I’ve put my body through a lot. From indulgent nights out in college to extra-punishing workouts and all of childhood’s attendant adventures, it’s been through the ringer. And I have a road map of scars to show for it. 

My early years were rough — there’s just no way around it. Like any child, I climbed too high, ran too fast, fell too hard. And almost every story has a mark attached. There’s one from when I tumbled out of the apple tree in my family’s backyard at age six. Another came from sailing over the handlebars of my bike on Mackinac Island when I was 12.

There was the time at my grandparents’ house in Florida that I thought it would be a good idea to chase my big brother around their pool. Inevitably, said chase left me with a nasty gash on my forehead, and a new-found appreciation of pool physics.

That slight sliver on my ankle in the shape of a comma? One of the first casualties of my womanhood. I was a shaky-handed sixth grader who thought shaving my legs would make me feel older and more mature, because the cool girls in my class were already doing it. The razor slipped, the blood gushed out of the wound and I was left rummaging around my bathroom for a bandage to stop the bleeding, terrified that growing up always meant that blood, sweat and tears would be involved.

Then there were the scars earned though no clumsiness or carelessness on my part.

Three weeks before I was to graduate from high school, a drunk driver in a red Jeep Wrangler careened into my lane during a downpour. Still made up for my performance in the school’s musical that night, it took the Jaws of Life to extricate my broken body from my crumpled Dodge Neon. I had lacerations up and down my left hand and arm, but far worse, my right femur was in two pieces, prompting emergency surgery. An eight-inch incision was made into my right hip, a hole drilled into my bone and a titanium rod inserted. Another, smaller incision was drawn into my knee — the entry point for a pin to hold the rod in place.

Those wounds were deep and took months to heal. While the scar on my knee — a quarter-inch of slightly discolored skin — is hardly noticed, the scar on my hip is something entirely different.

Fibrous keloid tissue left the area bumpy and, if I’m being honest, a bit painful. It made (and still makes) wearing bikinis an issue and tends to pique people’s curiosity. That scar wants to be remembered — it wants me to ruminate on how I got it and why. Plain and simple, it was someone else’s stupidity, and now it’s written on my body.

I’ve recently added a new scar to the collection — one I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It sits on my abdomen, angry and pink, a long line from my navel to my pubic bone. No, it’s not from giving birth to a child, the only thing that emerged from my belly was cancer. It was a rare ovarian tumor that, mercifully, was contained to my right ovary and Fallopian tube.

There are surely more scars that I can’t see — from tissue biopsies, from heart break and disappointment and marks I’ve accumulated just by being alive. Like a map of my life, they unwind as a reminder of everything my body has been through.

But when I look at the various scars and markers that adorn myself, from the feathery lines along my left pinky finger that lead to knobby white keloids along the knuckles, or the still-healing gash across my stomach, stretched and shiny, I think of something else. Scars are a sign of healing — visual proof that I survived something trivial or horrific, small or ineffably vast.

Am I sorry for each of these markers of my past? Do I wish I could trade my scarred skin for newer, softer tissue?

Honestly? Yes. It would be nice to go bathing suit shopping without the reminder of two near-death experiences. But my body has proven it can overcome every instance that life has thrown at it. Instead of faulting my body for its imperfections, I thank it for continuing to heal and taking me along this road, scars and all.