Column: Self love is the key to surviving personal challenges

T’Aja Cameron
Oxford stories

The absence of self-love is a disruption of self growth. How well do you know yourself?

I questioned this tirelessly. Every day when I woke, I looked in the mirror and saw someone I never expected to be. My reflection of greatness was always standing in front of me, and my intuition was always right, but I just never saw it.

I always dreamed of my older self. I assumed she’d be beautiful and smart and brave. When I was 16, I was popular and pretty, but I still searched for substance.

I knew, with me, there had to be more than just a pretty face, but I realized I had no real skills except writing. I can remember all my friends having life figured out and doing the things we talked about in private. But there I was, a failure.

“Today is the day,” I said. Graduation day was finally here. That was the day I promised myself I had to be happy, and I needed to be excited. After a long episode of unfortunate events, I just knew somehow God would turn this moment into pure joy so I could feel something other than emptiness and floating.

The valedictorian of our class gave her speech. You know the ones that start like, “Today’s the day we get to decide for ourselves and be the people we dreamed of becoming. Life starts now.” She spoke about how we had finally made it and reflected on how it wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t always fun.

As I sat in my chair waiting for my name to be called “T’Aja Charnay Cameron,” I held back tears that I had accumulated in four short years that felt like a lifetime. And as I walked across the stage, I felt nothing, and I barely even smiled. The day had turned into just another day of the week.

That was my story in high school – this pretty girl, the popular girl, just floating and living without a purpose.

I mean, imagine living in a house where no one notices, and you are just barely holding on. I was stranger. I couldn’t even recognize myself anymore.

The summer before I went to college, I decided to live and branch out. I stopped living the fake idea of a life and scratched the surface of self-love. I started to take up things I love most, like writing, reading, yoga and smiling.

Suddenly, my hope for life started to come back, and it finally felt familiar. But looking back, I barely knew this woman who had been waiting to meet me, and at first, I didn’t like her even though she was compassionate, understanding, and a scholar.

This woman saved me and showed me life will twist and turn, but you must remain true to yourself. Being  honest with yourself is the best form of self-love and the best result of self-growth.

College soon came, and I changed. This amazing and talented girl from high school had died. The perception of the girl from high school that everyone recognized was buried, and from her grave, a woman rose.

She studied herself day and night, and started writing again. Her outlet was what saved her, and the girl in the mirror that she once looked at became the physical being she dreamed of.

I had taken many of the first steps to live, but I still felt uncomfortable. Even though I had changed, I still remained unhappy and stagnant. I remember the day I finally said “no.” This was the day that allowed me to feel everything I was running from.

It was about high noon, and I hadn’t been doing well in classes, but the first semester is always challenging. In the midst of my studying, I stopped, and this ill feeling came over me. I called my mom and told her:

“Mommy, I know we always haven’t gotten along, but I need you. I need you to tell me what to do because I don’t think I know how anymore.”

She responded, “ Do what anymore, baby?”

“Mommy, I know you all love me and support me, but what if I told you . . . I made a mistake?”

My mother responded, “Whatever you did, I’m sure it’ll be resolved,” and she hung up. That was when I realized I really needed to look out for myself, and maybe being alone was the best option for me.

Shortly after the call, I hysterically cried, and I felt everything at once. That day forward, all the pain left, and I felt new. I assumed the barriers I built had finally crumbled. I had to love myself first before I spoke for myself.

I took all my doubts into consideration and found my silver lining. Within all this pain, all the joy, and all the frustrations, I still rose. Even though I felt what seemed to be disconnection, I still rose.

So when I ask, “How well do you know yourself,” would you be able to tell me your story? Would you be able to say, even though the world beat me down, I built myself back up. Could you believe within your journey of self-love you grew?

My story is a beautiful hum that I mumble every day. And as I reflect, I look back on this journey, which seems like a lifetime. It gave me the opportunity to tell others – choose life.

Choose life yourself, and choose it only for you, and don’t be swayed by the ways of the world. If you stumble, pick yourself up, because lying there will make you weak and limp.

When you decide to rise, remember to feel everything you did while you lied there. What you feel will manifest itself negatively or positively. Accept the whole process as is, because I promise it will be worth it.

No one ever knew. I’ve noticed so many extraordinary traumas of growth. Trauma brings about change, a shift. We grow to change. It’s what makes you, you.

I started thinking, “Do I remember the old me? Do I remember what happy felt like before I ever knew discouragement? But mostly, do they remember me?

I began to fall into an abyss of thought, and I wondered who I was in the past. I couldn’t recall.


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