* Written by Roco Price for YettiSays 8th Annual Self-Love Month | “Shedding Layers” Post Series
Dear Caged Bird,
I was twelve when you were adopted. Lying on my stomach, kicking shadows across the living room floor, I saw you in my homework, and I knew immediately that you saw me, too. Halfway through her poem “Caged Bird,” Maya Angelou presented me with a mirror:
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
I was that bird, full of the dull pain that emanates from long-term trauma. I’d believed in a freedom I’d never known, a freedom I’d only seen bouncing around in my annoyingly ebullient sister. That day on the floor, I had to take you on. I fully embodied you, zipping you up tight under my chin. No persona had ever hugged me closer, or understood and enhanced my dented damage like your fabric.
With you I expressed ugly truths so beautifully that those who knew my story wondered who taught me how to hope. I loved that. I loved feeling seen and validated for my trials. I loved feeling admired for a resilience that I hardly believed was in me. I loved feeling like the storm inside me mattered, like I could make many sweet somethings out of what felt like nothing. I felt powerful righting my undeserved wrongs with ribbon after ribbon of words.
With your help I put my freedom first. I had yet to learn that freedom had many faces. I had yet to discover all the ways in which I was not free.
Remember the friends we had to leave?… The wounds we had to reopen and redress? Remember banning the word “damaged” as a self-description? Or when we found self-assurance in the garage under a pile of long-overdue no’s. I’ll never forget that.
You have been my most loyal friend, my comfort and confidant. You helped me address and express. You led us to our people. You are the reason I write publicly today.
That’s why it’s so bittersweet to wake and find an open cage. To know that this is where I have to leave you, solidified in my memory for your service to our wellbeing. Like we said when we tossed relationships to the fire, “On this journey, all will be tested. Most will not last.” This includes my embodiment of you.
I promise, it’s not you, it’s me – the highest, and best version of me. I trust that you, in all your wisdom, will understand. While I don’t know who I am without you, I know that it’s time to find out. Freedom is here.
Pressed and preserved, I hang you in my chronicle’s closet, next to Superwoman Ro, Silent Sufferer Ro, Survival Mode Ro. Caged Bird Ro: This isn’t goodbye, it’s thank you. It’s see you at the end of the saga.
You will always be a version of me. Just not the only one.
Ro, Free Bird