Hiding Behind Portraits

By: Maena St. Paul // Instagram: @maenastpaul // Twitter: @maenasp

When it comes to my story, there’s an exhausting list of things I could say, like how I’m twenty-four going on ten some days and eighty on others. Or that I’m a preschool teacher living in South Florida, the hottest place on earth. Or maybe that I’ve been writing since I was eleven years old and never learned how to stop.

But the only thing that seems to permeate all the rest is how honesty seems to be this consistent theme in all my seasons.

Because when I was in middle and high school, I spent so much of my time behind portraits I painted for myself. 

Stories I pretended to be true. The kind of life I wished my name would attach itself to.

But all I really knew was how tired I was. Tired of lying. Tired of reaching for something that didn't belong to me. Tired of thinking my worth was in toxic people and places that called themselves “home". 

It drove me into this uncomfortable space of depression. And the hard thing about depression is that whenever it’s not too heavy to keep you in bed, the only energy you know is to find something to numb it. But some of those things, they only serve one real purpose and that’s to break you, which is exactly what they did to me.

However, there was only so much heaviness I could hold. 

So after graduation, I packed my bags and spent a year in New York. I figured if my body could ever move, so could everything else. And it did, straight into the arms of grace and a new chance.

I met people who weren't afraid of being honest or listening to my story. They loved me despite all my bumps and bruises. And from that point on, I swore myself to stay bare. Because there’s something empowering about accepting how fast my words get when I’m excited or how I need therapy for my anxiety or the scar on my forehead from my third grade bravery.

When I started admitting the reality of who I was and all my struggles, I realized how much farther my feet could move. 

I just needed to be willing.

I just needed to choose myself first instead of trying to be a worn out costume of someone I didn't know. 

Because it's not about changing who you are.

It's about becoming a better version of yourself. Because that's what we’re worth: better.

A better life. Better relationships. Better love.

It took me awhile to learn that who I am as a person isn't determined by the way he looks at me or what they say about me when I’m not listening. But instead, who I decide I am going to be. That my identity is found in something so much bigger than myself: a God who really has crossed heaven and earth just to know me.

That's why I love movements like So Worth Loving: because they understand that every single person walks with purpose and power. And not a single flaw or struggle disqualifies them from living.

We don't have to survive our life. We have every right to live out loud. And I am better for knowing that truth. My hope is for other people to know that too, so that we can remind each other.

So that we can live in the kind of community that builds each other up. The kind of community that believes heavily in this romance comedy of a human being who found out that all the mistakes and faults were just bricks waiting to be a road.

And it’s okay to need each other. We were never meant to be alone in the first place.

But if we’re going to admit that we need each other, we need to strip ourselves of every false piece of skin and let our scars breathe a bit.

Because if they speak of anything at all, I like to believe they have some powerful stories to tell.