This is a hard one to capture, it was more of a composite sense that emerged from conversations, rather than something that anyone specifically named as a personality trait. It also overlaps with other characteristics highlighted on earlier and later days.
On Day 1 we shared how Gaia was ‘unfiltered’ and I think this is very closely related. Discussing Gaia there was lots of mention of her lack of inhibitions, not in a sort of brazen or not caring kind of way, but in a deep inner sense of self being her guiding compass kind of way.
Listening to her family, I hear them describe someone who lived and loved 100% and by her actions encouraged others to do likewise. I’ll try to share some of what I was told to illustrate this point.
Gaia’s mum described how she was ‘always proactive to help and bring joy’ to people and later in our conversation she reflected on her ‘formidable and inspiring essence’. One recollection that stuck with me in the days that followed our conversation was this one:
‘Her love was so big for everyone… and she wasn’t afraid to act on it, she’d do things for people, for her friends and family’.
I want to be clear, these recollections aren’t some sort of sugary sweet characterisations of Gaia. I didn’t get the sense that her family are trying to paint her as this perfect young woman. They’re very down to earth and realistic. Kim acknowledged that there are some things a mother will never know about their children, but this aspect of Gaia’s personality was mentioned by everyone I spoke with.
Clara described Gaia as a ‘comfort and confidence giver’, she described times when she herself lacked confidence, often with regards to her appearance [I suspect anyone who was once a teenager will be able to relate] and Gaia would just hone in on any doubts and instantly seek to dismiss them.
Maya reflected on Gaia’s core confidence a lot, and her preparedness to just act, to say what she thought and do whatever she felt was right. This echoed her mum’s comments about Gaia not being afraid to act on her love for people. They described someone who was confident to her core, and the knock on impact of that confidence and sense of self was that it had the effect of relaxing others around her because of it.
Maya recalled a memory when she was having a sleepover. She had already explained that Gaia was into fashion, shoes, make-up, girly things, the sorts of things she wasn’t too bothered by. She had a couple of friends over and Gaia burst into her room:
‘She was good at making herself look nice, even though she didn’t have much, she was quite resourceful I guess… anyway we’re hanging out and she bursts into my room and asks ‘do you like my new wedges’ and she’s wearing these big wedges, but with a dressing gown. She was hysterical, but she just didn’t care… I mean she’d get anxious about things occasionally, but it always came down to ‘I don’t care’’.
Clara echoed many of Clara’s thoughts and recollections. She also commented on how striking Gaia’s confidence was when she was in a good place. She said:
‘When she was feeling herself she was feeling herself… she knew herself, she felt sexy and she had that confidence. I’ve never experienced it myself…. it was very rare to find somebody, or see somebody, so confident in themselves and their body.
It was only when she was having moments of vulnerability with people who knew and loved her, that you’d see any insecurity coming through’.
Clara and Maya both touched on some of the challenges Gaia faced after she was sexually assaulted, but I’m not going to discuss those here. Maya also spoke of Gaia’s epilepsy getting worse, her seizures getting bad and how that affected Gaia, and rocked her inner sense at times.
Maya looks pained as she describes the impact on Gaia, but then she recalled the following memory, which I’ll finish on:
‘On days when we could go out, we’d get glammed up together, dressed up like the bees knees and walk down the high street. You know we’d link arms, this will sound vain and silly, but people would stare at her, because she’s so gorgeous.
I was proud of that in a way, you know, that’s my sis. She was the beautiful one… Gaia was the stunner’.