I’m the girl in the corner of the crowded room, quietly observing every single person, every quirky personality trait, every predictable human behavior, every comical attempt to fit in. I’m the one who has no desire, who has never had the desire, to fit in. How boring. Granted, being raised in a tiny Appalachian town with a population of less than 2,000 people, this was somewhat uncomfortable… all the time. I’m grateful though, for such an intimate upbringing, as it has given me the most solid support network I could ask for.
I’m the girl who loves sappy, romantic comedies, and gory horror movies. I’m the girl who loves intense, sweaty exercise, but also loves a juicy, bloody cheeseburger with a mountain of french fries. I’m the girl who loves ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ while simultaneously LOVING the Twilight series. I was a drama nerd, and a marching band nerd.
Some may call me a walking contradiction, but I prefer to think of this as refusing to be limited by the defining characteristics of any single category. I’m an introvert, but I’m also fairly outgoing. I’m highly intelligent, but I’m not a genius. I have old-fashioned values, yet I’m also a flaming liberal. I’m quiet, but l have loud, outspoken opinions about almost everything. I’m a pretty girl, but I’m definitely not a supermodel. I’m not easy to get to know, but I’m worth the effort it takes. I’m stubborn as hell, but I’m also easy-going and easy to please. I have scars from my past, both inside and out; but I wear them with pride, because they’ve shaped me into who I am today.
A few months before my 18th birthday, my father was diagnosed with a stage four Glioblastoma (GBM). For the lucky among you who aren’t familiar with the language of cancer, a GBM is probably the most fatal brain tumor a person can develop. There is no remission, there is no positive outcome with a silver lining, there are only treatments that can buy minimal amounts of time, paired with the hefty price of a drastically reduced quality of life. After a seven-year battle, my sweet father finally passed away. I say “finally” because the most prominent emotions I felt upon learning of his death, were overwhelming relief and gratitude. I defy anyone who judges me for that.
Barely two years later, my uncle’s health took a drastic turn. Emphysema. This was an uncle who had willingly stepped into a paternal role for me, who accepted me and loved me without question or hesitation, despite the fact that we weren’t biologically related. In many ways, his loss cut just as deeply as the loss of my dad.
Two monumental men in my life, taken by two terminal illnesses. Of course I’m a hot mess about men, among many other things. Of course I fear intimacy and abandonment, and it doesn’t take a therapist to figure out why. (Although I’ve had two truly wonderful, life changing therapists make a world of difference in my life).
Still, I’m the hopeful romantic who believes that there is a man out there who will understand this. He won’t lose patience, he won’t overlook me due to the fortress I’ve built to protect myself. He’ll get me, and he’ll accept the challenge of proving to me that he’s not going anywhere. I’ve waited 34 years to find him, and I’ll stubbornly keep right on waiting.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned thus far, is that my darkness, my demons, my messiness – none of it will ever truly be gone. I’ve experienced huge, indescribable loss. I’ve lived through multiple, ugly traumas. I’ve been changed by all of it, irrevocably, and I will feel the aftermath for the rest of my life. The difference is this: I’m no longer running from what I’ve survived, because I’m no longer afraid of facing it. The darkness and the fear we carry from our pain is real, it’s terrifying, and it can blind us to the strength and the beauty within us.
I’m here to tell you though, facing your fears doesn’t necessarily mean that you magically stop being afraid. It’s more about acknowledging those fears, being aware of why they exist for you, and then doing it anyway – whatever “it” happens to be. For me, it was falling in love with myself – falling in love with my darkness, my messiness, and every undiscovered treasure in between.
My personal journey to self-love and acceptance has been a lifelong, uphill climb. I’ve stumbled and fallen, and there have been moments when I’ve wondered how I was going to keep breathing – as well as wondering if there was even a point… But here I am.
For me, being a hot mess is about consciously recognizing that life itself is messy. As such, if we’re truly living, we’re going to be messy too. Instead of hiding my messy pieces, and instead of being ashamed of the parts of myself that don’t necessarily make perfect sense, I’ve decided to acknowledge and embrace them. My messiness is what makes me human, and my humanity is what makes me beautiful.