Recently, I was given the task to look for pictures of myself for an upcoming article I will be featured in. The editor asked for a picture of myself when I was younger or at a vulnerable point in my life, and a picture of when I accomplished something amazing.
She said, “having some additional pictures gives readers some insight into your past and present.”
I am a photo fanatic, so, of course, I knew I would not have a hard time fulfilling this request. Many times, I have looked through old pictures of myself, past vacations and holidays over the years; usually, I just grimace at how much weight I have gained…but this trip down memory lane, was intentional as I looked through them. I went back as far as 2006, the year I began an abusive relationship, to see if any pictures would show “noticeable” vulnerability or unhappiness.
As I was going through the pictures, surprisingly I became overwhelmed with emotion. I looked at the pictures remembering things that were going on in my life and in my relationship at the time. They only reminded me of how young and vulnerable I was. I had no idea how much more life’s challenges would harden/strengthen me in the years to come. I found one picture; specifically, that was taken when I was 28 years old. It was merely three months after my ex-had beat me for the first time, leaving me unconscious with traumatic brain trauma (hemorrhaging on my brain).
As I look at the picture, I recall I was on a business trip in New Orleans, LA standing in front of the Mississippi River looking bright and cheerful while the sun beamed down on me. This trip was a nice escape away from all I was going through at home as I tried to decompress from all I had recently experienced.
In the picture, I am smiling and appear bright and cheerful, but behind the smile, I was broken, insecure and felt lost in utter darkness. All of the pictures taken during the timeline of the nearly eight years I was with him, I had a smile on my face…every single one! On the outside, I appeared to be in relationship bliss! These pictures are merely a reminder of how broken a person can be behind closed doors; while those on the other side of the camera never see the real image we see and feel on the inside.
It’s usually the difficult moments in our lives that are our biggest teacher and where unforgettable growth occurs.
Most of us have all pondered this question:
“Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger self?”
As I reflect on the young, broken, vulnerable girl in the picture, here is what I would tell her: