just a girl.

There are events in life we experience that have the potential to change the way we live. My grandma’s funeral was one of those for me.

I remember waking up the morning of the memorial in a ball of grief and anxiety. Knowing my grandma was truly gone and the fear of seeing my adoptive parents’ at the service had me feeling like a mess. I had an estranged relationship with my adoptive parents and I hadn’t seen either of them in many years.

My cousin rushed up to me as soon as I walked into the church. “Your mom isn’t here but your dad is,” she whispered. A wave of relief washed over me because I knew my dad was much less likely to stir up disruption compared to my mom.

We gathered downstairs for a luncheon after the service surrounded by the musty smell of a church basement mixing with the aroma of funeral food. My cousins and I sat around a table reminiscing on our childhoods at grandma’s house, trying to bring some joy to an otherwise sad day. The nostalgia mixed with grief made for a feeling of unexplainable closeness to them and it helped settle the wave of emotions we were all feeling.

In a pause of conversation, I looked up and saw my dad walking towards the table.

My heart began to race as the anxiety swelled up inside me. He asked to speak with me, and although a little caught off guard, I agreed and followed him to a corner of the room.

He began the conversation, “If you want to have a relationship with your mother and I, you need to go to counseling.”

I was shocked that he started the conversation in such an accusatory tone. I tried to explain to him that I was in therapy and I did not need to go to their approved therapist at that age of 27 years old. We continued to go back and forth, a game of me trying to justify becoming a healthy adult and him attempting to convince me I was the reason our family was dysfunctional.

But what stood out to me the most was he kept calling me girl. Not my name. Girl.

Just a girl.

It felt to me as if my name was too hard to remember, like it wasn’t worth saying. It felt like me, his daughter, was nothing more to him than a girl.

“Brooke,” I said, “my name is Brooke. I am your only other daughter.”

As those words left my mouth, I felt a shift within me.

I realized that I was doing nothing wrong. I realized my parents no longer had the right to take up space in my mind to make me afraid; they didn’t possess that power any longer.

I realized I was more than just a girl.

It’s easy to define ourselves by what others think of us, but it can change us into someone that is not who we truly are. Instead of letting someone’s words identify who you are, keep reminding yourself that you are more than that. You are unique and you have a voice that’s worth being heard. That you are you.

That you are more than just a girl.

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