When I read my childhood autobiography it reads like the modern fairy-tale, raised by her mother and never enough money, but since the prince was just around the corner, there was nothing to fear. My childhood was sheltered from almost all forms of darkness, the gates firmly locked, holding back the attacking armies and the unknown dragons of the world. And for all my eye-rolling and wondering at my mother's insistence on such a conventional and “safe” upbringing, I now wonder if perhaps she was right all along.
With my wide-eyed innocence lasting until long after it was fashionable, I was often a little on the fringes of my social groups. It seemed that I lacked the skills or at least the secret knowledge of what it took to make the "right" people like me. I had friends, wonderful friends at that, friendships that have lasted until this day, though they have changed and shifted as we have followed different paths. But I always wanted to be at the centre of it all. I would sit in my tower-like room, painting flowers on my furniture because we rented and I couldn't paint the walls, devouring books about the people outside the gates and imagining that I was someone else, living in a different land, able to have and do all the things that I wished for.
This insular world was perhaps to my own detriment in some regards. I mean I never even learned how to interact with the neighbour boys, let alone preparing myself for the much-anticipated prince. But on the other hand it made me. I developed a depth of contemplation, imagination, and independence that is at the core of who I am today. It took years for me to sift through the layers of reserve, self-questioning, feelings of being odd and left out, but at last, palms flat against the gates, I pushed them open and stepped forward.
And the world beyond the gates was not as scary nor as dragon-filled as I had been led to believe. And though its true that I had always longed to be apart of the inner court, I had grown into someone who valued relationships of various shapes and levels, but would not settle for shallowness. I was suddenly faced with all of the crazy and scary things that happened outside the gates, but they actually held very little appeal for me. There was no forbidden fruit awaiting me, but instead a gamut of moments that challenged and refined who I already was.
It was in these same moments that I stepped out beyond familiar walls that things inside the castle began to really fall apart. I had chosen and gained my independence at a time when everything else was crumbling, the walls and the gates no longer strong or tall enough to protect me. Brokenness in trust, in feelings of safety and home, in family and loyalty, it all crashed down. And I could leave it all behind, I now had the rest of the world.
I regret nothing because how could I have been anything other than what I was. However, looking back, I see what I wish I could have been and truthfully, it is what I still wish to be. Impervious to personal pain, able to hold everyone and everything together, be a saviour to those I love, and fix the messes we find ourselves in. But I was not so strong. Nor was I that selfless. In a surge of independence I turned my back on everything that hurt me, choosing instead to go it alone because I couldn't imagine how I could take any more.
But of course the other shoe did drop, and I was not there to catch it. I collapsed under the weight of what we had lost. I will never forget nor be proud of how I tried to go it on my own, only to lose something so indescribable. And it was then that I, the independent one, needed someone strong enough to do what I could not. To hold my family and myself when I could do neither.
The fabled prince had still not arrived. I realize now that I had grown up believing in two things. Firstly, in myself and secondly, in the prince. What did Bible stories offer as a captivating narrative in comparison to the fairy-tales that we told ourselves again and again, that promise of a happy ending. And then I, finally not enough, broke, on bruised knees, my arms thrust to the sky.
And he came. Folded me into arms and held me. He required nothing of me. When I at last came to, opened my eyes, gazed upon my rescuer, I was shocked. It was not the prince but my father. A father I had always heard of, but never really known. It was the father I had always spoken of vaguely, positively but without any proof of his existence, nor of his unstoppable love for me.
The fairy-tale that never really was, ends like this. The peasant girl, who always believed she would be found by and marry a prince, thereby becoming a princess of worth, redeemed by his actions, was actually born of a king, a princess by birth. She needed no one but her father to understand her worth, her inherent value as a unique and gifted person. His view of her was unwavering and as he showed her what he saw, her self-constructed armor shattered, revealing the soul, the heart, the loveliness of what he had always known her to be. My fairy-tale ends like this, but my life, the real part, continues.
We need stories for the moments when reality is too hard to see. And so, its purpose served, I close the fairy-tale book and continue to write my biography.
I use the language and imagery of fairy-tale because its a part of my narrative, vocabulary of my world as a child. I use it for how it helps me to see and understand myself and my journey and not because I actually want to live a fairy-tale. I hope my personal understandings will, when explained with a common vocabulary, make sense to someone other than myself.