As a kid, my walls were always covered in my dreams. Who I wanted to be, where I wanted to go, and sometimes what I wanted to run away from. I spent a lot of time in my room—using it as a way to shield myself from the outside world. In there, no one else could hurt me, call me names, or bully me. I would find safety alone doing projects and dreaming up a life outside of school.
There was this quote that stayed up longer than most, “Stand up for what’s right even if that means standing alone”. This has become a pillar of how I approached the rest of my life.
My strongest memories from middle school were how badly I didn’t want to go. From the moment my mom woke me up, I dreaded it. I didn’t want to walk through the hallways alone, recess was a game of hiding and praying they wouldn't seek, and lunchtime was more like a giant panic attack as I tried to find somewhere I could sit—anywhere I could fit in. I spent many lunches making excuses to be in the library, doing something for a teacher, or sitting in a bathroom stall eating my lunch alone.
I’ve been cornered, shoved, told that no one liked me, called more names than I can count, and talked about through notes passed right in front of me.
I got really great at being alone. As a millennial, the internet was growing right there next to my insecurities. I found safety in technology. I could spend days lost in doing something on a computer. Whether it was learning to code because I was determined to make my MySpace profile way cooler than anyone else, or playing with photoshop and illustrator trying to become an artist like the ones I envied.
As an adult, facing the bad habits that were born from my need to protect myself from the bullies has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to overcome. I still battle daily.
- I push people away.
- Keep them at an arm's length.
- I shut down and run away to my next project.
- I’m too scared to say hi even though I desperately want to connect.
In the midst of this reckoning with myself, I’ve also realized something. The adversity you face has the power to become your biggest advantage in life. That’s right, your adversity is your advantage.
The thing that hurt you the most in this life is powerful, no one is denying that. But you have the ability to direct where that power goes. You can take all that hurt and you can build your own world with it. You can line your streets with pity. You could build your house with steel beams so that maybe, just maybe, those same monsters will never hurt you again. You can fill your walls with all the nightmares you’ve ever had and you can relive that life each day when you wake up.
Or you can take that same force and you can aim it at a new life. You can get mad for a minute because that’s human and totally normal. Get angry at all the wrong that you’ve ever had to endure. Cry about all the times things didn’t go your way. Then you gotta get up, dust yourself off, and turn that pain into purpose. Use that white-hot force inside you and set that hurt on fire and watch it burn in your rearview mirror.
For all the times anyone ever called me a name, for all the lunches I ever ate alone, to all the bullies that poked me…
Thank you. Without you, I wouldn’t have learned how powerful my pain can be. I wouldn’t have taken that pain and created this community with it. I wouldn’t work each day to inspire others to be the very best version of themselves.
Only Human was one of those projects I threw myself in when the outside world didn’t “get” me. As I sit here and write about it, I realize that the world I built out of all my pain is this one. It’s what brought you here to this blog post. To read these words.
It was the thing I pointed all of my power at. It’s made of blood, sweat, and a whole lot of tears. All that anger, sadness, and fear inside me has become a space where others are free to be themselves. Only Human was my story of all the times I got it wrong and how I made it right on the other side. It isn’t about wearing pink on Wednesdays, dressing in the best clothes, or being popular. OH is a space to be who you are at this very moment. A place where it’s ok to feel, to tell your story, and to share your hurts.
You see if none of those things would have happened to me. If I hadn’t been hurt by others who were probably just hurting themselves, then I wouldn’t be doing this work. I wouldn’t be showing up for myself and for others to tell them that you’ve always got a spot at my table.
You can sit with us.