A few weeks ago, someone close to me tried to deny me my feelings because of my age. As a child, I was emotionally assaulted for years. But when, as a twenty-year-old woman, I owned that hurt, the hurt I felt for years and still feel, I was told that I was being ridiculous: “You’re an adult now,” I was told.
As if age makes me a completely different person.
When I was fundraising for Invisible Children last semester, I was asked why the LRA cause was so important to me. I had to think about it; why does this cause, of all the causes in the world, hold my heart so firmly? One reason, I realized, is because I believe that every human being has the right to a childhood. The thought of Joseph Kony stealing childhoods all over central Africa broke/breaks my heart.
I can’t overstate the value I put on childhood. There are pure, simple reasons I fight for it: it’s fun, happy, creative, innocent. There are more complex reasons, also: childhood is the beginning of life, and it plays a huge role on the middle and end of life. A family I babysit for displays an awesome sign in their home that reads, “Babies are an awesome way to start people.” It’s true: childhood is maybe the most beautiful part of human life; it’s also, perhaps, the most significant.
But here’s the thing: our culture tends to differentiate between children and adults as if they’re of different species, as if human growth and development is a metamorphosis of sorts. Children aren’t larvae; adults aren’t butterflies. We don’t grow out of childhood; we grow through it. I began my life on March 3rd, 1994, as Ellen Elizabeth Orr. Twenty years later, I am still the exact same person. My person has not changed or metamorphosed. I have grown, but I am still me. And no matter how many years pass, my experiences and emotions will always be wholly mine.
We forget that we used to rely entirely on others. We forget that, when we were born, people celebrated. We forget that we’ve been loved since Day One.
Sierra DeMulder, in this gorgeous spoken-word poem, reminds us that we used to sleep in the arms of strangers. She says in that one line everything I’ve written in this impromptu blog post. (What an editor; what a poet.)