As my twentieth birthday approaches, I decided to compile a list of things I wish I would have realized earlier in my life.
- It is okay to falter. It is okay to stumble, to fall. It is okay to have moments of weakness and shame. It is okay to feel so weary that you think you’ll never feel the same again. What is not okay is giving up. You must stand back up, keep going. The world is cruel and unkind and it will leave you feeling broken and unworthy. That is bullshit.
- Listen to the music that you used to get made fun of for. Whether it’s Lady Gaga or My Chemical Romance, who cares if it’s embarrassing? These things make me happy. Life is too short to only listen to what people think is “cool.” I spent a very long time hiding how much I liked David Bowie and show tunes. I do not care anymore if anybody thinks that’s cool or even if I’m cool. I enjoy the music that I enjoy and that’s that.
- It’s okay to splurge once in a while. The $1 apple juice can’t compete with the $3 apple juice. Saving up spare change for a week and a half is worth it. It’s worth it to save a few dollars here and there after paying rent and buying groceries to buy that makeup you’ve been wanting. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself every now and again, whether it be to apple juice or cleaning supplies.
- Times will be hard. Times will be excruciating and show you what you’re made of. The only way through Hell is to keep going, no shortcuts. I have been put in very many situations where I have folded, where I have retreated and cried and not stood up for myself. It took over nineteen years for me to realize my worth, and I learned it walking all by myself the long way through Hell.
- Being in love just might be the best feeling. Love is wanting more than anything in the world to see the person who makes your heart soar succeed. Nothing is ever perfect, fights happen, but most things are fixable. At the end of the day, it’s all about coming home to someone who makes all of the bad things disappear.
- I miss my dad. I’ve spent almost my whole life resenting my parents. It took moving out and a three-day hospital stay on my father’s part to make me realize how much I admire him. When I was little, he was the one who always made me dinner, who checked my homework, who made sure I had anything I could ever need. We barely see eye to eye on anything, but he was the one who almost single-handedly raised me. I owe my dad everything, my work ethic, my sense of humor, my love for movies. I can remember watching Star Wars with my dad when I was young, they are some of my best memories. After his hospital stay, I made a promise to him that I would stop at nothing to be cast in a Star Wars film. I wanted him to know that this would all be worth it someday, a small repayment for everything he has done for me.
- Do not make yourself small. The world will try to walk all over you. Do not let them. I was born to be wildly and fiercely alive. No longer will I lower my voice and question if I am worthy. I am beyond worthy of respect and love. No longer will I sit idly by while the world makes choices for me, I am the sole owner of my life.
- Money is not a replacement for a personality. It is excruciatingly hard for me to remember sometimes that not everybody was raised the same as me. I was raised by parents who could stretch $20 and make it last more than two weeks in some cases. Being raised poor is not fun. What it does is make you cherish every last thing that you own. Every thing of value that I own, I bought by saving up whatever I could, whenever I could. Everything I have has worth to me. It is extremely jarring to me how people just go out and spend money on seemingly extraneous things, like smart televisions and hamburger. Even now, Campbell’s tomato soup is big spending to me. Up until this point, the people I’ve met with fat disposable incomes seem to think that their net worth is more important than a personality. I can guarantee that these people would not be where they are today without Mommy and Daddy’s money, money that can’t buy friends, time, or love.
- Life is worth it. I’m not gonna say that life is beautiful, because it can be downright degrading and disgusting. Life is about finding something you’re passionate about and sticking with it, almost obsessing over it. Life is nothing if you don’t have goals. Nothing feels better than being successful at something you really love. That makes life worth living. The voices in the back of your head, the doubt and the anxiety, they amount to nothing when you know your worth.
American Spirits and Old Spice. This scent makes up my world. I go to bed dreaming of this smell and I wake up yearning for it. I’m so enamored with the boy that this smell comes from. It does not matter that cigarette smoke from anybody else makes me choke and retreat to cleaner air. It does not matter that I disagree with smoking and the damage it causes. This combination of scents makes me feel like I am in a warm cocoon. I have stopped trying to get the boy that I love to stop smoking. He’ll do it in his own time and he is the only one that can come to that decision. I would stop for him in a second if I could.
Since I have come to know this boy and myself as I am today, I would not be the same without these scents. I catch a whiff of Old Spice and immediately, usually subconsciously, I am looking for him. His shirts that have that scent lingering around the collar still lull me to sleep on bad nights. The smell envelops me and takes me to a far away place where it is just me and him. I love him and I cannot be mad at him for smoking. The thought of him continuing smoking scares me but I know that one day he will stop. He is the only person I have ever made this exception for. He is so special. I wish he could see it like I do. I would spend all day looking into his sky blue eyes if I could.
That’s another thing about him. Those damned eyes. It took one look into those eyes when I was a sophomore and I have been his ever since. Those eyes are a magical blue. They can draw you in and you would never even realize it until you came back to reality. I see love and future in those eyes. I wonder what he sees when he looks into mine. I’m always trying to guess what he is thinking. He is always so stoic when it comes to emotions. When he has let me in, the moments have felt sacred. Religious. The connection we share is so much more than skin deep. It could be cosmic. It feels like true love. Maybe this love was destined from the second we spoke in a crowded high school cafeteria. All I know is that everything in my life had lined up for him to come back into my life when he did. Him and his Old Spice and cigarettes.
Watching him sleep, I am convinced everything will be alright in the end. I’m running on the fumes of sleep, but I am finally hopeful that things will be normal after a while. Last night, my dog Zeke was attacked by a copperhead snake. My family adopted Zeke when I was 11. He had been found as a stray that had been dumped on the side of the road. My family and I have never been entirely sure what his breed is, but he looks most like a German Shepherd/ Pit-bull mix.
