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Sunday, December 10, 2023

What lies below the concrete surface by Hanalei Swan


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Sometimes, I forget how it all began. I think back to the moment when I could feel the wind flowing through my hair, and all I could hear was laughter in the air. Beams of sun danced on my skin as I danced with my feet in the sea, completely carefree. Sand scattered across my face like a painting from the ocean. I found my heart buried in the sand; on the beach, I was fully me, like raw light, undisturbed by the pressures of life. I never thought anything would change, this infinite love for the world around me and for myself.

Now, I often forget that little kid is still inside of me.

As you grow up, you realize the world is growing faster than you. Things that once seemed small when you were young suddenly become skyscrapers looming over you. The pressure from the sky pushes down on you like bricks, becoming heavier and heavier the longer time ticks. . When I finally opened my eyes and looked up to the sky, I realized how small I actually was.

One of the first times I felt small was under stage lights. The moment my breath became short, and my voice became grand, bouncing off the walls and into the crowd of hundreds of people all waiting to hear what I had planned. Illuminated underneath a microscope, the pressure set in.  I could only wonder if I was doing enough for these people to be proud of me. I could only imagine what they thought of me. Who is this girl barely thirteen, telling me what to think? Look at the way she walks, look at the way she talks. I bet she can’t even come up with a coherent thought. I could only imagine what they thought of me.

As my years passed, these towns populated by the problems within my mind grew into cities. If you ever want to feel small, go to a city. While you’re there, walking down the neverending streets, you’ll wonder if you really matter in the grand scheme of things. If you were to leave this place would that change a thing or would life continue on never to  rememberyour name? It probably would never remember my name. These thoughts corrupted my brain. Will I ever be enough? do enough? feel enough? Enough. Enough. Enough. Shame settled all over me like the dust from a construction site, making its home in the cracks and creases of my skin as these skyscrapers of worry continued to rise from my mind. Each floor built with self-doubt and missed opportunities, overshadowing the vibrant landscape of my younger self, turning my aspirations into mere foundations for what could have been. I could no longer stand the person I was within.

I need a disclaimer plastered on my body for anyone who may dare talk to me, telling them not to worry because I hated myself as much as they probably hated me. I’ll tell them all the lies they thought about me are probably true, and I’ll wear their lies with pride because I have begun to believe they are real. You don’t know how desperately I want to change the person I am within and swap into someone else’s skin. It’s easy to fall into this trap of losing yourself when you believe the whole world wants you to be someone else.

I forget that little kid who found light in the darkest of places and painted with the ever-changing hues of the sunset is still within me, buried underneath towers and the concrete rubble of lies I told myself, saying I would never be enough, like a bird in a cage trapped without a key, waiting to be let free. She is still there, but over time her voice has become bare as I have learned to ignore the tendency to listen, to put my ear up to the door of the cage. I had begun to silence the want to be free. 

 Like a solitary star fading into twilight, Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to grasp that fading light before it slipped beyond the horizon, where memories and possibilities intertwine like constellations in the night sky. 

If I could, I would look that little girl in the eye and show her all the things she could never see, help her remember all the lessons she lost, lift her up, and show her that the sky isn’t so scary.

 I’d tell her to never be afraid to cry. Let the tears that pour from your eyes soak into your skin and release the emotions you’ve held within.

 I’d tell her to release the pressure. You place bricks of worry on top of your body, building your towers taller and taller, crushing you smaller and smaller until you feel like nobody.

 I’d reassure her that you are somebody. And no matter the pressure you may feel from the world around you, you still matter.

 You are here not to die, not to just stay alive, but to truly live. Promise me that you will truly live.

If I could see my younger self again, I would sit her down and tell her I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all the time I spent thinking I wasn’t good enough. 

I’m sorry for all the hopeless nights dwelling over the things I could never do right. 

I am sorry for pushing you to the side and leaving you to dry, like a flower starved of light. I watched you slowly begin to wilt away, and I never did anything about it because I found comfort in the falling of your petals and my newfound solitude. But as the seasons changed, your petals still did not bloom, and I realized how empty I was without you. Because you were the light in my eyes that always managed to find the simple beauties held within life. Watching the delicate beams of sunlight filtering through tree leaves. The feeling of sand slipping through your hands. The ways the dust dances under the light, like glitter thrown into the sky. No matter how faint, I can still see through your eyes. I would remind you that the stars in the sky are not as far as they seem, these buildings around you are so much smaller than you believe them to be. You are so much bigger than you know. Let your roots grow through the concrete, in between the little cracks of the streets, and deep into the soil beneath you. Watch as those cities begin to dissipate as your roots spread, and the love for yourself begins to regrow again.

 Those buildings with bricks made of the worries you gave yourself and the problems you’ve collected that you’ve held on to so dearly are not structurally sound, remember who you really are and knock those buildings down.

Hanalei Swan
Hanalei Swan
Hanalei Swan has been traveling the world since she was born. Together with her parents @rhondaswan and @unstoppablesurfer, they became the first digital nomad family. She has spoken on stages in Australia, Hong Kong, India, London, USA - Las Vegas & Orlando, and in Indonesia. She also released her book “How To Be & Raise An UNSTOPPABLE Kid” in January 2019. She started her first company at the age of 11, and quickly turned $20 she bored from her parents to start her business into a 6 figure company.


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