Today I Gave Up

Today I gave up. My soul crashed. What am I fighting for? What are we kicking at? The deep wells of anguish rose in my voice as I left my advocate a message: the uphill battle, the forensic interviews, the confrontation call with my trafficker, the evidence, the tears, the warring, the effort in blood and weeping and sweat we put into reporting—all comes down to a letter from the county.

It was a bit like a rejection letter for a manuscript I never wrote. A story that I am braided and bound amidst the characters of its pages and their brands bruise my soul. But the pen never was in my hand.

I read the words, feeling each letter washing a deeper portion of my strength away: “…cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt…declining to prosecute….”

The trafficker we finally located and hunted continues to live free. He rises into walking away. But I…fell. The trap door beneath my being, my soul, my passion…swung open and I plummeted.

I fight for survivors every day. I fight my own battles too. I wage the war so survivors know they are not alone. And even though I could hear the roaring and echoing voices and stomping feet of the warriors surrounding me like the Battle of Helm’s Deep, I lay, broken on the battlefield. Strength gone. Breath fleeting.

As I had to find a way to head to my own healing appointment of EMDR, I thought of my shoes—those shoes that have been there from the start, challenging positions and offering places of hope as I kick at and try to dismantle darkness. I thought of the times I have spoken in front of crowds to share my story and offer hope and learning to first responders, allies, families, and survivors.

I thought of the circles and circles of warriors I have been honored to stand amongst with these shoes. I stood and remembered the hard battles, the distant races, the massive steps they have propelled me to overcome. I thought about the people who see hope now when they see my chucks. I thought about the opportunities they have provided for conversation and promoting change and thinking in culture—because they aren’t Prada, anyone can have them and anyone can kick at darkness.

I thought about the power they hold. I wept. And I walked away.

I made it fifteen steps when resolve met me eye to eye, finger in my chest. I felt the pounding beat in my rib cage, “Giving up is NOT an option; it’s not and never has been on the table.” I screamed at it as the child in me who survived hell grabbed me by the neck and drug me to the shoes. I fell before them, cradling what they meant. My strength sapped, my heart not wanting to wear what they symbolize because I cannot see the light through the paperwork.

But courage isn’t knowing things are going to work out. Courage is being willing to go back into the fight because there is something f**king worth fighting for. The mountain is huge. The way seems impassable. But sometimes, freedom starts with something as small as a sock.

It was the heaviest sock I have ever held. One at a time, I slid my feet into these warrior and battle-ready shoes. The tears poured down my face as fear and courage interlocked fingers in my soul. They are not mutually exclusive. Courage does not even mean strength is present.

It simply means: today, I put on the shoes.

#KickAtDarkness #RiseUp #Together #WeCanKeepGoing

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