I pull into the parking lot.
You should have stayed at home.
Get out of my car. Lock it. Throw the keys in my bag.
Your hair looks frizzy tonight. You should’ve straightened it.
I make my way to the doors.
You didn’t catch the obvious dress code that everyone’s wearing a dress and you’re wearing black. Again.
Look at all of them, hugging and laughing and existing as a community. You don’t have that. You won’t have that.
Hug three people I know.
They don’t actually want to talk to you, they’re just saying hi to be nice.
Raise my hands in worship. Listen to the preacher man talk. Raise my hands again.
Why do you keep trying at this church thing? Why do you keep expecting something to change when nothing’s ever changed? You should just leave now before you get hurt or worse, hurt someone else. Because we both know how easy it is for you to hurt someone.
Walk into the lobby. Greeted by favorite faces. More hugs. More conversation.
It’s just surface level conversation, you won’t ever do anything outside of this space. You just see them here and then nothing.
Walk out the doors.
You aren’t wanted here.
Unlock my car. Put the keys in the ignition.
You should just leave.
Pull out of parking lot.
. . .
The voices like to tell me I don’t belong in places. That I’m safer at home than in community. They like to tell me the way I look and talk and the things I say affects what everyone thinks of me.
And never in a good way.
They talk to me a lot. They try to drown out real life, real time, conversations.
They distract me from who I’m becoming and who is surrounding me and who has been there for me.
They make me forget how far I’ve come.
I don’t know what your voices sound like, but my voices sound a whole lot like bullies. Degrading, dehumanizing bullies. It’s as though my heart and mind are on opposite teams, and my mind is always winning. I think it was twenty-one pilots who depicted it best :: “am I the only one I know waging my wars behind my face and above my throat?”
We know what it feels like to feel completely alone with the voices in our head, those tiny voices that overtime find megaphones and speak their lies into those megaphones, and those megaphones turn those lies into our present truths. And we carry those truths like it’s our gospel.
I know people walking through seasons of transition, myself included. They’re stepping into difficult processes of transferring, or going to college for the first time, or meeting new people and existing in a completely new environment.
And anything new and out of your comfort zone is uncomfortable and awkward. I would know. That’s been my life for the last year.
And if there’s anything I’ve learned from walking into a new environment, particularly one that looks like a new environment of people, a new potential for community, it’s that it’s a very long process. And it takes a lot of time and a lot of trust. Not just in people, but trust in the process. That things will play out. That community will be found.
But I’ve known too many late-night car drives home when I’ve cried out of frustration because I thought what would work did not and I was angry for even trying again. Because how could I ever hope something could work if I’ve never seen it work before?
But maybe it’s never worked because I’ve always run. If I’m honest with myself, I’m quick to strap on my shoes and stand at the door before I’ve even walked inside to introduce myself, because I’m ready to bail. I’ll bail first, not you. It’s a pride thing, it’s a control thing.
And so I sat myself down with myself one day and I told myself this time would be different. This time I wouldn’t let myself run.
No matter how hard it got.
No matter how discouraged I felt.
No matter how ignored or unseen I felt, because those emotions have lied to me before.
I told myself I would recognize when those tiny voices had gotten ahold of the megaphones and were parading their lies as truths, and I would send them away.
I would tell them of how far I’ve come. I would tell them I’m still in the middle of the process, a process that most of the time sucks and feels too hard because community takes time and is tough and sometimes is hard, but that I will make it through.
I would tell them the community is worth it. The pay off is worth it.
And on the nights when I don’t believe in myself or the process, I watch people who love me and value me rally to remind me of the good that’s happened and the good that’s to come.
Most of the time, the voices still stick around; they’re only diminished. They never really go away.
But I know I’m the one with the power. They don’t just find megaphones; I hand them out. And so I have to allow myself the grace to take back the megaphones and cultivate a space where safety and brave and strength are nurtured, where I walk into a space and not let the voices drown out conversations but drown out those voices with conversations. Good ones. Hard ones. Intimate ones. Ones about likes and dislikes, ones about church and God, ones about death and fear and anxiety and loss.
And I write a lot about being brave, about getting out of your comfort zone and telling your story, and I’m really good at vulnerability over a computer screen. I suck at it in real life.
Because there’s an actual face listening to me when I talk. Not just a pair of eyes scanning a screen. You’re real and I’m real and this whole situation feels very real and I think I’ll just run now.
That’s usually how it goes.
But may I be a person who does what she writes, and that looks like staying. That looks like waiting expectantly. That looks like making the first move and taking the first steps and not caring how the end goal turns out. It’s trusting in the process, it’s sitting back and actually enjoying that process instead of rushing to the finish line.
And usually this starts with stealing back my megaphone and shouting my truth into the world.
That the space that I take up matters.
That I matter.
That one day things will not be like this, and there will be community again.
And until that day, and every day, I will put this on repeat until the lies are replaced with unshakable truth.
. . .
shot by @iam.themoon