I don’t know what you envisioned your life to be like as you were growing up. Maybe you thought about a certain career you would choose. Maybe you dreamed about the children you would have. Maybe you hoped to follow in your family’s footsteps, or perhaps tried for the exact opposite. I don’t think I ever focused much on any of that for myself, but the one thing I always knew was that I wanted my life to be an adventure.
I imagined myself the princess dressed in armor, hiding her identity as she rode into battle. I imagined Lord-of-the-Rings-style treks across the globe, just to experience higher mountains and lower valleys than I had ever seen. I imagined grandeur, travel, love, battles, magic, horses, thunderstorms, castles…apparently, I just wanted to live in one of my YA medieval fiction stories. (Although, I would certainly have appreciated modern plumbing!)
What I didn’t imagine my adventures to include was a season of living with a bald scalp. (After all, that’s taking it a few steps farther than hacking off your hair with a sword to hide your identity!)
And yet, here I am, an entire year from the day I began sporting my G.I. Jane ‘do. There is no way for me to do justice to this adventure in one blog post, but I wanted to share just a few of the things that have impacted me most on this journey.
- Identity. I read an article about how women’s hair is vital to our identities because we mark different seasons of our lives through it and find comfort or freedom with a new style. For me, I learned how much I hid behind my hair. I was comfortable with it. Without it, I was really insecure; I still am as it’s growing out. I was sure my femininity was wrapped up in long hair and that without it there was no reason anyone would even know I was a girl. I started wearing make up–something that 27 years of life prior never called for. I finally realized how much I truly care about what other people think of me–and how much I dislike that I continue to care. I hope someday I’ll be able to exist without altering my actions because I first considered how other people would respond.
- Awareness. My daily life hasn’t changed much. When someone talks about human trafficking, my ears perk up and I listen more intently than I would have in the past, but my day goes on. I consider women walking alone at night more closely and wonder what their story might be–as I head to my safe, warm bed. I hear guys joking about strip clubs and wonder about the women working inside. But that’s it. When trafficking is less obvious (but no less prevalent!) in the U.S. than it is in other countries, it’s easy to look right past it and never even see. I’m definitely a product of our culture in that respect. I’ve learned how apathetic I can be when it’s not personal and it’s time for that to change.
- Humility. In many ways this experience humbled me greatly; I felt like I lost my identity, which was partially the point. I was scared to take such a risk and put myself out there for criticism. In other ways, I learned how much I lack humility. I received so much praise and encouraging feedback for standing out that I quickly elevated myself into some non-existent level of importance. I started to believe that people were encouraging me because I was something to be honored rather than the cause itself. I let the five minutes of social media fame distract me from what was really at stake and I’m ashamed. I got in my own way to make a difference, and I truly believe that’s why the campaign did not progress the way I had hoped.
- Failure. It’s really hard not to see this entire project as a failure. My goal was to raise $21,000; I only raised $1,620. Yes, that is still an accomplishment, and as a great friend pointed out, that is enough to fly a victim home, to care for them, to shelter them for a time, but it doesn’t take away the nagging feeling of inadequacy. There may be a touch of pride there, simply because I like to complete the goals I set for myself and I didn’t, but there is definitely a deeper side to it. I don’t know the exact cost to fully aide one victim through rehabilitation or how much it costs to prosecute a trafficker, but I do know that $1,620 is no where near enough to even break the surface of rescuing the 27 million people who are trapped in a daily hell all across the globe.
- Trust. We live in a world where it’s so easy to ask, “If God really exists, why does He let bad things happen to good people?” It’s a valid question, one that has uprooted faiths stronger than mine, but this season has given me a better understanding of God’s bigger picture. I don’t claim to know what He’s thinking or what the future holds, but I do see from a different perspective, one that shows me how large of an impact one person with a broken past can have. That doesn’t mean we should let injustice persist, rather it motivates me to fight harder for freedom so the victims have a chance to influence the world.
It’s been an incredible year; my life will never be the same. It’s still hard though, to see all the little pieces of lessons you’re learning along the way. Identity, awareness, humility, failure, trust. Sometimes you just find a pile of jumbled pieces and have to arrange them yourself to see the bigger picture.
It looks like what I really learned in this past year, and where I grew the most, was in my faith. There are a million little pieces that are coming together, I still haven’t found them all, but I can see the outline. The edging of the puzzle is done and now it’s just a matter of time before the next errant piece comes looking for a home.
Below is a sort of tribute to my experience. I hope you enjoy it.
To learn more about human trafficking, the A21 foundation, and A21’s plans for rescue and rehabilitation, go to A21.org.
To donate, click here.