Today I turn 26, in all honesty, I never thought I would make it to this one. I’ve wondered many times in life just had it out for me and at times I’ve wondered if I’ve had it out for myself. A desire for growth, to see myself become better has lead to me finding ways to overcome. Now, of course, there’s legitimately no reason at this point to go back to the beginning of my own history and recap the manner instances when I could have very well met my end. 

Rather that, I think it’s important that I speak on somethings that have been weighing me recently. Every year around this time I go through heavy moments of overthinking. Thoughts of whether or not any of this is worthwhile. Thoughts of pain, fear, and some heartache. When I was younger the overthinking was more geared towards my fears, but as I’ve grown up they’ve become more geared towards how I can really make a difference in this world. The question I always find myself asking, is how can I make a difference in this world if I can’t even make a difference within myself? Over the years this week leading up to my birthday has become one of, if not the hardest week of the year for me. This year has been especially hard, here’s why. Two years ago, I found myself in the midst of a verbally and nearly physically abusive relationship, I found myself consistently making a laundry list of excuses for her. I eventually found myself at a point where I began to think that it was my fault. That lead to me beginning to believe that I deserved it. I lost all confidence in everything, I lost my trust as freely, in many ways I let her break me, but really, in the end, I was the one hurting myself. I just couldn’t let go. Those thoughts of worthlessness and hurt festered, I was falling apart. A week before my 24th birthday something changed. For months I had this reoccurring thought, if I was just gone one day would anyone miss me. I had honestly convinced myself that for the most part, no one did. I mean if someone could say they cared about me, and treat me like garbage then did I have any value. These feelings were compounded by two other outside factors. First, I had tried so hard for the three years prior to being involved in church, to be apart of a family, to be able to not only give love but to be loved. Instead, the church chewed me up and spit me out. Pastors passed me around like an object that was only worth something as long as I was willing to give with reckless abandon, even when I had nothing left. The second thing also came from the church, being broken in the church is a concept, but when it’s actually right in front of its face all they know how to do is smile, nod, and spout a cliche. Then quickly turn to someone else and talk about that broken person behind their back. Never once actually taking the time to really show that love that is clearly only spoken of in theory, but is so seldom practiced. 

Two weeks before I turned 24, I sat in the car alone continuing to contemplate my worth. I remember it all so vividly. I drove past the hospital towards the light. I looked up, all the colors around me were so saturated, it was so odd. I got to the light, it turned red, I looked to my left and I saw a car speeding toward the intersection. At that moment a thought entered my head, and honestly, I have no idea where it came from. I was suddenly thinking, you could just pull out into the intersection and I wouldn’t have to feel anymore. I fought myself internally, I was in tears, and honestly, my foot left the break for a moment. I almost let myself go into autopilot, but something stopped me. I just wanted the pain to go away, I didn’t want to be alone anymore. The thing about these types of thoughts is that they may take a break, but they always come back and when they do it always worse than the last time. Of course, that year didn’t get any better from there. From that point on I lost a childhood friend and my grandmother all within a month, which left me wondering if I even wanted to create any more, at that point I nearly sold my camera. While 24 was marked by those troubles, I overcame those thoughts on my own, that alongside one night that I found myself deep in prayer. I fought through it alone, sometimes I can’t believe I made it through. 

While 24 dragged on, 25 seemingly has flown by, honestly, it hasn’t felt like the most special of years. It truly did fly by, I looked down and it was March, I looked up and it was suddenly December. My first back in school had just ended and I was ready for Christmas break. What’s crazy is that this was very nearly my last Christmas break. 

I was in Atlanta visiting some friends and it was getting late. I wasn’t running on much sleep, I know that I couldn’t make the trip to Orlando on the three hours of sleep. So there I was in a part of Atlanta that I had never been to waiting for a friend. When a car pulls up behind me and shines it brights on me. I honestly wasn’t sure why they pulled up on me, but I figured hey maybe I’m not supposed to be parked on this side of the street, maybe I need to move. So I reason, let me move from the side of the street closer to my friend’s house. I did just that, while I was parking, I was on the phone with a friend of mine because I honestly wasn’t sure what I was doing and why the homie was taking so long to get in the area. As I sat and spoke with my friend, a car suddenly sped up behind me with its brights on, it stopped super close to the back of my car.  I initially thought to myself, well hey maybe she’s finally here. But that thought quickly was replaced by the color being completely drained from my skin. Just as I thought well maybe I should pull away, another car pulled up in front of my car at an angle effectively blocking me in. Cause at that moment I saw a sight that I never really thought I would ever be privy to. There at my window was a man with a gun. He began yelling and threatening me. He forced me out of the car, took my wallet and pushed me along. As I walked around to the back of my car with the gun still on me, another man got out of the car. As I walked they continued to ask me rapid-fire questions, such as Who are you? Why are you here? Who are you visiting? Why did you turn around? And no matter what I said they didn’t believe, in fact, things seemed to be escalating, they forced me to walk to the door of the house and knock on the door. All the while my friend was on the phone wondering if I would make it out. As I knocked on the door they held the gun to my head, there was no answer. Honestly, I was panicking, so I just started sharing all kinds of random details. I mentioned that I was coming from a Christian school on winter break, that I was just getting ready to head home to see my family, that I just really didn’t want any trouble. In the midst of the guy I mentioned spoke and what he said was the biggest relief. He said, “ you can get in your car and leave, don’t come back here, but you can leave.” 

There were other minor details about that night, but the point is this, I honestly thought that was my final night alive, and when I thought about it at that moment. I wasn’t ready to die, honestly, I have so much that I want to do before I reach that day. As I enter this new year, I have a long list of ideas and shoots that I hope to make happen this year. I know that I may not have the chance to bring each concept to life, this year, but I’m not giving up on myself ever again. The point of what seems like rambling to me is this. Things may look bleak, and you may not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but you can’t give up. And if you are feeling as though you aren’t loved and valued, it’s important that you talk to someone, if you have no one near you, reach out to me, I’d love to be there for you in any way I could possibly be there. Let me be of encouragement to any and all of you. I really do appreciate each and every one of you. You all give me the nudge to keep pushing forward, I just hope I can make the difference that I know is possible. 

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