I've spent most of my life hiding. In the corner of my room. Under my bed. In the closet. Slouched under my desk. In the back of the classroom. In the middle of the pack. Behind my computer.
Whether I was avoiding a spanking, a scary storm, being called upon, being called out, or just being seen, I have become a master of hiding. Even as a woman who takes up more space than society says I should, I am impossibly invisible to those who dismiss me for how I look, how I sound, and what I have to say.
Hiding was my way to stay safe. If I wasn't seen, I couldn't be scolded. I couldn't be embarrassed or harassed or shamed. I couldn't be heard if my only words were whispered as my head hung low.
I also couldn't be expected to be anything more than mediocre. Not much grows in the shadows except mushrooms and weeds.
By hiding, I was keeping myself small and unassuming - and that there was safety and comfort in that. If no one saw me, they couldn't expect anything from me. I could get by like I always had. No light meant no spotlight and no one to disappoint.
Because, at the heart of it all, it is about not disappointing anyone.
Although, I'm not sure who I was trying to impress. Certainly not my mom, who never once pushed me to be my best, even as I cried each Saturday over placing in third in each of my swim race. Even as I beat myself up over every B on my report card. Even as I physically hit myself after stepping on the scale each day.
Recently, though, I haven't been able to take refuge in hiding. Living in my shadows feels more dangerous each day. As the country continues to reveal itself - the deepest darkest secrets of a nation built upon destruction and oppression, it is increasingly difficult to stay silent at what is happening.
But to speak out means to be heard, and to be heard is to be seen, and to be seen means to be judged. And being judged means all those bits I've been hiding all these years come out in the light.
There once was safety for me in the shadows.
But life is not meant to be lived alone in the dark.
There once was safety for me in the quiet.
But life is not meant to be lived in silence.
There is safety for me in the corners.
But life is not meant to be lived with my back against the wall.
There is safety for me in the closet.
But life is not meant to be lived hiding who I am.
The pain of being silent now outweighs the price of being safe.
The pain of being complacent now outweighs the price of standing up.
The pain of being numb now outweighs the price of feeling the pain of a nation being ripped apart.
Because shining a light on all of America - the good, the bad, and the ugly - leaves me very little places to hide.
The good news is there is safety in numbers.
So stand up. Speak out. Share your story. Lift up oppressed voices. Say something when you see wrongdoing. Rage with compassion and then take action.
Even if the fear is still there.
Because there is no safety in hiding.
You were made for these times.