As I sit here with a quarter cup of coffee left, delaying working on my master’s project (because editing is simultaneously the best and the worst part of the writing process), I think of why in my head, I look at this year like I’m taking a mental vacation, like I’m taking off from reality.
A lot of it had to do with the relationships I had: I was looking to the wrong people who had to remind me that what I wanted or didn’t have interest in was “okay” by their standards. I was pouring love and time and money into somebody who for as long as I have known him has only toyed with me as a flirt and “friend”. I let him see too many sides of me and while I can’t regret it, I learned that I need to finally cut ties with him in order to grow.
He’s one of many people I felt I needed to impress, wanted to be special to. As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing alluring about me: you basically see what you get and I wanted him to see something different, extra even. Yet, this took a bigger hit to my self-esteem than I realized at the time and I ended up shrinking into myself, becoming bitter and envious and utterly confused. I lost myself, what little I felt I had left.
And it’s funny because I felt like this time I knew who I was, even though in some ways I was recovering. I felt like I was a fully rooted person, I felt like I could bear everyone else’s burdens, but when it came down to it I repeatedly put myself in an environment where nobody knew who they were and if they did, I didn’t like that person.
I didn’t even like me.
In the weeks prior to Christmas I beat myself up a lot. I lost “friends”, I hated who I was, I felt alone and unwanted and messed with. I wondered why people said things and did things and then acted the complete opposite. (And to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever have closure for some of those questions.)
But then, one night when I was completely and utterly broken down, crying out to God and feeling so lost as what to ask for, it was a mix of voices that all hit me at once. It was looking at a long lost friend and admiring how he didn’t care what anyone thought of him. It was my best friend telling me to let go and forgive myself or else I couldn’t move forward. It was my sister telling me it’s okay to be lost, to not know. It was my manager telling me “let the right ones come to you”.
So, as I write this, as I air out the last weeks of what 2016 was to me, how dark and lonely a place I found myself in, I also found peace.
Peace in the fact there’s a plan for me, there’s people for me, there’s a life I know nothing about ahead. Peace in the fact that I am actually alone and don’t want anyone else for the first time in my life. The fact that I want to take care of myself, that I enjoy showering because I can put care into my body. That I can play with different make-up techniques, mess with colors and experiment. That I can take pictures and document even the stupid little things that excite me. That I have a wish list I can add and subtract from and save money toward.
That I’m reading for pleasure again, trying out new genres, visiting old friends.
That I’m trying to learn a new language, that I’m trying to go to bed early, do some kind of physical activity, and even learning how to do the simple things like cooking, cleaning, and laundry (chores I never really was forced to do but now want to).
I’m writing things I like, even if not posting, I’m writing more than poetry. I am editing this project and watching it become this new thing, watching how grief transforms one person entirely but that is just one way. Watching how there is still growth in it, hope in it. (Actually finding the first piece I ever wrote about this character and how much the vision has changed.)
And these are all little things, but they’re also all positive. They are little desires and dreams of mine, but they’re mine and I’m so proud of how far I’ve come, not just from where I was drained this summer but also from removing myself out of multiple toxic outlets and just taking time to figure out myself. To find joy in what I have, in what I do.
In short I’m learning to love who I am, even if she’s flawed, even if she’s not your typical beautiful. Even if everything that once mattered to her wasn’t really who she is but what facade she put out.
I’m finding joy again, I’m living in peace. I’m learning there is more inside of me that makes me who I am, like goodness and kindness and gentleness. I’m learning to be patient and to stand firm in my beliefs even if everyone around me is doing or saying differently. I’m learning how much my morals really matter to me. I’m learning that beauty really is only skin deep and that I need to be a woman of depth. Of unrelenting and unlimited faith.
I don’t know if anyone reads this or if anyone cares, but in the first ten days of the new year, I find myself liking this version of me. I’m reminded of who I was before I met half these people, before my club family, and “friends” and boys. And I’m seeing her again, grown up, knowing she’s enough, choosing joy and using her time wisely.