This year has offered me something invaluable: alone time.
I have always shied away from it in fear of loneliness or that it would mean something negative to not have hundreds of friends and an overly active social life.
Since my early childhood I have had to make do with friends that unknowingly made me shut down parts of myself in order to fit in. I have subconsciously fabricated parts of my personality to hide my true self that was criticized, teased and bullied as an adolescent.
Over the last two years I have mourned the loss of friends only to realize that we were never really friends to begin with. They did not encourage me to be my raw self and I had to constantly impress them or strive to fit into their molds.
Through this journey I have met real people who encourage me to be my flawed but true self and I have showered them with love and acceptance.
Quality over quantity.
I woke up this morning feeling a genuine shift to being my vulnerable, authentic self again. I am slowly shedding the layers of an anxiety filled creation of who I thought I was supposed to be; constantly straining to keep up with what I perceived society needed me to be in order to fit in; and searching for acceptance in all the wrong places.
I am Maria Magdalena van Wyk and I will never fit in.
I adore my name, even when four out of five people laugh at it. It is a name I share with my grandmother and two beloved cousins. That is who I am and I am proud in spite of all the criticism, teasing, mispronunciation and negativity. We are strong, emotional and fierce females.
And you will not change us.
I am the preacher's daughter. The comments, teasing and misconceptions have lost their power over me. My father studied for fifteen years and gave up a career in medicine to pursue a life of service to God. We grew up with love as our currency and learnt to deal with the stress of living an inexpensive but authentic life.
My parents might not have millions, but that is not where their priorities lie. I can finally say that I respect and admire that immensely. I grew up working hard to make my own money through odd jobs that prepared me for the real world. Not having a security blanket to fall back on pushes you to forge a successful career path of your own. Their love and support is priceless.
This journey will be flawed, but it is my truth.
Words by Maria Magdalena Atelier
Photography by Love Made Visible
Clothing by Jane Sews