cw: homophobia, mention of drug use/abuse, suicide, rape, slurs
“Who are we when we’re ten that we need to be more or less of?” ~ Reem
Ten was a pivotal year for me. Ten was the year I learned what a “dyke” was and how I should hide the fact that I was one.
It was the first half of 5th grade and she was amazing and I could not stop looking at her. I fantasised about kissing her. She would catch me staring at her. Her name was Jules. One day, on the way back into the building from recess, she was hiding in the bushes by the door and pulled me into them. She kissed me. I think I literally melted into a puddle right there at her feet.
For four months we kissed, we held hands, we ate lunch together, we played on the playground together, we had sleepovers, and we were going to marry each other. Then Christmas Break came and she moved and my heart broke. Upon returning from Xmas break, I learned the word “dyke” and that I should probably not admit to anyone that I liked girls.
School was pretty much hell from then on and strewn with lies about not kissing girls and that I really did like boys and that I wanted to and did do sexual things with them. I heard the word “fag” and heard my father talking about “fags” one day and realised that my parents were probably not safe people to communicate my obvious and painful lesbian-ness to.
Who was I at ten?
I was perfect. I was me. I was innocent. I was enamoured.
I was in love.
As a parent, because parents are who taught those other 5th graders to hate, I do not understand teaching such vitriol to children. When I should have received compassion for my broken heart, I instead was shamed for being in love. I truly do not care what you think your religion has to say about nonheteronormativity, there is absolutely no excuse to turn your children into assholes because you are a bigot.
Ten was a pivotal year for me. Ten was when I learned to hate myself. Ten was when I learned to become emotionally detached from others, least I make the mistake of loving them. Ten was the gateway to almost a of decade of depression, drug use, self-harm, anorexia, contemplating suicide, lies, and hiding. I hid a lot of things from a lot of people. I shoved so much down. I suffered mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
The wounds are deep and the scars are thick, but over two decades later I am managing to love myself again. I am managing to honestly love others too. I wish I could say that “it gets better” and that those asshole children do not grow up to be asshole adults like their parents, but that would be a lie. It gets better, because you get better at spotting the assholes before they can make you feel like shit. You get better at vetting your friends and lovers to weed out the hidden assholes among them. It gets better, because you get better at taking care of yourself.
Who are we at ten? We are amazing.
I must admit to wondering what direction my life would have taken had I not been so crushed at such a young age. I feel pretty confident that I would have better avoided some of the terrible things that I did to myself. There is a path I took after being pushed a certain way by my peers. It did land me with a very interesting future that included counselling crime victims and folks with alcohol & substance abuse problems — we do what we know, right?
Honesty, a trait that I value above all else in others, was not something that I was able to emulate in the same ways that I expected others to. I lived in a world of lies, constant lying, constant omission, and constant concealment. I truly lost myself for some time back there in my early teenage years. Thinking back on some of the things I was doing and I realise just how amazing people can be. We are resilient. The only catch is that when you are that low, there has to be something worth living for, something worth being sober for. I found midwifery when I was 16 years old. My life had been saved in a way. I could see that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and that fucking light, it was me.
I think that to some degree, we are who we are, but our life experiences bring a certain fervour to our beliefs and convictions. Without having suffered, it is hard to truly care about anything. Without having to rise up out of the ashes, you can see very little reason for fighting. The path of the Warrior is Death.
Who are we at ten?
We are perfect.
We do not need to be more or less, we just need to be.