Yep. That's me. Seventh grade and rocking the perm and braces look. At a science fair, no less. Two weeks before this, I was begging my mom to take me to the hair salon for the 'feathered' looked...convinced that would somehow a new hairstyle would transform me into cool status instantaneously. She talked me into the perm because she thought it would not only look 'cute' (mom, I was really not going for cute back then), but also, she could practice her hair styling skills on me.
I didn't have much game back then....and the perm sure didn't help. But I did have a secret weapon in my back pocket...my all time best friend, Janet Newman, who just happened to live right next door to me. Although we didn't go to the same school, the minute we both finished our homework, we were off on our bikes headed to a world where braces and permed hair didn't matter...a huge oak tree three blocks from our home.
And that place meant the world to me...
You see, that year was tough. My parents had just divorced and for the first few years, my home life was very chaotic. It was violent for short time in one household and the other was constantly trying to erase my existence.. There was no respite, except for after school when Janet and I would head to the park and climb the highest and strongest tree possible. It held us with strength and compassion and nothing could touch us there. Sometimes we would just sit in that tree and think of what a better life might look like without ever saying a word. Sometimes we would go there and share the snacks we packed, talk about cute boys at school, and complain about the endless amounts of homework we had...things 12 year olds should talk about. It was where we first tried smoking a cigarette, where I first kissed a boy and where she first told me that she saw, through the window, what happened to me in our basement. She was the only one that knew the details of my home life, and mine hers, but besides a check in, we never talked about it in any great detail. It was the way we both wanted it, as it made it less real. In that tree is where we would both go if things got too tough. Because in that tree, for a short period of time, everything was good and nothing could touch us. We felt completely safe.
And although at the time I might not have realized it, that was the beginning of something really important for me. A message about friendship that still sits with me. A message that says, even though life is messy, I got you. That even though we might not talk about everything, I see you. That even though I may not know everything, I have your back.
I am here for you.
You are not alone.
You matter to me...like crazy.
We all need this...to feel significant. To not feel invisible in this world. To know that what we have been through matters. To know that our struggles are real. They have made us who we are...who we are in the process of becoming. We all deserve this fierce love and loyalty that is out there. We all deserve love.
It's hard, I know. We have been through a lot. But sometimes, taking that first step is all we need to do. To let down our walls, just a little...just enough to see what is on the other side.
Because sometimes that is where the beauty is.
Sometimes beauty comes from the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times, but when you feel it, for however long, you know it is good. You know this is how it is supposed to be. How it should have been all along.
And if we don't, at least glance every once in a while, we may be missing out on the best thing ever.
And to the little girl with braces and permed hair...
You are not invisible.
You are pure beauty.
You are so incredibly loved.
Find your strength...grab onto my hand and hold on tight. We got this.