“What would you say to your younger self if you could go back and visit her (or him)?”
I’ve always looked at this question as an invitation to give advice. To speak wisdom. To use my big girl voice and tell her all the things I’ve learned in life. To share things that she wouldn’t know because of her inexperience living life.
Today I realize, if I could go back and talk to her, I wouldn’t tell her any of the stuff I’d always thought I would. I would just hug her and let her know I’m proud of her for persevering. I’d thank her for not giving up. For choosing the pen and not the knife. For swallowing pride and not pills. For continuing to push through it all when she thought she couldn’t live another day.
The girl in the above picture was a few weeks away from becoming a “ward of the state”. She would soon spend time in juvenile ball, foster homes, shelters, and ultimately would be placed in a girls’ home.
She’d later age out the system that was supposed to help her and sleep from couch to couch at friends’ houses, now even more broken within than the girl in the first picture. Eventually she’d get pregnant and realize life couldn’t continue this way.
She’d make amends and accept Jesus, which wouldn’t change her circumstances but would at least make each bruise and wound feel like it’d one day have a purpose. At 21, she’d marry a man she loved in the only way she knew how, believing she’d finally escape the pain – only to walk into a more painful tragedy than she’d experienced previously.
This time, she’d eventually find her voice and speak out about it, thereby helping teens and young adults avoid and overcome abuse.
I wrote the following poem in response to a prompt on Pen & Pendulum’s IG page back in April 2020. Then, I was writing from a place of strength after sharing a part of my story in “When I Stopped Remembering Tomorrow“. Today, I re-share it from a place of strength knowing that I am becoming everything I was once told and believed I’d never be.
What she once was held her back,
causing her chest to hurt…
“Delinquent too unruly to tame.”
“Child lost within the system.”
“Rape victim too promiscuous to know the difference.”
“Teen mom who threw her future away.”
No more West Point.
No law and definitely no order.
No point in having dreams and goals.
“A life destroyed”, they said.
What no one saw coming was her ability to rise out of the ashes their labels left behind when burned.
No one, including her, expected that she’d defy the odds after picking up a few more labels and heartbreaks.
Domestic violence survivor.
Business owner with promise and purpose.
World changer who speaks truth to those who feel broken,
because she knows the power of words so she chooses to use hers to uplift and build.
She rose like a phoenix from the ashes her old life left behind,
finally embracing a life free from labels and shame.
For what she became wasn’t written on her childhood walls.
Her scars didn’t foretell the depth of her healing.
Her wounds didn’t give any clues to her future success.
She became what she once thought impossible,
what she once thought untrue.
~Shell Vera (2020)
If you are someone who likes to listen instead of read, here’s an audio recording of today’s post.