Zeke is around 8 years old, so the outlook for him pulling through the snake attack wasn’t great. When I first saw him after the attack, my heart was again broken to pieces. The innocent look of fear I saw in his eyes has scarred me. Zeke has never done anything to anybody to warrant this kind of pain.
On our porch, Zeke sat with his puffy and swollen left paw, in the middle of a circle of his family. A cozy and warm bed was made for him but he would not lie in it. He saw how I was affected and never ceased trying to cheer me up. He was the one who had a life hanging in the balance, but he was worried about my own wellbeing. My dad let Zeke inside, acting with the sentiment, “The couch is where he slept when he came home as a puppy and if he has to die, it’ll be where he dies.”
Zeke limped in our house and uncertaintly jumped on the couch. He knew something was very wrong at this point, because my father has never been too friendly with him, let alone given him couch privileges. I sat next to my best friend and told him comforting words. He still would not lay down even though he was wounded and hurting from a pain I have never felt my whole life. He jumped from the couch and crawled into my father’s recliner. I followed him and let my sixty-pound boy sleep the night through on my legs. I did not move. I did not sleep. I wept for him and the pain he felt and did not understand. I kept vigil for my dog to make sure he was still breathing.
Miraculously, the swelling in his comically large paw began to subside. This morning, he was able to walk with only a slight limp outside to use the bathroom. Then he chased the cat. The snake who attacked Zeke wounded him physically, but did not harm his spirit. He has spent the better part of the day resting and regaining his strength. Last night I could have very well lost my best friend. I don’t know how he made it through the attack, but he did and I do not have to say goodbye to my best friend today.
I can remember the best week of my life vividly. I told my parents I was going to spend the week with a friend but I spent night after night with him. We lived off of Chik Fil A and going to the movies in Myrtle Beach. We watched Weekend at Bernie’s and made pizza rolls. I clogged up the toilet. I never laughed harder. I felt free and loved and I never wanted to forget how that felt. I cried after he dropped me off at home after that week. “Home,” which has never truly felt like home, was even more alien to me after that week.
I just want to go back to that. I sobbed and bawled at the thought of never feeling that freedom and love again. I still long for that lack of responsibility and amount of adventure. I’m afraid that I’ll never feel that again. I tried to remember every single emotion from every single minute but I’m starting to forget some parts. I just want that week back amidst everything that has happened recently. I want more than anything for our love to last through college.
He makes me so excited to wake up in the morning. A year and three months ago I didn’t feel like that. The bad feelings I tried to suppress for so long are here and I’m trying so hard to fight them. I’ve been thinking about that week. That innocent happiness seems so far away to me now. I want that back. I need that back. I felt amazing, he was and is still amazing. That week was straight from whatever heaven there might be. I wish there was a world with only me and him.
I always think of one day. One day in a future that I can hardly wait for. The future I dream of involves him and his goodness. Always him and his inherent goodness that I have fallen in love with over and over again everyday. Maybe one day that goodness will include a child of our own with a head of light brown hair just like his. I hope. I think about it often, mostly before I fall asleep. It is calming to dream of a reality where my pieces are whole and glued together and I can be made happy by the things that should make me happy in this life.
If I have done anything right, it has been him. Meeting him, kissing him, holding him, falling in love with him. He does not see me as disjointed pieces being held together by luck. I am whole and I am a force of nature to him. That fact empowers me on my worst days and makes me even stronger on my best. One day, I hope that the bond we share now becomes permanent and I can sleep next to the man who has helped me in ways that he does not even know every night. I love him and I want to marry him and everything I have never found myself deserving of. I want it with him. I do, I do, I do. Only with him, forever.
Sometimes I wonder if he knows if he is dating a broken girl. I only call myself broken because I am constantly losing pieces of myself and never truly finding them. The other day, I was content to let this despair consume me. I was ready to relinquish this suffering. I’ve never been more disgusted with myself than I was staring at myself in the vanity mirror of my mother’s room.
I have no right to feel this way.
I haven’t endured true conflict, but yet I was so ready to let go. Then I turned around, got ready, and left with him. Being with him feels so good, like I’ll never be lonely again. Then the good feelings turned to guilt and I poured my heart out and laid it in front of him.
I’ve never had somebody hold me so tightly that I felt I might be whole again, someday. He loves me. True, unfettered love not impacted by my past. I do not deserve this, but I will keep selfishly drinking from his cup until he figures out the fraud I am. I am just a sad and lonely girl at the heart of things, undeserving of his goodness, but I want it so bad. When he looks at me, I hide the pain inside of me as deep as I can so he doesn’t have to see it. If he knew how bad things really have been, I’m afraid that he would run very far away, despite the love I know he has for me.
Maybe if I let him in more, things would get better. Maybe.
I guess I haven’t been doing very good lately. Not for a while, now that I think about it. The worst thing about these feelings is how they can lay dormant for so long and come back with a vengeance. This all started when I began to remember. Maybe before then, because I always felt something was wrong but I didn’t know the name for it until I was much older.
People have always looked at me like I was a loser and a nobody and maybe I am a loser. I’m not here to argue that point, but what happened to me happens to more than nobody. I’ve only told two people about it in my life but recently I can’t stop thinking about it and reliving the instances from my childhood. I wish the memories would go away again. I don’t want to deal with this and I want to forget this happened to me. There is no beautifully cinematic way to deal with this, I know because I have the scars to prove it.
Some days, I am so proud of my supposed strength, but most other days I am reminded of my wounds opened to the air around me. This has led to so much badness in my life and I want him to know how much he messed me up. I was seven and I just wanted a loving surrogate family that didn’t stay up screaming at each other over financial problems until four in the morning. I guess I got that. I got that and more. But Jesus, do I wish I would have been strong enough to just stay home those nights.