You carry that around with you – the “not us”. It follows you everywhere. It used to be heavier, but when we were young, you were shedding off pounds of “not us” that we hardly noticed the weight since we became lighter and lighter every day. That’s what you do as a child – you discover the “not us” and discard it. Every bruised knee, every bump on the head, every proof that the stove really is too hot and that we aren’t quite brave enough to go into the basement in the dark, all of that shed away the “not us” and I could breathe.
But it slows. It slowed. We learned our way around mistakes. We learned that people were watching, that people don’t approve of bumps and bruises, of wrong answers and bad test scores. We learned that people laugh when we fall, when we fail. We learned that trying can lead to tears and tears to attention we don’t want. We don’t want people looking as us! And why would we? We aren’t even ourselves yet!
Those small moments may not seem so significant now, those bumps and bruises, but they defined you in ways I know that you can’t even remember – but you knew it then. You knew the moment it happened. You knew that you weren’t invincible, but you also learned that you were stubborn enough to try. You learned that you have to face consequences, but you learned that you could survive them. Until the laughter. Until the stares. Until the need to be safe.
It’s bulky in here. It’s stuffy. It’s dark. Every passing year I hope for a little help, a little less to carry around, a little less of “not us”, so that the real us can breathe. Sometimes we drop pounds overnight. A car accident. A death. A mistake you can never take back. And while you dread these nights of agony, you forget what it feels like to wake up to see the sun shine again – I don’t forget, because it’s on those nights that I can see it too, and I can breathe.
We’re resilient. We’re brave. So why am I still carrying around the weight of doubt, of meekness, of quiet, of safe? That’s not who we are. And one day, when you’ve walked your road of life and we meet face to face on that finish line, we will look back on your journey and reminisce about those tragedies we overcame, of those joys we embraced because we knew how hard they were to come by.
This will happen. This is a promise. But will you really make me wait until that final day? Will you stay safe on this journey, bogged down by the fear of mistakes, of laughter, of stares? Will you look back and wonder why the journey felt so tiresome? Or will you find me before the end? Will we look back and see years of lightness, of bumps and bruises that made us happy, because despite the hardships we faced, we did it as us, not as “not us”.