Last Monday, I was off to an anxious, stressed and emotional start to finals week.
I wandered to a local coffee shop to flip through emails, complete a paper and hopefully relax a bit. After my brief encounter with my almond chai, I hustled home in full stride with music blasting in my earphones. I paused before I entered my home. I have a new neighbor. A new shop by my house. A sweet boutique. A stellar owner. Her face is warm, hugs inviting and smile authentic. Fine, I will walk inside for a hug. I bee lined for her arms, avoiding eye contact entirely. I nestled into the perfect hug, and my glasses quickly steamed by my hot tears. “Is everything okay?” Caroline asked. “I am stressed. Anxious. Emotional.” Caroline quickly ushered me to a comfortable seat and handed me a candy cane. Armed with motherly solace, she is equipped for anything.
Before we began conversing to discuss my emotional state, she said, “I just want you to know how loved you are.” Caroline met my mother this past weekend, and they adored each other. “I saw the way your mother looked at you Hannah, she loves you unconditionally. You are so loved.” I accepted her sweet words of encouragement but trembled as I recalled school’s harsh reality, “I am genuinely fearful of failing an exam.” I sniffled, holding back tears in fear of damaging a fresh coat of make up. Caroline’s words were perfect. Her comfort continued as she repeatedly told me, “You are more than a grade.”
Why is it that love is reassuring? The power of love never ceases to astound me. As she comforted me, I glanced at my tattoo, mom’s words whispering, “I love you,” in the midst of my anger with temporal frustrations. “Hannah, you are more than a grade,” Caroline did not stop with her encouragement. She continued to build me back up, “You sparkle Hannah. We all know it. We see you and you sparkle.” I do not know if I smiled, teared up or just shut my eyes in acceptance of this genuine love. At some point in the conversation I just laid my head on Caroline’s lap, like a dog begging for a head rub. Caroline carefully patted my back, her kind words flowing, and love filled my heart to the brim. The support of her words and touch, enabled me to forget the possibility of failure.
Throughout the morning, previous to my encounter with Caroline, I prayed for the Lord’s comfort. I asked for peace for the week, but begged him for temporary relief of my anxiety. I have experienced several recent doses of love directly from God. However, I find great comfort in the arms of those around me. Physical touch is crucial to my emotional health. Odd, but it is me. I need hugs, snuggles and head pats. Instead of God soothing me in alone time, He did what He had to get me into the arms of His love. Letting Caroline be a vessel of His compassion, was incredibly kind of Him. I joyfully accepted the love I received. The tangible relief of falling into a hug. Caroline’s motherly love and empathy. The sweet reminder of listening to words I know to be true but struggle to believe during a time like finals. Finals hurt my heart. Finals challenge not only my learning disabilities, as well as my anxiety and emotions.
“You Sparkle,” my heart instantly melted. It was affirming, yet again, that something might be seen in me than more than the identity of being a student. I am in fact more than a grade, I am more than my GPA, and I am more than a student. I am much more than a student and I hope to known for that. I hope to be known for hugs, love and laughter. I hope to known for being my true self and settling for nothing less. Including, restraining from the self-deprecating thought process whilst enduring a difficult course. It was a joy to hear that I might sparkle to someone around me, I am undeserving of such a compliment but whoah did it tickle my heart. Authenticity. Transparency. Human’s like it. It is relatable.
Photographed by Davy Kesey | | Charleston, SC
Wearing: Madewell turtleneck, Piko Tee w/ lace trim (similar), J Brand coated jeans (last season but similar here ) Stuart Weitzman Lowland Boot in black suede found at Charleston’s Bob Ellis, similar boots here, here and here.