I was never a Girl Guide or a Brownie, probably because I was too busy going to ballet class and piano lessons, but I loved their system of badges. You could get a badge for sewing, or first aid, or helping old ladies across the street for all I know and it was sewn on to the sleeve of your Girl Guide uniform. Enough badges and the entire shirt would disappear under a sea of knitting and basket weaving rewards.
I sometimes wish life were like the Girl Guides badge system. That we would be recognised for our ability to survive. Not badges for the fluffy observable things – well-mannered children, thin bodies, tidy homes, impressive careers – but for the wounds we have suffered through living this flawed existence called human life.
Sometimes, as I walk down the street I feel separate from the rest of the world. I am the other, the outsider because my pain has disconnected me from what I assume is normal existence. I have an advanced badge in abandonment, self-hatred, mental illness, relationship breakdowns and death. I am the poster child for tragedy and I don’t want to be.
So I feel alone, lost and condemned to constantly trying not to dwell on my sad story. I don’t want your pity, I don’t want your smug superiority or your gratitude that you’ve escaped a fate like mine.
I want the truth of the human condition. I want to know that you have had your heart torn from your chest and left bleeding on the floor. Tell me you are hurting as much as me. And that you know how to survive it.
And in the knowing, in the recognition of what real life feels like, we will both find solace in each other. We understand that by being alive we court death and destruction. That a life without pain is a life lived in a flat line, devoid of all feeling including joy.
I want to welcome the bad days and wallow in them knowing that I am not alone. I want to explore the depths of despair knowing that it will never break me because it heralds the arrival of bliss. Let us no longer sanitize the lives we create.
Let’s sew badges of despair and courage on our shirts until the entire shirt disappears.
Let’s look at our similar scars, say “fuck it” and plunge head-first into the next great big adventure knowing that inexplicable joy and unfathomable pain await and both are perfect.