So clearly now. -22

“I wonder what 21 will bring.”

21 was not what I was expecting. I feel like my year was hijacked by a breakup that I didn’t see coming. A year ago today, on my 21st birthday, I was happily in love and enjoying my (finally) stable and secure relationship. I had no idea that I was about to go through an incredibly difficult process, at the end of which I would lose the only man I had ever loved.

21 started with the end. It was like walking down a scary, steep, spiraling stairwell. With every step I took I lost a little bit more of myself, a little bit more of my sanity, but all I could do was keep walking. I dreadingly descended the steps towards the impending darkness.

Nothing really seemed to matter during the first half of 21, because I knew what was waiting for me at the end of that stairwell. I was petrified, and I refused to accept the inevitable. I went to sleep every night beside the man I knew I would one day, someday soon, have to say goodbye to. The thought of life without him was enough to send me into a panic so intense I would lose sensation in my limbs. I was so scared I literally couldn’t feel my own body.

The panic took over my life. It was all I could think about, all I could talk about, and by the end, I found myself crying hysterically every day. I cried in the shower, in my sleep, during lectures, at the gym, but still – I still couldn’t bring myself to do it. To make the hardest decision I had ever made in my life.

I was waiting for a moment of clarity. Maybe I was waiting the entire two years. I felt helpless, and I needed someone else to have the answer I was looking for. Every time I was with him, it felt like my heart was about to explode with love for him, just like always. Except that all of a sudden, that feeling tore me apart inside, because I could no longer deny that our love story was coming to a close. I saw the way it hurt him to see me like that, so lost and confused, and to be unable to say the only thing that would have consoled me – to promise me we would be together forever. I begged him for the answer I needed to find, and he didn’t have it.

Until one day in December, it happened. I found my clarity, presented to me in the form of the most inexplicable pain I have ever felt, pain I’m still trying to forget. When it happened, I relinquished myself to the truth embedded in it. I knew it was time.

Time to be brave.

~

I have survived one of the most emotionally complex years I’ve ever had, a year that threatened to break me. I think it did break me. With my heart shattered into a million pieces, I realized I was incapable of carrying all of the fragments by myself. Luckily, my loved ones were there, and each of them found a part of my hurting heart to keep safe for me. I had finals to get through, work to go to, and an ever-pained body to care for. I don’t know what I would have done without them. Gradually, I collected the pieces and put myself back together again.

The second half of 21 has been a journey, as much I detest that word. Even then, on that dreadfully sunny day, a tiny part of me spotted a silver lining. There is beauty in the unknown. And everything about the breakup was unknown to me. I had never experienced anything like it and I didn’t know what to expect. I breathed and embodied the mantra of “one day at a time”, because I literally had no clue what each new day would bring.

It felt like I had to learn everything from scratch. How to feel at home in an apartment filled with the ghosts of us. How to sleep alone every night. How to find comfort without him. Even how to cook the right amount of food for one person, as opposed to two. But most of all, I had to learn how to live in the present again. Leading up to the breakup, I was so focused on the future, and after it, I felt so immersed in the past. It’s been a relief to finally feel like I’m present in the moment. I can finally just be wherever I am.

This year forced me to come into my own. It forced me to reflect, to be my best self and to enter a new phase of life. A phase of searching. I’m trying new things, going out of my comfort zone, and finding myself in so many situations that are so different from what I’m used to. I’ve suffered from the nerves that come hand-in-hand with searching, but I’ve loved the thrill of it all. Even the awkward moments that I hated, I still loved because they were new. They were something I wouldn’t have experienced if things hadn’t gone the way they had, and they’re evidence that I’m finding my way.

I’ve been walking up that spiraling stairwell and discovering it looks different than it did on the way down.

It’s been a battle. All of it. Every aspect of this year required me to find endless strength and determination just to make it through, just to make whatever I needed to happen happen. To give myself my best shot. But I’ve done it, and I’ve done it on my own. I’ve done it gracefully.

I invested my heart and soul into my university studies this semester, making the absolute most out of every lesson, every day. Not letting a moment pass me by, because I know it’s fleeting. I took 9 courses (and a DJ class), and I had a Lunch Club on Tuesdays. I had classes that made the neurons in my brain light up with fire and made me feel electric. Classes that inspired me, and made me feel so damn lucky to be getting a higher education and to have the luxury to spend this time learning about the world.

I hosted my original radio show every week and brought my friends on to share their jams. I shamelessly came up with a mascot called Grumpy Monkey and photoshopped a top hat on him. I made a commercial and sent it to a big company, and they loved it and sent me a gift. A really funny gift. I worked my barely-paying student jobs, and reminded myself that I’m paying my dues. I had the opportunity to work at the same conference I worked at last year, and loved seeing how confident I’ve become and how far this year has taken me professionally. I was offered dream jobs I had to turn down, but I enjoyed feeling appreciated. Most of all, I loved and savored the way I’m viewed at my university – as an asset, as someone worth watching, as someone who’s going somewhere.

