Part of being vulnerable is opening up about what you’ve overcome.
It’s important to move on from the past, but it’s still a part of your life. You can’t just lock it in a room and throw away the key. You have to keep that door open. This way, once in a while, you can glance back and contemplate its complexities.
How are we supposed to learn from our history if we act as if it never happened?
Everything in your life has served you with some purpose. Whether it is to gain strength, resilience, hope, love, or even compassion, there is always something you can take from the experience and use it to grow.
It is a profound thing to take your deepest wounds and turn them into strengths. You don’t have to be special to do it; you just have to be human.
I am going to tell you my very human story:
A coworker talked to me about my tattoo today.
“Spirit, what does it mean?” he asked.
I asked myself, “What does it mean? What do I say?”
I stuttered and replied, “It’s a long story. I got it for my mom.”
I felt a weight drop into the pit of my stomach. He knew I was shutting him out—I knew it too.
I could tell by the way we locked eyes after I finished fumbling on my words. It was an awkward silence. I felt myself begin to fall into an abyss of anxiety.
His smile was warm, and he said, “As long as it means something to you, that’s all that matters.”
As I worked, I thought about this conversation all afternoon.
Why? Why didn’t I just tell him the truth? Why did I lie and shut him out?
The stuff about my mom is true. I got the word spirit for my resilience and the fact that she has been watching over me the whole time. However, I did lie by omission. I just felt like I couldn’t handle telling him the other side of it.
The words would just not come out of my mouth.
The truth is, I lie about my past because I am afraid.
I am afraid to open up; I am afraid of being judged.
My addiction to chaos is something I tried to shut the door on when I became a mother—something I am deeply ashamed about.
The truth is, I went to foster care when I was 13.
The whole experience shattered my heart into a million pieces. I withdrew from society and stopped trusting people—I went through hell. I became obsessed with the idea of being free.
I used to love smelling the night sky in the bright moonlight. Looking into the stars, with alcohol in one hand and a cigarette in the other. If I could, I would’ve slept on a rooftop every night. The idea of going anywhere, anytime I wanted, gave me an intoxicating rush.
I never wanted to forget that feeling, so I would try to escape any way I could. I loved the chaos, but it was also an addiction (among the many others I possessed). Whether it was shooting up meth, or getting on the back of a stranger’s bike, I was there for the ride.
So tell me, how do I tell a stranger that I got that tattoo before my 17th birthday as a symbol of overcoming everything that’s ever stood in my way in life?
How do I tell a stranger that I overcame drug abuse, child abuse, foster care, and an addiction to chaos that nearly drove me insane?
I pondered it for a while and then decided that I would tell him the next day. But only what I felt he should know—what I wanted him to know.
I would tell him that I got the tattoo as a symbol of overcoming active addiction.
We don’t have to tell everyone everything, but we do have to admit it to ourselves, so we never lose that part of our hearts.
Always move forward, but don’t forget to glance back.