I came to FMA not knowing how fast things were going to change around me. There was such a mixture and vibration in every student that came; it seemed to me that everything each of saw as normal was not exactly normal to the others. We all came from different states, but that was irrelevant. We were here now, and we had only each other.
When we arrived, the staff took most of our clothing, which I later realized was to help strip away the labels the outside world had given to us and those we had given to ourselves. I knew coming here was going to be eventful and interesting, but I did not realize how quickly our artificial barrier would be stripped away leaving us vulnerable to the truth about ourselves and the pain we had gone through or might have caused. There were moments when I struggled as the seams of the fabric behind which I had hidden for so long were stretched and finally torn apart.
All of the others here came for different reasons than my own, and, because they are minors cannot leave this place. I can. Many times they have asked me why I came, but I knew they would not understand if I told them. How could they, if they were not free?
The first few weeks most of us held back, rigid, and unsure how to present ourselves. Most of the first few months, everyone tried to mold themselves into roles they would try to play; a convincing role that was not real. It didn’t work. Some would try randomly coming up with traumatic events that were partly told truthfully, while others stayed reserved, quiet, not wanting attention, and still even more of us did not share our pasts at all. I know that I was afraid of what would happen – it didn’t make sense, but we were a group of strangers put into unusual circumstances that we didn’t know how to handle at first.
We see each other for sixteen hours a day and in a “community” this small, very few secrets can be kept within these walls. If you weren’t careful what you revealed, your whole life’s events and stories would be passed from person to person within the first few weeks.
Change comes rapidly around here; I know that each day is different from the last one.
While many won’t yet admit it, we have begun to see how vulnerable and helpless some of us are. When we are first born, and when we are old, we are totally dependant upon those around us. The secret is that between being born and being old, we have our greatest independence, and it is in between, where we are now, that we need love and assurance in order to persevere and become a truly free person.