WARNING: This might make you uncomfortable.
I recently, in the last month, began working with primary students at the school that I volunteer at. The first couple days terrified me; I had trouble even making eye contact with the kids. I often just assume I don’t know how to interact with children, but that’s not really the case. It’s that every time I look into their faces – all innocence and pure love, all joy for life and unknowing; I feel this overwhelming sense of sadness, anger, and protectiveness. This is not the sort of “it’s my late 20’s, baby crazy” kind of protectiveness. This is the kind of “please, don’t let anybody fuck this up” kind of protectiveness.
The first time I was ever forced into sexual acts beyond my will I was 6 years old. I do not write about this often, and I never write about it publicly, because the experience has never really stopped hurting. It never stopped humiliating me. It never stopped tainting the way I look at every day life. It never stopped defining a piece of me. Because I wouldn’t let it stop. Because ever since those weekday afternoons throughout kindergarten, life was different for me. I was different then. I understood things about people, about adults, that other people my age didn’t understand, that I wasn’t supposed to understand. My purpose had shifted. This followed me as I grew into the world. I developed a very distinct disconnect between my body, my mind, my soul, and the world. Suddenly my body was an offering that was given up to the world and my mind was mine to reconcile the purpose of this. And my soul, well, my soul was lost somewhere in the process along with my innocence.
I have spent 21 years of my life attempting to reconcile the purpose of this.
In my early 20’s, a small series of events occurred; awakening in the middle of the night to a man uninvited in my room, one of my roommates laughing from the doorway; a night that I have absolutely no memory of, just blood and a burn on my left thigh. It was as though life saw me putting myself together and decided that that was not how it needed me. The disconnect I thought I had been overcoming returned. It was clear that something within me was sacrificial, and that the outside world recognized this. And I was okay with it. The world could have my innocence as long as it gave me something I needed in return – profundity. At times I was even happy, in a sick sense, that these things happened to me; I felt a responsibility for it, righteously warped thoughts that – had any of this happened to somebody else, they would not have had the strength, not the sense to accept. But I did. I do. I can understand all of the terrible bits about this world and still love it. I can experience the worst aspects of humanity and still be absolutely enamored by its possibilities. I can still find beauty in the dirt and ash of bones.
Thoughts of sacrifice took seed in my young mind; I began to go as far as seeking out the corrupt. I obsessed over destruction. I mirrored the world’s chaos. I lost myself in the pit of humanity. It seemed at points that I was never meant to live a pretty life, had even given up on it. My delusion was that, perhaps if I accepted all of the bad in the world, took it all upon myself with purpose, that perhaps nobody else would ever have to experience suffering again. I was constantly testing myself – mentally, emotionally, morally, physically – I tested the limits of my soul and came out in pieces and I came out bleeding and I came out haunted, but I came out, none-the-less, intact. I came out with profound perspective on the state of humanity.
I think I was afraid to be around small children for a long time after that period of my life; afraid that something about my very being might corrupt them, might ruin them. That maybe all of that shit stuck to me like something that wipes off on other people. But the first day I walked into a first grade classroom, half of the class stood up and hugged me. They hugged wherever they could reach me, grasping a leg, my waist, a foot. They did it unprompted. They did it unknowingly. They did it purposelessly. They were just full of such undirected and all encompassing love. I cried. I couldn’t help it. I felt something that was so foreign to me at first that I couldn’t pinpoint it; it appeared as a very personal sadness with unknown origin, but then I realized that it wasn’t that, it wasn’t about me. I cared about these children – without even knowing them, I wanted everything wonderful in life for them. They were beautiful, their innocence was beautiful, and I wanted them to stay that way always. I was terrified, or perhaps enraged at the possibility, that somebody might ruin that; determined that that could not happen. To simply be in such close contact with pure tenderness. This is where the beauty of humanity lay. This is what needed to be nurtured in every soul in the world; a return to innocence.
I no longer hate the exposure that I was presented with too early in life, nor that born upon me later. I haven’t for a while. I do not regret anywhere I have taken myself into the depths of humanity either. Rather, I feel as a born pioneer, who throws themselves into the wild, alone into the perilous world, in order to bring back perspective and lay down profound foundations; to preserve the clarity and distinctions between the morbid and the spirited. Because I know that I can encompass this. These events have shaped me into an interesting specimen of humankind. I can face a horrifying world at will and tell you exactly why this is the most wonderful existence that has ever been and may well ever be. I can show that life doesn’t have to break you. I am not corrupted, I am not broken, and I am still capable of being a source of love – of pure love. And if I am capable of this, then surely everybody is capable of this. And surely, to show people this is not such a bad reason to exist.