Here we are twenty years later, and it’s now me on the other side of the wall, feeling something I never expected to feel, while simultaneously realizing how hurtful it was going to be to others, just to be myself.

My arms were folded and a familiar heat flushed through my body. All of me felt red, fooled, trapped, and angry. “Control your inner experience,” I thought. Instead, I began looking around nervously, rocking back and forth. “Turn off your emotions,” I thought. Soon I was still, but I’d stopped breathing. Always I stop breathing.

They left. I began writing, and it calmed me. It was at that moment that I realized it. Writing calms me. It’s not an epiphany for anyone really, except it was for me that day.

Dad said he was taking me to meet my sister. He pulled in front of her house and knocked at the door. Someone answered, and a few minutes later, he returned and sat in the driver’s seat.

He looked at me and said, “She doesn’t want to meet you,” and with that put his key in the ignition. It seemed to me the statement should have come with a warning.

“Oh. That’s okay,” I replied as he pulled away. I looked back once more, knowing I would never return or attempt to meet her on my own, while also wondering what a sister would have felt like.

Then twenty years later, a different set of people stood near my door and said, “Come out, greet us and behold our growing family.”

I refused, not because I didn’t want to, but because I knew this set of people, and where they wanted the greeting to go. It was a destination absent peace, and I refused to pretend we would journey there together when already I’d arrived, and only because I changed direction in the first place.

Although the circumstances were different, I imagine the sense of rejection was the same. It was a moment that came to remind me how closely related our actions sometimes appear to emanate from one place, yet may originate from another position entirely. It was a moment to remind me why we should not have regrets for our actions. Everything we do and don’t do, at some point serves us while often also serving others.

Still, I’m also aware that I may one day look back and decide I could have responded more compassionately. However, at that moment, it was necessary for me to maintain compassion for myself first, to respond in a way that would not sway me from the path. No longer will I smile, kiss cheeks and shake hands without adhering to the wisdom of knowing that in the future, those same hands might strike my lips without provocation or apology. We can only turn our cheeks so many times before the redness changes us.

Let’s raise our sails to self-directed change, to navigate our lives in blessed waters and expectant to meet soft lips filled with genuine kindness to greet our own.