I think we all want to believe we make ourselves. That we are the outcome of every choice we’ve made and what we did to get there, wherever the hell “there” is. That our success is a factor of our work.
The catch is that there’s so much that happens before we even know what choice is. Before we realize the privilege – or lack of – that we are born into.
This learning happens in heartbeats, moments of tragedy and glory. In storytelling. But mostly by listening.
As our encounters and comprehension of different experiences grow, we evolve. Little by little we start to realize that the universe we were born into isn’t all-encompassing. That other people don’t live like us. That there are multiple versions of every “truth.” We also begin to realize that this insanely niche, one-of-a-kind human experience is what makes each life worth living, in it’s wealth of choices, paths, and opportunities.
I believe that realization is the moment we become women. More than any of the physical changes that come with age, womanhood is bred from empathy. It’s born in the moment we start to recognize these stories and how they accumulate into identity, purpose, action, and so much more.
I started thinking about this when a friend’s daughter was going to a sleepover. Her friend lived with 8 people in a 2 bedroom apartment until this week – the first week she would ever sleep in her own room at their own house. At age 14.
Again after another friend’s daughter attempted suicide and was in an outpatient facility listening to childhood stories no child should ever have to live. She was shocked to realize people in her own zip code were living so differently.
My moment came when I learned that a woman I admired had an abortion. Until that moment, abortion was a sin.
It wasn’t until I heard her story that I realized life would not be a set of laws and absolutes. That was the moment when I realized your plan can change in an instant without your consent. That we as humans evolve to survive.
And in other moments, the pain is too great. I’ve been in that moment, crying to my fiancé that I didn’t have the energy to keep living. It was the first time I had ever announced my deepest, darkest thoughts to another human. I know how dark those moments are.
I’ve also been with the people who are left behind, gasping for the breaths to keep themselves alive.
The pain on both sides of this equation is enough to change someone. To make you break.
To my friend Jason – I know you are so broken right now. I hope you know that the way you love every person you encounter makes me believe that Elle knew love in tremendous ways. At a very early age, I’m confident she saw people’s truth and you taught her that everyone walks different paths. Now that she’s on her path, we are all here to show you big love.
To share stories and the kind of love that can change someone.
If you made it this far, I hope you’ll take the time to help carry on the memory of Elle Seiden, too.