my friend says, laughing and pulling me into a hug. I smile. I nod. I accept the hug and squeeze her back. I take a sip of my drink and look out the window at the California sunset, barely visible behind the evening clouds. I try not to think about what she said, about how she’s right, and yet when those words leave her lips they still sound more like an insult than compliment, even when I know they’re true.
For the longest time, I lived my life biting my tongue. I was the girl who wrote, who loved poems, who had a diary, and journals, and stuffed animals, and a million and one reasons to be made fun of in middle school. I was the girl who always had her nose in a book and her feelings on the page, the girl who was teased relentlessly because she cared too much.
And so I grew up being scared of the sound of my own voice. I didn’t want people to read my writing because I didn’t want to be laughed at. I didn’t want to be weird for loving, for my deep thoughts, for having a soft heart and sharing that softness with the people around me.
So I didn’t.
And I convinced myself that sensitivity was something to be ashamed of, that having a big heart made me weak, rather than strong.
Those were the words the seventh grade bully said to me when the teacher made her give me back my diary after reading one of the poems aloud to her group of friends and laughing. The tears were rolling my face and I wished I could make them stop. I wished I could be tougher, stronger, care less.
I didn’t know that years later, she’d follow my writing page, comment, “Wow, I love this,” and tag those same friends.
Those were the words my ex-boyfriend said to me when we were fighting at his kitchen table. I thought he was trying to protect me, make me tougher, make us a stronger couple.
Later, I’d look back and realize this simple truth—if someone truly loves you, they’ll understand the complexities of who you are and accept them, even if they don’t agree or live that way.
Those were the words I grew up hating, the words I dreaded, the words that always came as a jab, as if there was something wrong with me and my heart. But now they are the words I wear proudly, the words that I celebrate, the words I own as my identity.
I am sensitive.
And I am proud of that.
I am proud of the way I write, the way my emotions find their way on the page. I am proud of the way I’m not afraid to be vulnerable in a world that’s scared.
I am proud of the way I care—about family, about strangers, about friends. I am proud of the way I don’t give up on love, even when it doesn’t come easy, even in a world that’s so damn temporary.
I am proud of the way my heart keeps beating, keeps believing, keeps fighting. I am proud of who I am.
I am proud of the way I care about things that seemingly don’t always matter, like writing handmade birthday cards, like calling people just because, like stopping to see if a person’s okay even if you don’t know them personally, like throwing away other people’s trash when they leave it outside, like little things.
I am proud of the way I’ve learned to love the skin I’m in, to accept that I might cry, might take things personally, might overreact or read into situations that I shouldn’t, just because I want to make sure everyone’s happy.
I’m proud of the way that I no longer let people make me feel as if I have to apologize for the way my heart beats, for the way I see the world.
I am proud of the way I’ve learned to accept and love myself in the way I’ve always been so comfortable accepting and loving of everyone around me.
I am proud of being sensitive.
Of finally owning who I’ve been, who I am.