I've been struggling with the way by which I want to write this. It's huge and it's multidimensional and it is so much like looking through an immaculately cut diamond with a laser. I met the queen this week.
I met the queen, and she knows she's the queen.
When Tashmica told us that she was on her way, I was literally Sandra Oh as Principal Gupta at Grove High School in The Princess Diaries.
The QUEEN is coming."
Literally. Endless fangirling: commence. And when I met her on Wednesday, I came up right behind her, and she almost jumped out of her skin when I tapped her shoulder (because honestly I probably slapped it with my awkward excitement) and when she turned around, I almost lost myself in the magnitude of her presence. Because 25 years ago, she held Tashmica's bravery gently, like it was a baby blue Robin egg in a delicate mass of twisted brown twigs. I believe that she looked straight into Tashmica's soul that day the way she looked straight into mine on Wednesday night, and I believe that she saw Tashmica's strength and her potential for absolute greatness.
A potential that she is now pushing and leveling up, every single day.
The queen listened, that day. She was gentle. She was intuitive. She was humble, from where she sat as a monarch. She said those magical, delicious, honey-sweet words: "I believe you." She did the right thing.
And Tashmica this past Wednesday, clutching a giant check from the USA Network, told us how much she recognizes that gift. She told us that she had been unaware that children and teenagers are continuously made to feel dirty and worthless, or slut-shamed and silenced. Because she told the right person. She told the queen. And the queen came as soon as she heard. As a result of that, Tashmica comes as soon as she hears. She told us that we deserve the advocacy that we may not have been given, and that there is nothing wrong with us, and that we are survivors, Soulfires, all ablaze like sparklers on a dark November night.
I came to the Soulfire calendar reveal after a very difficult week. A week during which my flight response was mysteriously overactive, and during which I experienced some of the most profound sadness I've ever felt. I'm in transition. I've momentarily abandoned my passions that used to provide a solid foundation, and I've found myself in a cycle of frustration and loss. I fluctuate between sinking and floating, but I'm very seldom grounded.
So when I approached Lisa the queen that night and told her that I was fine, that I was leaving school and that packing up my home broke my heart but that I was fine, she looked into my eyes and asked me a question. She asked me if, at school or at home in Clemson, I was being abused.
It caught me off guard. Nobody had ever asked me that before. Nobody.
My heart started beating like it was alive again. I have not been abused at Clemson, but nobody had ever asked me that before. And if anybody had asked when it was relevant, I would've likely said no. I wouldn't have been able to justify to myself that somebody was mistreating me. I wouldn't have given myself that grace.
But this time, I felt justified. I felt like I had just been inducted into this community...after all these years, it felt official. Here was a person who wanted to be certain that I was safe, and if I wasn't, I believe that she would have been the first to advocate for me, and for all of us. She wants us to be proud of our bravery, and to own it, and to celebrate it.
It was one simple question, but it carries such enormous significance. It meant that somebody, the queen no less, was standing at the ready to advocate for me. It means that I do deserve advocacy. And these people, these survivors, that have danced into my life are the people who would come running to me if I need it.
They'll come as soon as they hear.
Firecracker photo from the Lansing State Journal. All calendar photos by Jena McShane, hair & makeup by Heather Jarous; both brave, beautiful survivors with us.