Placing my foot carefully in the footholds I pushed myself up the rocks despite he rushing water. Left then right then left again, knee scrapes be damned. Sitting down to slide into deeper water before climbing out, rushing down a waterfall and grabbing hold to a tree for balance, I was making my way. Nearly 1000ft of rocky waterfall, I remembered my first time at Dunns. I was nervous. I did not trust my body, despite being roughly the same size then that I am now. I fretted over falling or hurting myself or people watching me wondering why I even bothered to try in the first place. Climbing has no place for insecurity. 

I noted how markedly different I felt this trip. I unabashedly ditched my cover-ups and wore only bikinis at the beach. I made new friends with ease without the internal dialogue of me wondering if they noticed how _____________ I was. The blank could be anything, but in Jamaica it was usually fat. I was so aware of my body there, and not in a good way. I recalled the shame I felt for being so big and so black as if the combination of the two were a punishable crime. It hurt further because I felt like if anywhere could be tolerant of me, it should’ve been there, right? Despite it, I felt at home in Jamaica. I conquered fears and loneliness and I began to step into myself. 

Returning back as the woman I am now, I felt the place differently. Men coveted my attention and my body (because of, not despite). But more than the acceptance of men, I was in love with the woman I saw reflected in the mirror. And what I realized was how much self-love and self-acceptance communicates to the world. 

The trip was not without falter. I had my first flashback of the rape, triggered by smell. My body slid into panic as my mind slipped into meditation: you are not there anymore. You are safe. You are okay. Come back to this moment. I took command of my emotional response, noting for Robert (my therapist) the entire process of how I avoided a panic attack. That moment was a metaphor for the work of not only this trip but this year: I had to forget what the present felt like remembering that moments are temporary, but the God that dwells within me as me? That is bigger, stronger, more powerful, than any moment no matter how anxiety provoking. 

In short, I had to remember who I was. Who I am. Who I have the potential to become. Jamaica reminded me to look up. To be in awe of the woman who stands before me in the mirror. The woman who in the last five months has been to hell and is clawing her way back to grace. I love that woman and that woman is loved by the people I hold most dear. 

Arriving at the top of the waterfall I remember thinking about footing. I could always trust the footing of those who went before me if I saw it and if they were, in fact, going where I wanted to go. Not to mention how reassuring it was to have hands that would steady you and support you as you climbed. However, there were times when you had to trust yourself; Find your own footing and put your own hands upon the slippery earth to balance. And you would survive the effort. I would survive it. Not only that, I would find success from it. 

I’ve found myself smiling at my changes. My differences. My growth. My faith in myself and my abilities, which is really to say my faith in God. For the first time in a long time I could feel the sun on my skin and the fire in my belly. I was alive. I am alive. I am here, and I am happy. 

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