I remember the first time I saw him. He was standing by the large marquee of the camp talking with some other boys. I was 12 and he was 14. I was struck by his stance and then his eyes and couldn’t help but stare over at him. I found myself distracted by his presence and his every move. Being a shy 12 year old, I didn’t really know how to be around boys. I attended an all girls school where there wasn’t a lot of interaction with the boys and if there was, there was always someone there to make fun of it. So it never felt comfortable to simply chat to a boy to get to know him. Hitting puberty and suddenly noticing that there were a range of emotions that came up with that wasn’t my best time, and I had a public teenage experience as we had a family business, so the awkward stages of blushing and getting embarrassed around the opposite sex played out in front of the entire neighbourhood for me.
When I went on holidays with my aunt and uncle that year I had an experience that forever changed me. My uncle was the leader of a Scout group so I went off to hang out with my cousins and my aunt whilst surrounded by a group of boys aged 10-15. It was an experience I will never forget. I remember the days walking the woods and playing around on the assault course, swim competitions in the local pool, dinner with the group in the evenings and this connection that seemed to come out of nowhere with a young man who, to this day is still with me. I remember the first time we said hi to each other and it felt as though I had accomplished a milestone in being able to speak to him. We used to simply sit across from each other and look into the other’s eyes, for what seemed like an age, and then look away embarrassed questioning if it was real. We stood outside the marquee one night and had our first conversation. I couldn’t tell you what it was about but I remember gazing up at him in wonder for what could happen between us.
And life went on, I said goodbye after my time there and every time I visited my relatives I would be itching to get into town to see if I would run into him or catch a glimpse of him once more. He asked my cousin one night, a few months after we had met, if I was coming to the Christmas teenage disco and it ignited hope in that he had felt the same connection I did that week. Weeks and months passed and we came to Valentine’s Day, I had spent the week asking my aunt for his address, choosing a card and sending it to him full of excitement and fear, fear in case he didn’t remember me or that he didn’t feel the same about me anymore.
When the phone call came I was still in my pajama's. It was the 15th February. I let the phone fall into the cradle as my best friend said goodbye and that she was sorry to have to be the bearer of the news. I sat on the stairs and I cried. I cried for what might have been. I cried for the loss of the dream. He was gone. There was no longer a possibility for us. He had left this world unexpectedly and tragically, leaving behind a family who loved him, a community who valued him and a young girl who had seen a life with him even though we had never even kissed.
Last weekend was a weekend of healing and as it turned out a healing into something that I had thought I had let go of a long time ago. Through a visualization I found myself sitting with that same little girl. We sat on the stairs together and I held her as she cried and as she experienced a loss of innocence, a loss of belief and as she made a choice to never fully belong, never fully allow love in and never fully allow the connection to be there for fear it would once again be taken away. Over the years, her fears are exactly what have manifested. Failed relationships that don’t stand the test of time or distance, places that feel like home only to be moved on from and connections that feel so right only to be so wrong.
Being on a path to healing the wounded side of myself has taken me down many roads and it is a path I have never regretted stepping onto. I do question it some days and there are moments I would rather be numb again so it means I don't have to look at who I am in the situation and what I can do to move forward and heal into the present. It isn’t always the easiest path and it takes courage and bravery for those who choose it. On the weekend as I reflected over recent events in my life, I realised that since the day he died, I haven’t really allowed myself to belong. I have moved and travelled since I was old enough to and I never really gave myself permission to stay in one place too long. I never questioned it; I put it down to my itchy feet and restless spirit.
On the weekend as we moved through various healing journey’s, it suddenly hit me that my fear in life has been not been the fear of never having love, connection and belonging but the fear of fully experiencing love, connection and belonging. I had it once and it left so there has been a part of me that believed that this was how it was. No one would stay and therefore if I allowed myself to experience it, it wouldn’t hang around.
In not allowing myself to belong anywhere or to anyone, I have also not allowed myself to belong to me, to fully embody who I am and to experience life in all its technicolour glory.
“Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness - an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it is the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”
So it is with gratitude for the journey so far, a sense of excitement and a little trepidation that I step into embodying love, connection and belonging in my life. It is with baby steps that I ease the younger part of me out of fear and into the wilderness. It is with an open heart I welcome in the unknown, the space for allowing myself to belong and to be at peace with fully being here now because I recognise that I am worthy of love, connection and belonging. We all are.
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