Facebook thought I’d like to know what my one year “memory” looked like today.
Seeing it evoked that feeling of remembering this moment as if it were only yesterday and an eternity ago all at once.
Have you ever feared for your life?
To the point of actually believing your time on this planet just might up as a hyperlapsed movie reel of your existence races from one corner of your mind to the next.
Three times to be exact.
The first time was on my 24th birthday as my boyfriend (at the time) dangled me over a 15ft ledge holding me with just one hand clasped around my throat- squeezing tighter as fury consumed his eyes.
I had never seen that kind of unbridled hatred before.
And at the sight of it- I remember thinking, “I don’t want to die here.”
That was the night that I found my voice.
The night that my screams saved my life, and my pursuit of justice- my determination to be HEARD- thereafter just might have saved someone else’s, as well.
The second time was in the back of an ambulance flying down the bumpy village roads of Uganda-my head pressed into the chest of a big breasted nurse who softly sang traditional prayers of healing, as tears slipped from the corners of my eyes and my entire body silently screamed with pain.
An allergic reaction to a tick bite had turned septic after an impromptu “surgery” went awry, and I was being rushed to the city for emergency treatment.
I remember thinking, “My mom. I have to see my mom again,” as the nurse continued to pray from above.
This was the night that I found my breath.
The night that I muted the noise- the fear, the pain- simply by tuning into the rhythm and strength of my breathing, instead.
The third time was about 10 days prior to this photo being taken- as I glanced down at my hands and noticed that they were blue just moments before my legs gave out and I became uncontrollably ill in the shower of a Manhattan hotel room.
After two weeks in the hospital without answers, yet prevailing symptoms- I felt my body continue to fail me in ways that I had yet to experience in my 27 years of life.
I remember thinking, “I’m scared,” each time one of those brain melting fevers took over without warning.
This was the time that I found a new depth in my heart.
The time that I discovered actual strength in vulnerability.
A realization which has propelled me forward throughout this entire year.
It was here in this very hospital room that I made the choice to silence my pride and follow my heart.
A decision that led me across the world in pursuit of exploring the final possibility of rebuilding a relationship with the person who I believed just might’ve been the love of my life.
Yeah, I know- this might not seem like a big deal to most people- but for me, my ego has always stood in the way of romantic pursuits.
Despite the love and compassion I so easily share with my students, with the communities where I work, and with my family and friends- I still struggle to give and receive that same love freely with my partners.
My struggle is one that’s born from fear.
Whether it’s fear of looking stupid, or fear of simply not being enough nor worthy- I’ve almost always allowed this demon to rule with an iron fist.
I’ve never been the one to go out on a limb in vocalizing my feelings first, let alone be the one to follow that gut instinct or heart’s desire across the globe, either.
But there I was, in my hospital bed, staring at three identical flower bouquets from three different men- when I realized that (despite their tidal wave of concern and comfort) there was still only one person that I actually wanted to hear from in my time of need.
I might have showed up to Australia empowered with my choice to be vulnerable, my choice to choose love over fear- but I’d be lying if I said that this made it any easier to pick up the pieces of my heart once I left.
Yet, somehow- I still did.
And I managed to come out of this summer a completely different person than I was going into it.
My numbness was replaced with inspiration.
And my reservations were replaced with confidence born purely from my choice to finally give a few specific (and nearly life-long) fears the middle finger once and for all.
So what’s the point of all this?
The point is that although patterns may be broken, there’s still always room for them to fall back into place.
The point is that despite all that’s been found in these moments of fear, of suffering, and pain- it’s still quite easy to suddenly be lost once more.
And when I look at this one-year memory, I can still taste the 3 words, 8 letters- fresh on my lips, as that familiar flutter of hope wiggles its way back into the center of chest.
When I look at this memory I think about all that’s changed in a year, and all that’s stayed the same.
I wish I could say that I’ve managed to stay hospital-free between now and then.
But, unfortunately, I just can’t seem to break a record of 365 days of health while living abroad.
In the last week, I’ve managed to land myself, once again, in an un-electrified clinic with nurses desperately jabbing at my veins in the dark- conjuring that feeling of steadfast satisfaction for every solar project that I’ve ever seen through.
And also that feeling of longing for one person in particular, even after we’d tried and failed for what we promised each other to be the last time after four long years.
When I look at this memory, I can’t help but to wonder how many more will have to pass before the butterflies in my stomach finally die.