I Know You’re Afraid, But You’ll Get Through This

Kathy Zhuang
Kathy Zhuang

I know you’re afraid.

The thing about strength is that it’s easy to be strong when the world is on your side. It’s easy to have faith when good things keep happening, but when you’re being tossed about like a canoe on the ocean, when every path you take seems to end in a dead end, faith is hard to hold onto. It slips like a climbing rope through the spaces between your fingers.

Just remember this: there is no way you can fail to make it through this. No really, think about it – no matter what happens, no matter how bad it gets, the sun will still rise tomorrow. It may rise behind clouds of volcanic ash, it may illuminate only the broken splinters of houses destroyed by a hurricane, but the thing about volcanic ash is that eventually it clears. Cities destroyed by hurricanes are eventually rebuilt.

This is your chance. I know it feels like the opposite of that, like the way that you got here was by missing your chance, but my dear friend, this is what life is. You have not missed your opportunity; this is the opportunity, and it is only here in this thin space between getting what you desperately want and losing it that you have the chance to prove to yourself how far you’ve come. Here, you can stand tall and strong, face to face with your demons. To them, you can finally say, “I’m not running anymore”. Face the shit out of this moment, and no matter what happens, you will come out of it stronger, wiser, more forgiving.

I know how it feels to run from the humanity of other people. Terrified of disappointment, we wall ourselves off into tiny cubicles. The walls that we build rob us of so much connection, joy, and happiness – they prevent us from being truly honest, both with ourselves and with others. They prevent us from living fully as the people we know, deep in some desperate place inside, that we really are. Yet we keep building them higher, digging moats where we want to build bridges, because the lie that we tell ourselves is that these walls keep us safe. We try to protect ourselves from pain.

But pain is not inherently bad. Without pain, we would die. We would have no way of knowing that to touch a hot stove is bad, we would fail to notice our broken limbs, our internal injuries, our heart attacks and our migraines. Pain tells us when something is wrong in our lives, when something needs to change. Don’t run from pain – run towards it and when it happens, endure it. Grow through it. It will not destroy you, and it does not have to define you.

I wish that I could show you a photograph of yourself through my eyes. Perhaps that is all any of us really needs, to see our own selves reflected back from the vision of someone who loves us as imperfectly, unconditionally, and completely as it is possible to love. When I look at you, I don’t see freckles. I don’t think about how short you are, or how your sister is the perfect hourglass. I don’t think at all, because I am overwhelmed with wonder at how much you mean to me. I marvel at your smile, at the hope in your eyes; I stare at the tattoo on your wrist and know that in a less literal way, your name is inked on my own skin as well.

You’ve heard me preach my personal gospel, the words “we will all eventually be okay” repeated so many times they no longer have any meaning. I think you’re starting to see that I say them as much for myself as for anyone else. If ability to have faith and trust in other people had a world ranking, I would find myself at the very bottom.

But I have faith in you. I trust you, even over the screaming voices of my own uncertainty, the demons of my past that remind me at every possible opportunity how loving someone openly and honestly and completely is the quickest way to return to my own personal hell. I fight every day to believe in you, because I know that even a moment spent with you is worth an eternity of pain – that is the kind of faith and love that I wish I could make you see in yourself.

You are beautiful and radiant, and your flaws don’t diminish you – they only refract a greater amount of light. Don’t be afraid to go all in; even when you lose every hand you play, you’re still sitting at the table. Contrary to popular opinion, the house doesn’t always win, so don’t you ever apologize for trying.

It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to call me or text me or smoke signal me or get on a plane; don’t ever be afraid to need me, because I will always be here. Don’t fear for reciprocation, because I need you too, more than I think you will ever fully know. You save my life every day that you’re in it, and what I don’t know how to tell you is that for me, right now in this moment, having you in my life is enough; I need nothing else.

You’re standing on the edge of a cliff waiting to jump. This is a cliff that we return to, time and again in our lives, and one of these days you will take off into brilliant light and catch the sun. I hope and pray for you that this is that time, but if it’s not and you fall, you will not be alone. I will string a net across the chasm, I will catch you, and I will set your broken wings. When you’re ready, I’ll help you relearn to fly. TC mark

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