My first week of the sixth grade did not start off so smoothly. I walked down the hallways of my elementary school, decked out in my plaid skirt, button-up uniform as the kids would wince and gently touch their cheek.
“Does it hurt?” They’d ask me.
It had been a few weeks since I had scraped a good portion of my left cheek and knee from crashing on an alpine slide at an end of the summer birthday party. I would briefly forget that the wounds were even there until the other kids pointed them out to me. It wasn’t so much the missing skin that was causing me pain but rather people’s reactions to them as they looked at me in absolute horror and pity. Also, it was the first time I had gotten hurt badly enough to earn my very first physical scar. My parents warned me that the mark would be visible past its healing which my 11-year-old self freaked out about. In my mind I was “permanently damaged” with a mark to remember my alpine accident mocking me for the rest of my life. You remember how dramatic you could be as a kid, right?
What’s funny enough now is that I have to be in good lighting and look really hard before I can locate the spot on my knee where the skin is raised just a bit. I’m not even so sure anyone would believe me if I were to show it to them that it qualifies as a scar. How funny? Something I once thought was such a permanent marker of an undeserving wound became so obsolete that the only remaining scar exists in my memory.
We use scars for metaphoric and figurative reasons all the time because it works. We hurt ourselves and hurt others all the time, both with and without intention. Sometimes the pain subsides and the scar remains, other times, vice versa. One of my all time favorite quotes is from the iconic J.D. Salinger found in The Catcher and the Rye. It reads,
“I have scars on my hands from touching certain people.” We can scar from pain just as much as we scar from losing something that brought us joy. It’s true – the mark never does go away.
What a beautiful thing it can be. We can heal ourselves on both a conscious and subconscious level. We don’t lose these marks but rather, they become a part of who we are until the only question is where does the scar end and where do I begin? When was the defining moment that the pain stopped, the skin smoothed over, and the kids in the hall stopped wincing?
Being a vulnerable human capable of survival and experiencing the depths and heights of human emotion is so inherently badass. We all survived, we are all so badass. We lived, and we got hurt. We loved, and we got hurt even worse. We lost, and we are still hurting.
So I say to my rising sixth grade self, good for you for riding the alpine slide. Good for you for riding it a second and third time. You have many more scars now than you did back then, some visible, some not. They are all beautiful though. They are all a part of this human experience and so are you.
So I say to my current self, keep the badass scars coming. Just make the stories behind them worth the mark.