Dear Isabel: adulthood is safer than childhood

Dear Isabel:

You are a survivor.

We think you are strong.

We think you are wise.

We think you are important.

We think you might have trouble believing that about yourself because of what happened. We want you to know that that is normal. Doubting yourself, wondering if you are ever going to believe it gets better, wondering if everyone thinks you’re mad for thinking the way you do. For struggling with what you struggle with. That is all completely normal.

When the adults in charge of our childhood selves do not successfully keep us safe, it can be difficult to believe in our adult ability to maintain our own safety.

But we can, Isabel. We can believe in our ability to keep ourselves safe. Because the most beautiful thing is happening: we are growing up. Adulthood is entirely different from childhood. Adulthood has agency, ownership, freedom, choice. Yes, adulthood has struggles and responsibilities.But they are OURS, not someone else’s. Reckless individuals whine about those and long nostalgically for the “lost” privilege of childhood properly protected. But we know better. We know that childhood is the most vulnerable time of our lives, we know that childhood is often dark and scary and unprotected. We know that childhood is often left in that state and cannot be undone. But there are multiple ways out for children in danger. One of those ways out is called adulthood. We are not talking about the early on-take of responsibilities or the sacrificing of dreams. We are talking about the beautiful side of adulthood that children long poetically for. When they do, they are sometimes carelessly chastised by those same reckless souls who do not know that it is a privilege to see childhood as safer than adulthood. We teach those adults to open their eyes, Isabel. We teach them to take charge of their adulthood and stop shaming people like us for wanting something it is perfectly legitimate to want.

So with passion, sorrow and an understanding that brings tears to our eyes, we say to you: grow up. We do not say that dismissively. We do not say that because we want you to neglect your feelings. Grow up with the pain. Grow up with the sorrow. Bring it with you. It does not need to be rejected to be redeemed. We want you to give yourself permission to cry, scream, struggle, and grieve. Those are not things that children do and adults repress. They are things that hurting people of all ages need. We just also want you to give yourself permission to become a grown up despite the pain you experienced at the hands of them.

We think you are growing up beautifully. Today, you chose to stay here on this earth. Despite your knowledge of what has happened and can happen to children. Some small part of you sees through the pain to the beauty that co-exists alongside the world’s trauma. Today, you continue to live. And we are proud of you.

You are learning to own the safety of adulthood and the fullness of personhood.

You are a success, Isabel. Your life is one of the wins. Thank you for living it.

With Love and Trust,

The Survivors

© Anna Westbrook 2019