I was 12. My grandfather had gifted me a cherry-red boombox shaped like a shuffleboard puck for Christmas and I hadn’t wasted any time building up my c.d. collection. My body was limp laying haphazardly twisted in my comforter, my chin tilted awkwardly to observe as I hit the shiny silver button boasting a black set of double arrows: rewind.
A melancholy pop song from the 90s clapped a hand on the back of my middle school emotions and led me through a ten-second chorus about unrequited love. I sighed, stretched to reach my index finger back out to hit the rewind button, and continued to wallow. Rewind, repeat.
“Dad!” My older sister stood arms crossed in my doorway, “I think there’s something wrong with Audrey!”
Earlier that afternoon, I heard the word traveling around school that my crush had kissed another girl at the base of the snowboard hill. I responded immediately to this news with an Eeyore-like disposition and couldn’t shake the feeling that I was totally unlovable. It’s no secret that feelings are felt hard in middle school.
As we grow, we learn to mask them, handle them, and dismiss them. We also learn emotional maturity and how to distinguish the truth about our situations from the way we feel about them. From this point on, we utilize the power of choice to walk ourselves through emotional circumstances.
Something I witnessed in myself from a young age was the desire to have something stronger to stand on than my emotions when difficult situations arose. Granted, it took learning experiences like the one above to build up that desire in me. I’ll never forget how my dad walked into my room, realized he was in over his head, and stifled a laugh as he called my mom into trade positions with him. Reinforcement. That’s exactly what we need in those tough moments of emotional persuasion - we need to not just feel the truth bubbling up in us, we need to know it and to have it reinforced by something stronger.
We’re all thinking it, I’m just saying it. I used to hesitate to give any validity to this holiday because it felt gimmicky - it felt commercial and fake. What I was feeling was the reality that my single self was, once again, going to have to come face to face with the largest celebration of love in the calendar year. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I came to terms with the way I approached loving myself that the epiphany of love and worthiness as undebatable facts instead of feelings truly transformed my life.
Meaning, I was worth loving and it wasn’t open for dispute.
Meaning, when God says, “I love you and you are mine,” no one gets to say anything else about it.
I learned that it was up to me to choose to believe in the truth.
As I started living from this place of confident love for myself, I noticed how it impacted everyone around me, sloshing out of my cup and spilling into the cups of others, undeniable in the face of doubt. When I arrived confidently in the place of believing that I was not only loved but worth loving, I was able to lead others to the same unshakeable conclusion. You must first put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.
Eleven-year-old me didn’t know this. She knew that there had to be more because other people in her life h