This is the nine year old version of me. I remember being happy when this picture was taken. My hair was straight that day and I felt like a princess. For a minute I felt seen, even if it was through a camera lens. For a minute I felt worthy of attention, without having to do anything other than smile and be pretty. I was carrying so much on those tiny shoulders, secrets a child shouldn’t have to carry. I was often sad. I remember feeling guilty a lot, like things that were happening around me and to me, were my fault. I was never enough, and I was told so on a daily basis. I had no one to talk to, no one to share my secrets with, no one to help me. I was a child who thought it would be better if I was gone. I often thought of ways I could make that happen. If I could go back to that day, I’d tell that little girl that she matters. I’d tell her that her voice matters, her opinions matter, I’d hug her and tell her that she will be loved. One day she will be loved. I’d tell her it’s not her fault. Nothing that was said and done to her was her fault. I’d tell her she’s beautiful and smart and funny. I’d tell her to keep her head held high. The truth is, it’s easier to raise strong children than fix broken adults. Unfortunately I’ve had to fix myself. And I’m still doing so. I was powerless as a child. I had no control over anything and I was broken. But one day I will be fine. One day that little girl will be okay.