Love. It’s such a basic sounding word. It gets tossed around and abused, shared and is coveted. It is underneath and above so many of our exchanges and experiences. We say that we love things, we love foods, and we love people. We love moments and travel destinations. We love animals. And in all the love that gets tossed around, we rarely love ourselves. At least not the way we demand that we love others. I was guilty of loving those around me while not loving myself the way I both deserved and needed to be loved. I did not prioritize myself. I did not have appropriate boundaries. I acted out of insecurity more quickly than intention.
What I failed to realize was that a part of the reason I wasn’t loving all up on myself was because I was carrying so much weight, so many traumas and burdens, that I’d become concealed by them and unrecognizable to myself. I was veiled by the trappings of life, behaving in ways that were expected and inauthentic, masked by the reality of the character I’d come to portray. I felt the need to relieve myself of this… this disguise I’d mastered over the years, but every time I attempted to cut the strings, I would allow something or someone to harness me to what I’d untied and reconnect me to my burdens. I wanted to break free but had neither the strength nor the courage to do so.
And all at once, on a cold and unassuming night, the type of night that is ordinary and would have otherwise been purged from my memory, everything changed. Outside of my parent’s home, in a space that was safe and familiar, I was kidnapped at gunpoint by a strange man. Held against my will for hours, I managed to escape using nothing more than my words and intellect. And in the arduous months that followed, in the healing journey and the trauma therapy, the depression and anxiety, the sorrow and the happiness, I found me again. At some point during the process, I realized, that while I was picking up pieces of my life and learning to live with PTSD, I came to see that my life had been shaped by many traumas. I’d been working as a quilter, patching and fixing, stitching and camouflaging the ugly bits. I’d mastered the art of being “ok.” Even more importantly, I realized that I didn’t have to pick everything up. I realized that I’d been given the opportunity to rebuild myself and I did not need anyone else’s permission to be who I wanted to be. I realized that if I was going to make it, I had to love me. “The butterfly does not look back at the caterpillar in shame.” So, I too, will not look back in shame but in truth, forgiveness, and love.

Forgiveness is letting go of the hope of a better past. Love is witnessing, holding space, anchoring, and elevating. I write this in the name of God, in the name of Love, in the name of giving myself space to have made a multitude of mistakes and allowing myself space to take up space. I write this in the name of Self Love. In the name of Self-care. In the name of honest Love.
As I journey through this quest, this voyage of exploration and learning and seeking and growing, I will love every accomplishment, each mistake, every moment, and every minute milestone. I will validate myself and broaden my relationship with the All-Mighty. I will love without apologizing.     

WORTHY: A Portrait Series Featuring | Ndola
Photographer: Love Byrd Photo
Makeup: Blasina Salam
Atlanta, GA

Based in Atlanta, Georgia