Monday, July 13, 2015

The Crossroad

   Every year after returning home from camp I find myself at the same crossroad.  I find myself yearning to explain to others how amazing the week had been and how much having a skin condition has shaped me and changed how I view the world. Year after year I also find myself wanting to hide these memories and heartfelt emotions close to my heart where no one can unmask them or know they're even there, struggling to find a voice. I find myself wanting to store away any thoughts of sharing my struggles with loving myself the way I was born and not letting past hurt define me. While words will never suffice, I think I should at least try to relay my thoughts. It's easy to assume other people will never understand. Those assumptions have allowed me to justify never being vulnerable and truly sharing my heart with people for years. This week has heightened my awareness to this quality about myself. It's so difficult to open up and to look the world in the eye and attempt to share pieces of your heart that you prefer to forget are there. Words fail to describe how incredible and important this week was. How extraordinary, loving, determined and inspiring these people are and how loved and understood I felt by them. They fail to show my appreciation for how much I've learned from being among them. This week has been everything that I hadn't realized I needed: a chance to be a mentor, but also to learn, a chance to encourage, but also to allow myself to be vulnerable and need to depend on other people's strength. Most importantly, it was a chance to let go of past hurt and to be reminded that life is beautiful and precious. It was a week full of wonder and magic, but also of frustration that reminded me that nothing in life is perfect.
     To start, camp is the place I feel most at home. It's a place where supposed flaws don't matter and where there is more love, compassion, and understanding than any other place on earth. I felt like the luckiest person on earth to be surrounded by so many kindhearted, considerate and generous people. I felt blessed to have found a family that understands how difficult it can be to believe that it's okay to be different while living in a world where even the smallest flaws are criticized. The words uttered by them and their actions showed glimmers into past moments of hurt that deeply resonated with me and reminded me that we all have to face the past at some point. It was extraordinary to be surrounded by people that showed me over and over again that there's hope for a future not intertwined with thoughts of not being good enough or beautiful enough to be loved wholeheartedly by those around me. I came to more strongly believe that differences don't make you unlovable or unworthy in the least. Moments here reminded me over and over again that I'm not alone in my struggles to love myself the way I am. Moments here reminded me that love, kindness, and laughter can matter more than anything else if you let them, they can bridge gaps and make you feel whole again. I revisited the conclusion that I came to long ago: that living with Ichthyosis has taught me more about compassion and caring for people more than anything else. This week has allowed me to use sadness that I've experienced to encourage others. This week illustrated over and over again to me that my darkest moments make me desire to erase people's hurt and show them how amazing and loved they are through my actions and words, and that good can come out of any circumstance. Finally, my week spent in Crosslake reminded me that I am not an innately flawed person because of my skin, and that there's a reason for every moment that I've struggled or felt defeated because of ignorant and spiteful comments about my skin.
      Camp is a place for healing from past hurt and future hurt brought on by stranger's constant stares and unkind remarks as the kind words heard here echo louder than those filled with judgment for months to come. Time spent here always rejuvenates me and reminds me how much I love encouraging others and making them feel special. My heart is so filled with joy from having gotten a chance to be a role model to my campers and reassure them that their skin conditions don't define them. I had the opportunity to mentor an amazing, talented, strong, and kind group of girls that I will never forget. Reading their notes to me reminded me that you never really know the impact you have on people and that one person can make you believe in yourself again. I was reminded how important it is not to bottle everything up, that to soar you have to let go of dark moments and share your struggles. Our stories do matter. They've shaped us and sharing them can help ease another's doubts about their abilities and worth as a person.
      The time spent here laughing and coming to terms with our saddest and darkest moments together is time I got to know myself better and become more aware of the kind of person I am trying to become. I believe that because I've met people like you and had such profound experiences, I've been changed for good. I know that part of me will never be able to let go of this place as in my eyes it's the most magical of places and a fundamental part of who I am and who I want to always be. I believe that our paths crossed for a reason, even if it was only for a short period of time. We got a chance to encourage each other and see beauty in a new light. It became less about outer appearances and more about the people we wanted to become: open, kind, and forgiving. It became about loving each other and reminding each other that while we may feel alone in our struggles to be accepted by the world, we will always have this family to lean on. This week I've come to more fully understand that what I had believed for so long was my greatest curse in life turned out to be my greatest blessing. Living with Ichthyosis and being a part of this forever family has led me to a deeper appreciation for life and love and the strength that comes from struggle and pain. It has changed me completely and reminded me that every second on this earth can be used to be a light to others and encourage them with our words and actions. It has taught me that one person can make a difference and change how others view the world.

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