I Used to Be

I used to be the girl in the back of the room with her head down, hair covering her eyes, and lips sealed tight. I used to be the girl who would stutter so much when she spoke to others that her words were almost incoherent. I used to be the girl who didn’t have a voice, too scared that she would be mocked, laughed at, and rejected.

I used to be the girl with very few friends, for I didn’t like interacting much with anyone. I used to be the girl who couldn’t trust anyone, who thought that no one really cared. I used to be the girl who closed herself to everyone, too afraid to open herself up, too afraid to be hurt.

I used to think I that I couldn’t do anything, that I wasn’t powerful enough to do anything. I used to be the girl who thought that no one believed in her. I used to be the girl who didn’t even believe in herself.

But I am no longer that girl.

I am no longer the girl who talked to people’s feet when they spoke to her. I am no longer the girl who walks with her eyes trained on the floor, never looking up, because she is afraid to trip and fall. I am no longer the girl with the sealed lips and the closed heart.

I have learned to open myself up to the world, to jump and fall, and trust that someone will be there at the bottom to catch me. I have learned that I have a voice, and that there are people out there who will listen. I have learned that I am not alone in this world.

Now I am the girl who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, who isn’t afraid to hold her head high, who isn’t afraid to show herself to the world. I am the girl who can look others in the eye, who can trust that they will be kind. I am the girl who pursues her passions, her dreams, without a care about what anyone else thinks. I am the girl who believes in herself.

Sometimes, though, I go back to the girl I used to be. I go back to being scared: scared of the uncertain, scared of the unknown. I go back to thinking that perhaps my voice doesn’t really matter, that perhaps it isn’t as powerful as I had been lead to believe. I go back to the back of the room, with her head down, hair covering her eyes, and lips sealed tight.

But at least now I know that I will always be able to find my way out again.

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Walled In

walled in_2

Note: I don’t own any pictures.

I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It was me against them, and they had won. I had been captured, tied up, and locked in a tiny metal box that lacked even a single hole for air. And so there I existed—not sitting, nor laying down—just existing, just being there, waiting for the day when I would be set free. Surely soon, they would have decided they had kept me locked up for long enough; perhaps they would get bored and let me go.

But they didn’t. Instead, the walls began to close on me even further, and they demanded more and more and more from me. There were all those voices shouting for me to do better, to be better. And they not only expected me to achieve their standards, but to surpass them by a grand margin as well. I was suffocating.

The pressure grew—the pressure in my mind, on my heart, in my thoughts—it just kept growing and expanding until I wanted to scream. But there was no air for screaming. I had no choice but to give into their demands. But I also think that a part of me wanted to give in to their demands, to prove to them that I was not weak, that I could do anything and everything they required of me.

Nevertheless, it was too late; I was almost completely crushed by the walls; how would I ever be able to fix myself again? And I was scared: scared to try and break free of the chains that had bound me for so long, scared that I would anger them with my resistance, scared of the possibility that I might fail, and end up in a situation even more dire than the this. So I continued to exist there, quiet, obedient, and feeling completely and utterly helpless.

Until the day someone poked the hole into my tiny metal box.

The wisp of air that swept in was great enough to revive my entire heart. I thought, Perhaps there really is a way out.

I wanted more of that air. I wanted it to fill my chest and mind and being, and to take me far up high, and far, far away. I wanted to be free, free like I used to be, before they caught me and tied me up. And so I began fighting.

First I tried piecing myself back together, taking all the crushed parts and fixing them anew. That was the hardest part. There was always the voice, always the lingering thought, What if I fail? Some days it grew to be so much that I almost let myself crumble again. But the air that trickled in from that tiny little hole kept me going. And finally, finally, I made myself whole again.

The next task was to escape from the chains, break free from the box. Before I had no air, but now I could breathe, and I used each breath to build myself stronger, all the while watching that little air hole. What did it matter if I no longer tried to please them? What did it matter if they caught me? I would just try again. And my thoughts of failure all but dissipated. I could do this.

When I first got out, though, my worst fears were confirmed. They were so angry—they were angry, and mocking, and disdainful, and condescending. Who did I think I was, trying to defy them? I ran anyways, and they came chasing after me. But I ran harder this time, pushed farther, because I could do this. They didn’t matter. It was all me. It always had been. I had just been too scared to know.

I let the air seep in through my heart and soul, let it sink deep into the depths of everything that was me. It lifted me higher and higher, and soon, I was free at last.

And I swore that I’d never let myself be walled in by them again