This essay is excerpted from Summer Smith’s book, The Random Musings of a Noncommital Mind.
The moment I was born into this world, I was immediately given a number, symbolic of the beginning of belonging to a system. As I grew, I was told to find my place in this world, to journey through the vastness so I could settle into a society of classifications.
The world opened up before me, and I found myself being pulled apart by my fellow humans. One of them took my arm, pulling me one way, telling me I belonged on this path. Another took my other arm, dragging me another way, telling me I belonged on that path. The unspoken rules of our society whispered in my ear, telling me I needed to follow the footprints left behind by others with similar gifts as me. I was told that any other direction would lead me astray, back into the vastness, where I would go to waste.
But I was torn in too many directions. This number that had been given to me at birth had turned into marionette strings, and each string was held by someone in a position of power. The strings attached to the corners of my mouth were always pulled up, forcing a smile through the pain—the pain that only worsened as other people tried to take away more pieces of me, hoping I would follow them to wherever they wanted me to go.
Yet I held fast, for I could see freedom on the horizon. The freedom came to me in the form of a knife, which I used to detach myself from the strings. I could finally take my arms away from all the tugging, and I placed my hands upon my own heart. I felt it beating inside my chest, and in that moment I discovered a beautiful truth that had been hidden from me all along: My heart was inside of me.
They had always told me that home is where the heart is, but it had always been a misused cliché. They used it as an excuse to stay in their comfort zones. They would rip their hearts out of their chests and attach them to other people, places, and things, and once they had given their hearts up like that, they were never free to leave. But I was fortunate enough to feel this heart of mine, steady inside of myself, telling me that it was where it belonged. Home is where the heart is, and my heart was right there inside of me. As long as I kept it inside of myself, I could go wherever I wanted. So, I journeyed astray from the old, warn paths, ignoring the gasps, the pleading, the yelling, and the taunting laughter of the people I had escaped.
As I paved my own way, into the unknown, I worried I may be lonely. Don’t we give up our hearts to others so that we may have theirs in return? Of course this is not what we are meant to do. We are meant to share our hearts, not give them away. Vulnerability is not the act of placing your heart in someone else’s hands, saying, “Keep this safe for me.” Vulnerability is wearing your heart on your sleeve, showing others your beauty, truths, and fears, and trusting that they will respect you.
With this understanding, I continued on my way, and I repeated these words to myself:
I am a free, wandering spirit, forevermore redefining who I am. I am the one with the moon in her eyes and her heart on her sleeve, forevermore open to the people and the path before me. Wherever I am, I am home.
And when I looked back on my fresh footsteps, I laughed to discover I had created my own beautiful, multi-colored rainbow of a path.
Author: Summer Smith
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Jordan Whitt/Unsplash