"Wayfaring" Fine Art Photography by Jen Kiaba.Click to purchase a Limited Edition Print. "I've lost my Mother Tongue," I once told a friend.
I had left behind a religion, yes. But on so many levels I felt as though I had left behind an entire identity.
"It's not so much that I rejected my faith," I said. "I've rejected my entire language around how to see and value myself. It's as though I've lost my roots, my ethnicity - everything."
There was no pre-cult identity for me to return to, no former life to step back into. It was all wilderness.
For a long time I put my head down and began working off of the blueprint that I saw in this new world around me: I got a job, I got an apartment, I bought a car and put myself through college.
I got new jobs, new apartments and new cars.
But I was afraid, and so inside I kept running and stayed hidden from myself and others.
Growing up, I had been taught that the world outside of our own was bleak and fraught with danger.
But as an adult fear was still my master. It told me that if I didn't keep running then the emotional wilderness would consume me.
So one day I finally let it.
I tried stillness and sitting with my fear and with my loneliness. I observed them, acknowledged them and even began to respect them.
Then we broke each other open and I cried.
There were months that I cried everyday. I would wake up crying, and cry myself to sleep. I mourned the loss of family, of identity, and of God.
It caused me to see myself, maybe for the first time. It wasn't love at first sight, but it was gradual, loving acceptance..
No matter our background, someday we may suddenly find ourselves faced with an emotional wilderness to traverse and a need to rebuild ourselves from our very foundation.
It can hurt like hell, but I've begun to see a beauty in that wilderness.
I met myself in that place, and while I am not one to encourage others into the bleakness before they are ready, I want you to know that you can survive.