been anything but easy. But damn, am I lucky to be here among the vagabonds and yearners, the family I’ve forged to fit the life I always knew I could live. I now carry countless stories with me, and they are just as much a part of who I am as those journals I feared would be all I was.
I am a story carrier.
Stories are the possession all meaningful connections are spawned from. We are made of stories, built from how and who we share them with. Our stories are carried beyond us, by us, and most importantly, for us all.