From where I’m sitting, I can see the London Eye.
Ten years ago, this wasn’t a future I could have dreamed of. Ten years ago, I was at the beginning of womanhood and, as far as I could see, coming close to the end of my life.
See, the first twelve years were full of happiness and an incredible depression that never really cleared, anxiety that watched my every move and made sure they were perfect. I was good at perfect, and bad at sleeping: the light stayed on, the same tapes were played dozens of times, and I’d wake up screaming if (God forbid) a song that sounded sad worked its way into the mix—that was enough to give me the kind of dreams I don’t talk about very much.
I am in a hotel, watching the light fade out over England.
Ten years ago, I was taking my first steps toward the cliff. People asked what was wrong; I had no word for “fear,” no word that meant “psychological abuse,” no word for “my good parents are becoming something else.” And I had no words for my own self-hatred. What I did have was a lifetime of little bruises that meant I had kept it together, fingernail marks that meant I hadn’t been caught. Red lines that were also, to some degree, lines in a very pale sand. Those lines are still there, just washed out. I have the words now, and a degree to prove it. I wasn’t supposed to get to tell my story—or any stories. I wasn’t supposed to make it to my fourteenth birthday.
Yesterday, I got a text from my best friend. Ten years ago, we had only begun to realize we were made of the same kind of mosaic glass and cast through similar fires. We didn’t like Jesus very much. I had never seen grace. The first time I saw it was also the first time a classmate who had once bullied me—I was a bit of a pretentious nerd—held me through one of many, many panic attacks. At their worst, I gave up on them ending. I can’t say whether I had six or seven a day, or whether I just had one that went back under control. Today was a long day of travel and museums. Nothing was scary. I can’t that make sound more important.
Once, someone asked me why I never sang out, why I never danced—even as a joke—why I hid in the back. In five days, I’m teaching at a theatre camp. I’ll be going over everything that once left me afraid. I’ll watch the kids learn.
That was ten years ago this year. I didn’t know that I was going to give my life – the few days I thought I had left – over to God, or that he would make something of them. I didn’t know that I was about to encounter the kind of grace that makes that song a classic. I didn’t know that it was around the corner, waiting for me to let go of the doorknob, waiting to turn on the light. I didn’t know that it would be amazing, that I was never alone. I didn’t know that the pain would never go away, and I didn’t know that the parts of the story I never thought could matter would become their own small lighthouses for people clinging to their own exit plans.
Ten years ago, I didn’t know I had ten years, that I had a lifetime. I’m glad I’m here to see it for myself.