A search for love in my upbringing and teenage years would end up empty, for it was not evident in my life. I craved love, needed love, and desired love – but was met with anything but that. I began to lose hope that I’d ever know what it was to love and be loved.
The very thing I grew up with a lack of is now the very thing I believe most in – love. I was a child who had love withheld, misrepresented, and stolen from me. I learned to doubt it existed, and if it did, I believed I was unworthy of it. As a survivor of abuse, I quickly wore a label of “unlovable” on my heart and that very identity defined me for years.
Parts of my heart grew cold as walls were formed out of self-protection and fear of abandonment. I saw myself as damaged goods that were irreparable – but that’s not where my story ends.
In order for the label of “unlovable” to be peeled off my heart, I had to experience what I thought was impossible: love.
Love was redefined for me when I experienced the opposite of what became my “normal” as a teenager in foster care.
When my abusers constantly spewed hatred through their words and unkind touch through their hands, love made itself known to me through adults who spoke words of life over me and embraced me with safety.When case workers constantly changed without notice and seldom showed up, love made itself known to me through adults who chose to stay consistent and present day in and day out.
When I spent years searching for belonging and longing for a family until I aged out of foster care without one, love made itself known to me through the two adults who chose to adopt me at the age of 26 and give me a family forever.
The reality is that harm, hurt, and trauma have stained my beginnings – but the power of love has allowed me to heal in ways I never thought was possible. It is because of love that I’m now able to advocate for other foster youth to experience the same power of love that they so deserve.
I’ve firsthand been able to watch as love from caring adults has allowed youth from hard places to feel safe for the first time in their lives. I’ve watched as youth have been free to be children for the first time in their lives because they know that they’ll finally be cared for and no longer have to spend every moment fending for themselves. Don’t ever underestimate what the force of love can do.
What an opportunity we have to be givers of love, to extend it towards those in need, and to watch as it brings transformation to those who receive it. As a former foster youth, love has allowed me to release the biggest exhale. I was finally able to breathe, to rest, and to just be. I have been loved back to life.