You Were Created to be Free: A Look at Advocacy from Our 17 Year-Old Team Member

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She was a princess, specifically of the fairy type. You could often find her in the branches of trees making friends with the spiders and flies. Her childlike nature was largely due to experiencing trauma as a young child, and not being able to process that or have someone in her life to helping her do so. I believe it was also partly just how she was made because it was beautiful and true. She had been through so much neglect, abuse, and trauma, but most of the time she was still very smiley, giggly, and making us laugh. I had the opportunity to advocate for our community and the freedom of princes and princesses, as well as make a great friend through our relationship.

So what does that look like? It looks like a shared life and intentional relationship. I pursued her - asking her questions and genuinely caring about who she was, and I tried to be there for her when she needed to be encouraged, reminded of truth, or simply with someone for a quiet walk. We watched movies, made art, ate meals, shared songs that spoke to us, and of course went on adventures - climbing countless trees and other random structures.

For about 3-4 months I’d say she was my best friend. And even though this situation of being an advocate for an organization and hanging out in a “safehouse” is a bit unique, becoming best friends felt just the same. All the same emotions of wanting to know more and more about them, questioning if you’re coming off too pushy or overwhelming, wondering if they feel the same way, and wanting to hang out this weekend and the next, wanting to be the first person they call, and sometimes even annoying each other after being together for long periods of time.

This princess, this “she”, needs to stay just that for this story. I don’t see her anymore and I want to respect her privacy. The truth is that one day she left and she didn’t come back to the house. I haven’t seen her since. On those days when we were wondering if she was going to come back…and she didn’t, and we were waiting to hear back from her…and we didn’t, my heart ached. I cried and I prayed that she would be okay.

I write this in all honesty, but as I do there are a few things that I need you to know. I don’t want anyone reading this to go forth and just think that this young lady wasn’t a good friend, or that she was weak. Because it’s simply not true. I think that I know a bit about why she left and didn’t come back. I can feel it my chest and deep in my stomach sometimes when it’s starting to feel like stress, life, memories, and sadness is all just too much and I feel like I’m not going to make it.  I don’t know all the thoughts she was having that day or all the lies that were attacking her, but I do know that sometimes healing is terrifying. It’s painful and sometimes you just want to run away. Freedom, being loved, and CHOOSING to believe a different story than the one you’ve heard for years and years - that’s hard.  This young woman actually stayed and practiced healing for much longer than most people do and I think that she’s amazing and brave for doing so.

Sadly, her story of trauma, toxic relationships, neglect, and running away- (sometimes from the bad and sometimes from the good too) is shared by thousands of individuals throughout our nation, and yes, our hometowns. I had the privilege of getting to know this one person, and even though we don’t see each other anymore, we will be forever affected by those months. At least I know I will be.

Freedom, compassion, love- they are basic needs and there are people in our cities that feel fear instead of comfort when they feel those things. That’s not their fault, but it needs to end. We need to stand by each other, show love and fight for those in need. If you’re someone reading this and you feel like running, or hiding, or giving up, I want you to know that as scary as healing can be - it’s worth it. Every tear, every fight, every lost night of sleep, because you were created to be free.