Human Being


By Tracie Nichols

“At this point in my life I’ve done so many things wrong
I don’t know if I can do right”

~ Tracy Chapman

Sometimes I wonder if I should come with a warning label.

That’s what I was thinking as I was zooming through the darkness in my tiny orange car on a mom-taxi mission.

Tracy Chapman started it all. Her song, At This Point in My Life, kept saying what I was thinking, but not acknowledging I was thinking it.

The part where she gently warns that she’s had a hard life and she might lead us “down the path to ruin.” Hard life? Road to ruin? That whisked my attention away from headlights, stars and blue light bathed living room windows.

I felt her words burrowing into me until “snap!” the muscles in my chest gave way into a half-strangled, fear-releasing, sob.

Was telling my story doing more harm than good?

Did I need to protect people from my hard road? From the ugliness that is….me? I spent the next few minutes stopped at a traffic light sniffling and rummaging for tissues.

After decades of self-hating silence, I’d freed my voice. I named my truth and scraped away the clanking, rattling self-doubt chains from my worth by letting my words dance from my heart onto the page. I did this by sharing stories of how my life experience—specifically, with violence—has sculpted me and continues to shape me today.

When the song’s lyrics spotlighted my camouflaged fear of making people uncomfortable, I was left rocketing through the night, awash in my streaming tears and queasy. My clarity blundered into the swamp of self-doubt and foundered. I questioned what I had trusted. I questioned if it was real.

At this point in my life, another piece of the lyric eased in for the rescue:

“At this point in my life

I’d like to live as if only love mattered

As if redemption was in sight

As if the search to live honestly

Is all that anyone needs

No matter if you find it”

Yes. Telling my story was right and real.

It gave me the courage to be unabashedly myself. Believing the responses from people reading my writings was okay. They were finding some solidarity in our shared experiences, discovering insightful snippets and inspiration to bolster their own voices.

No one needed to be protected from my story.

I still think I might need a warning label, though. Maybe something like this?

** Warning! Real woman inside. Beware of honesty, genuine hugs and unfailing compassion. Watch for humor and a willingness to eat with gusto. Falling tears and rising courage ahead.**


Photo: (source)

Editor: Dana Gornall