Our Beautiful Buried Selves

I just finished reading Junot Diaz’s moving article, “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma,” in The New Yorker, about being raped as a boy and how he hid from this memory for decades and how running ate him up inside. It’s an amazing essay. Real. Honest. It makes me think about how we all have buried selves and how we run from them and how they finally catch up with us. It is a brave essay – important and necessary. And it reminds me of the long process it took for me to unearth me. I’m thinking about this because in a few weeks I’ll be giving a talk at my high school reunion about the year long trip around the world my wife and I took back in 2015. Planning to give this talk has caused me revisit my high school self, or rather, my submerged high school self. Because that’s who I was back then. The fact that I was gay but not ready to be out, that my father had a secret job we never talked about (he was in the CIA) and the trauma of losing my mother to breast cancer in my junior year, left me numb and lost. I had a huge backlog of feelings that I needed to get to but no idea how to get to them. When I look back on my submerged girl self, I see someone waiting to heal, waiting to find the shore of wholeness. Just like Diaz. A few years into college, I started to see a therapist, someone who helped me learn the strange language of naming feelings and understanding myself. As I get ready to return to my high school now, I know it may feel strange to be back at the place I felt so lost.  And it’s ironic –  but in a good way  – because I’m going back to talk about an amazing journey that changed me and opened me, as everything important in life changes and opens us. As l step onto campus with its manicured lawns, I’ll think of  the girl who labored beneath her mask of “everything is fine.” She got past this mask eventually, got to her real feelings and named them, but she is the one who got me through those hard times and who got me to the beauty and gift of now. In fact, I use her strength and fortitude everyday. And everyday I’m grateful.

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