“It’s still really hard. I’m still trying to break away from what I grew up with. And maybe the truth I grew up with isn’t true, but something always brings me back to it. Something always tells me that it is true, but I just don’t like it. I mean, I love the whole idea of Jesus—I think He’s the best. He hung out with prostitute and thieves, he was always so accepting. He knew he was going to die before he came, but he did it anyway because he loves us; like that’s crazy.
“And I love the idea of the Holy Spirit because that’s the connection, that’s where you find the goodness in the world. But God the Father is where I have problems. I know he’s loving and I know he loves me, but there’s always this part of me that feels like I’m not good enough and that he doesn’t love me. I mean how could he? I’ve done all kinds of things. How do I know? I don’t fully devote myself to him, so where do I stand? It’s on my mind all the time, I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about it. I pray a lot but… It’s this battle that I know that God loves me, but what is the truth? I’m terrified of Hell. God is what gets me through my life, if I’m living it in some kind of world without him… I just can’t. It’s just so confusing because the Bible is so confusing. There are so many parts that I cannot understand fully. I know there’s a God. I don’t know if it’s the same one in the Bible, but I know there’s a God. I know he created the world and I know he created me. And there’s a part of me that knows he loves me unconditionally. It’s just very difficult and complicated.
“This tattoo I got last September. It’s a bear with two flowers and says ‘Overcomer.’ I had been thinking about that tattoo for awhile. My therapist, who is one of the closest people in my life, was with me in my journey from when I just wanted to die and thought I couldn’t heal and nothing could change. Then over those ten months, she saw me go from that point to beginning to love myself, to being clean from self-harm and wanting to do better things for myself. She saw my personality open up: I looked like I actually had light in me. She showed me this cheesy song called Overcomer. It’s a Christian song, but she said she thinks about me when she hears it. She started calling me an overcomer. That meant a whole lot to me.”
“The bear has a spiritual meaning of a time for healing and using your own healing to help others. It means strength and confidence. So all of that just summed up my time at Elevations: learning to be confident in myself and knowing I can change and that I can do good things. I learned how to have strength to get through really, really tough times, like working through trauma,” Holland laughed a little, shaking her head. “I broke a tree one day at Elevations. I ran outside screaming and jump kicked a tree and broke it to shreds. It was crazy.
“Elevations taught me to have the strength of being able to get through all that intense emotion without doing something harmful to myself. While I was there, I moved up to the highest level possible in their level system. It’s called Positive Peer Mentor. It’s so rare, but they gave it to me. I would go to all the different teams and mentor them. It was a really cool opportunity, and I was able to use my experiences to help others. So that’s what the bear is for. And then I have just always wanted flowers so that’s why those are there.
“This is my most recent tattoo, it’s the moon. I got the moon firstly because I’m a Cancer, so I’m a moon child anyway. But I’m not super into Zodiac. But like I said earlier, I’m really into nature and feel connected to it. At Elevations, we were able to do activities off campus once a week so we would go camping every now and then. Whenever we went camping, I would always ask to sleep outside of the tent, even though there were bugs, because the sky had millions of stars and the moon. I remember I would cry every night because I felt so connected to my higher power, who I call God. Especially during those nights, I felt unconditionally loved and knew that I had a purpose. I felt so small but so significant.”
“I love how everyone around the world has the same moon. I was reminded that I’m also Creation so I’m like art, I’m as beautiful as the moon. I have a light inside of me, but it may not be a huge, beaming light like the sun. I have the dark side of the moon too. My story has the darkness, but it also has the light. When I see the moon, I am reminded that these are the moments I want to stay in lightness instead of darkness. I am reminded that I want to bask in the magnificence of the universe and it’s glory and experience love and life and hope and courage despite the evil and destruction we all battle against. I want fighting instead of giving up. I want feeling and passion and sensitivity and empathy. I want life. I know it’s kind of weird to get all of that meaning from just a moon, but those moments in Utah and even now when I go outside and see the moon, I feel peace,” Holland laughed. “I’m a pretty deep and cheesy person so I can find meaning out of anything.”
Thanks to Holland Gurley for sharing.
Thanks to Andrew Nelson for photographing.