When I was a very small child I hid.
The world, and especially people, frightened me, and I did my best to duck away from sight. If I heard unfamiliar tires crunching the gravel of our driveway, I would run for my parent’s big bed and slide myself under. I would shut my eyes tightly and think if I couldn’t see anything, nothing could see me.
Usually my parents would find me and have to coax me from my burrow to go and say hi to our guests. I hated being put on display. Having all eyes in the room on me made me want to shrivel up and vanish. Perhaps my parents were proud of me, and wanted their friends and family to see what a lovely child I was, but I suspect it was more an attempt to force me into being sociable. Of course, being dragged out into the open like that only made my anxiety worse.
Yes, I was shy, to say the least. I hit this earth running scared for some reason. I recall attending a birthday party of a family friend and it was one of those parties where the parents had gone the distance, with games set up, the room gayly decorated, party favours, all kinds of wonderful, junky food kids love, and LOTS of children. As soon as my mother had dropped me off and drove away, . I ran to the window and stayed there the whole time, rocking back and forth, singing quietly to myself while the excited laughter and shouts behind me pushed me further to feeling like an outsider. Some of the adults tried to engage me, they tried everything to get me to join the party. I refused. They tried bringing cake to me. I wouldn’t touch it. I only wanted my mommy.
I only wanted to be forgotten by the world, to slide into my peaceful own quietude.
Being pushed out into school was difficult. The feeling that I was not like other kids was pervasive. Being an obviously moody outcast was just bringing me the exact attention I hoped to avoid, so I learned some tricks to try and blend in, so people would leave me alone. . I never was able to cross that moat of feeling different, though, and kids pick up on things like that. I was bullied. I was threatened, made fun of, shunned, shamed.
I grew up like this. It never changed. Through high school, it only got worse. I must have succeeded in being invisible in high school – my Grade 12 yearbook picture was captioned “We never saw Kerry much, so we really don’t know much about h….”
I was good at disappearing.
I always thought that I was preserving my precious self by staying hidden and protected. I felt it made me stronger, allowed me to be truly my own person without fear of coercion or influence by others. Into adulthood I fine tuned my art of vanishing. I turned away from people and the things they did. I kept myself safe.
Except, I wasn’t keeping myself safe at all, it turns out.
I was hurting, deeply. I was profoundly angry, sad, confused and bitter. I hid in alcohol and drug addiction. I created worlds in my head that I lived in more than this world. I thought I was doing this all for myself, but I understand now I was doing this because I lacked my self. I could not begin to understand who I really was. I had always known something was wrong, and I always knew I ‘should’ have been born a girl, but I thought I had accepted I wasn’t, and that I was doing a good job living life my way.
Maybe, in some ways, I was. I survived. I loved, laughed, sang, played. I felt content at times. But always there was something deeply wrong and displaced in me and I knew I had to remain hidden or….
I sank so deeply into that safety I hit the dirty, filthy bottom of my moat one day and knew I had to get out. How I got out is another story, but not only did I rise up out of that dark water, but I strode through my cold castle and flung open the gates. The world whirled in, and I was swept up. A fresh breeze blew clouds of confusion away and I started to understand more deeply who I really am. It scared me. It was what I had purposefully blinded myself to when I was young and thought it was not okay to be who I truly was.
Within the space of a few years I have gone from invisible to centre stage. Not only did I come out of hiding, but I am dancing in the light, I am singing of my life, I am standing in my self and sharing that with the world, without reservation.
And I have learned this; hiding never kept myself strong and pure. It kept me weak.
Not only did I not let the world see me, but I did not let myself see me.
Now that I have stepped into the light where the world can see me, at last I see myself, and I know now, that true strength lies not in hiding, but in letting go and trusting.
I am more exposed, and vulnerable, than ever before, and yet I feel safer than I ever have.