Woman.

I look in the mirror and take note of every single imperfection.

A mental checklist that I’ve spent years and years subconsciously compiling from magazine covers and Instagram photos runs of all the things I want to change.

I cringe at the countless scars and sunspots and stretch marks and wish I could remember a time that they weren’t there. A time when this body was pristine. But I can’t.

I remember skinned knees from falling off my bike when I was little. Growing up, my twin brother and I ruled the city from sunrise to sunset on our bikes.

I remember summers on the boat and hiking to the tops of mountains and hours spent in swimming pools.

I remember the first time I looked in the mirror and realized that my body had shape to it. My body was becoming mine. I felt like a woman.

I am thankful for this stretched and sun-exposed skin…these muscles and bones that house my heart and mind and my soul.

How incredible. How beautiful. How awe-inspiring to think that this small frame carries within it something larger than life.

Honestly, that’s how I feel more often than not; larger than life.

Bigger than my body gives me credit for.

I am distinctly aware that I am so much more than my flesh. I know that there is more for me after this body deteriorates. I am eternal, yet these skin and bones are necessary for now and this body of mine continues to work every day. Blood pushes through my veins, my heart pumps, air rushes in and out of my lungs. I am alive.

Every crack, every mark, every groove…signifies triumph. Reminders of my daily decision to participate in this world. How sad would it be to have lived on this earth for 22 years and still be pristine? These scars are proof of my unwillingness to settle for being an innocent bystander.

This life is beautiful and challenging and it requires us to show up in our entirety, willing to walk through the trenches and get our hands dirty.

This is life and I refuse to be ashamed that my body is proof that I’m living it.

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Inside

I look around me and desperately search for something familiar, but there is nothing. I know nothing. I reach and reach, looking to grab hold of something I know, but there’s nowhere to reach but inside. So I do. I reach inside. Surely, this must be familiar. Surely this heart I’ve carried through 22 years of life will feel like home. I reach, yet I don’t recognize what I see. I feel like an imposter in my own body. This house doesn’t feel like home at all.

Who is this person? How can she be defined?

The things that once defined me have been slowly stripped away over the past year.

I am no longer a brilliant student. I am not a victim. I am not the girl who never left Tacoma. I am not a daughter craving a relationship with her mom.

And lately, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t feel like much of a writer either.

My whole life I’ve been using context clues to tell me who I am. I have defined myself by the city I’ve lived in, the activities I’ve been a part of, and the people I’ve been surrounded by.

One month ago I hopped on a plane and moved across the world. Everything is new. Everything is different…and I must admit that I feel a little bit like I am drowning because using my context to define who I am no longer works.

You can’t use your context to define yourself if you can’t even define your context.

So you are forced to reach inside and figure out who you are when everything is stripped away. When there’s no one around you to tell you who you are and no landmarks to point you in the right direction. When you can’t define yourself as anything other than “you.”

That’s where I am.

That’s where I’ll be for the next 11 months.

Figuring out “me.”