Age 23, from I Am Yours

Age 23, a headshot taken soon after I had been raped.

Being an actress is a strange existence. We’re trained to speak beautifully, but only, the words assigned to us by others. Through it all we’re studied. Scrutinized. Photographed. Directed. Sculpted. Polished until shining. Dare we not shine or speak or behave precisely the way expected and desired, we are bidden adieu. Unfit for the coveted role.

“We’re going a different direction." "You’re just not what we’re looking for.”

I remember thinking of this while I was being raped. That’s part of what happens during trauma of any kind, a severed state of being called “dissociation”. Your mind detaches from your body to float somewhere near the ceiling, hugging a far corner of the room. As your body becomes a vessel of pain, to protect herself from shattering, the mind watches from afar like a child, crouching, clutching her knees to her chest. While watching, she busies herself with thoughts obscure yet related.

“What will I be now?” was one such thought. “What role will I fit, as a woman, as a human? Will I carry this night on my skin, forevermore? Is trauma like a scent, registered and recognizable by anyone who comes near me? Am I now a statistic, or do I still get to be a singular person, with my own story? Is my name now ‘victim’?”

“Do I have any say in this, in who I’m now supposed to become?”

Then, as if answering, the small, still voice within spoke clearly: Only you author your life. This is but one page, one character. You design your name, trajectory, identity, evermore.

The evening came to an end. Another day arrived, followed by another. The years passed. More and more, I grew to realize that the phrase “Everything happens for a reason” is a half-finished sentiment.

I prefer: I assign my experiences their reasons. Things happen; we then supply their meaning.

The same goes for the roles we embody. We decide.

We are the authors of our lives. Through the pages of life, make sure to keep your name. Our name, role, identity, and story is not and will never be victim.

Our name is warrior.

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