Today, I am 28.

In this photo I was 4 years old on this day, I was happy. That smile in this picture was intentional and I can remember like it was yesterday. 

On March 19th, I turned 28 years old, so my childhood is a little fuzzy. But that day sticks with me. You know the way honey sticks to your fingers from what soft warm biscuit? Yea… like that. 

Today, I am 28 years old and I crave that feeling of an organic love and feeling safe more often than I’d like to admit. My only definition of pain at around that time in this picture was getting told no when I wanted McDonalds happy meal for dinner. That day I remember what it felt like to love and to be loved -with no conditions.

When you are 4 years old, I think that feeling having and needing protection from your mother and the village around you is expected in an innocent  way and you don’t have to do anything for it, it’s just pure love given. Being a kid I remember just being given love without any reciprocation . That day was the first time in my life I can recall that I felt hyper aware of myself and those around me. That day was the first time I remember smiling on purpose- not because I was told to for a picture or because I got that happy meal I whined about. But because I felt love. I felt like I knew this is what it’s supposed to feel like, to feel completely safe. 

Today, I am 28 years old and I catch myself mentally time traveling. When I do that, I take myself back to that day when I was 4 years old. when I sometimes forget what love, and happiness is to me truly.  My 4-year-old self and I take a mental walk in the garden and embrace that feeling. Remembering the spring air and how it smelled like dew and fresh-cut grass. The sun was kind to my melanin skin and made me glow in every angle. Memory is something we can all take for granted… our brain already can do a good job in letting the negative ones impact us without our consent so it’s the least we can get in my opinion. 

Today, I am 28 years old, and I am loved and allowed to be loved.

Ryan West
Gran Varones Fellow
Austin, Texas


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