A closed fist is not the only kind of strength. 

  
When I was three years old I cried and screamed in typical toddler fashion because my mom would not let me get a flat top. 

My little mind had already designated my father as the paragon of strength, and I wanted to have everything he had so I could be strong like that. 

This was the first time I imitated strength, but it was definitely not the the last. 

When I was fifteen, I watched a girl with black hair and a pirate’s mouth push people far enough away that they did her no harm. Having been bullied most of my educational life, I admired this new kind of strength, and I took a crow bar to my voice box until all that came out were hard words that sounded just like hers. But in time this came to feel like the falsehood it was, and I welded my throat back together into silence. 

My entire life I’ve struggled with what it is be strong. Three years ago I wrote Strong in an effort to understand where the truth of my strength stemmed from, but I was left with more questions than answers. 

I’ve weighed myself against my own beliefs and of those around me, and I have found a thing that feels like truth in me: 

All of the parts of myself that I have tried to squeeze until they disappeared, my bleeding heart, my incessant hope, my inability to ignore that which is beautiful, these gentlest parts of my nature… They are my strength. 

In a world like ours, delicacy is condemned. We are taught that we must be tough, hard, and cold, to withstand the inevitable difficulties this life brings. 

And it is true that life will crush and steal our petals, leave us with nothing but thorns and patches of brambles, but we can bloom again if we choose to. 

We can decide to be vulnerable enough to unfurl our edges again, to uncurl our fingers from their fists again, and in this vulnerability there, too, is strength. 

This is where I find myself, my truest strength, in the places of my heart that cannot be anything but soft, anything other than the gentleness I was always meant to see. 

-Jessi  

  
 

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