I’m going somewhere.

~

Last birthday, when I looked back on 20, I called the year “a quiet storm”. Though much had changed and much had happened, none of it really registered with me. Now I think there may have been a reason for that. Maybe there was a seed of recognition, deep in the pit of my stomach, that something was about to change. Maybe I had an inkling that the turning point for our relationship was right around the corner, and in my resistance to acknowledge that fact, everything else felt muted as well. Nothing remained muted for long.

Honestly, it hurts to look back on 21 right now. I think there was more sadness than anything else this year, and it still threatens to pull me down sometimes. But I’ve decided to adopt the belief that everything happens for a reason, or rather, I’ve decided to focus on the fact that I’ve learned something from all of it. From the first breakup, the one that only lasted for 9 days, I discovered the strength it takes to be capable of forgiveness, and the beauty of second chances. From this breakup, I think I learned acceptance. How powerful it is, and how painful.

From the second half of 21, from these days and nights that I’ve been all alone, I’ve been learning patience. Hearts take time to heal, and it takes time to feel okay. The only thing worse than being heartbroken was being mad at myself for it, so I learned how to be patient with myself, and how to listen to what my heart was telling me. I can hear it so clearly now.

~

At 21, I made myself proud. I know I did. I cried and I evolved and I rose and I learned and I loved. And I learned to love myself again (even when that felt impossible). I may not be where I thought I would be at this point in time, but I have no regrets. Through it all, I never forgot to feel grateful. Grateful for the people in my life who cared for me and supported me, for the people who made me laugh and who cried with me, and for him. For the two years we had and the person he helped me become. No matter what, I’m grateful for his love.

I hope that one day I’ll look back on these months of heartbreak and singlehood, and know that they were leading me to exactly where I needed to be.

Today, at 22, I’m different than I was before. I feel older, in so many ways. Somehow it feels like the more wisdom I collect the less able I am to put it into words. It’s just wisps of concepts and particles of thoughts. They fall into place bit-by-bit and form the way I see the world. It’s the bigger picture, and as it becomes ever more complex and incomplete, I find it all the more terrifying and beautiful.

There’s beauty in the unknown.

~

Ella

“Everything will be alright if we just keep dancing like we’re 22.” -Taylor Swift

(Coincidentally, this the blog’s 122nd post, which I find oddly satisfying.)
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Half a light blue vase.

 

I bought myself flowers, red African daisies and white chrysanthemums, because I deserve them.

I lit two rose shaped candles and watched three flies flutter around the room.

There were birds chirping, two wicker baskets, half a light blue vase. A powdered sugar shaker and bright yellow oven mitts. A fake plant.

A breeze drifted in from the open window, carrying the conversations of the 200+ humans who live in numbers 11,13,15,17.

I tucked my feet beneath myself on the couch, wearing my light blue nightgown, wrapped in my pale cream robe.

I stared. Straight ahead.

I thought. I wondered. And I realized, I had created a beautiful moment for myself.

It was all for me.

I found beauty, and I kept it all to myself.

~

So I sing a lullaby. Softly and sweetly I whisper the tale of two broken hearts, and gently I lay the story to rest. At least for today. At least for tonight.

~

Ella

 

“A love like this is seen no more, secrets kept in my heart for years, images between silence, between words, a broken heart becomes a song, silence becomes a melody.”  Idan Raichel

Rising.

 

I am rising.

 

Rising, as opposed to drowning

But not rising, as in forgetting.

 

The yearning

For him, the love, the passion

Persist inside me.

Nothing is gone.

(Except for him.)

 

It hurts less and less,

But I still think about him every day.

 

He’s with me every step of the way,

As I step towards a future

Without him.

I carry the past with me,

Wrapped and entangled

And entrenched

Always

In memories that wrench my heart

And blur my mind.

(More than anything),

I am stronger for it.

 

I am rising.

 

~

Ella

 

“I’ll rise up and I’ll do it a thousand times again.” -Andra Day

And all the sad words.

 

And all the sad words have been written and recorded.

In a loaded diary, in untitled documents, on discarded pieces of paper,

And in tears that have since dried.

 

And all the sad words break my heart right back into a million pieces,

Into sharp edged shards of glass that glisten and glimmer, mocking me.

And yet slowly the glass crumbles into sand.

 

And all the sad words sound like they were written by someone else,

Someone who seems to know exactly how I felt,

But who isn’t me. Because my attempts to distance myself from those shards of glass…

 

Are starting to work.

 

I can breathe.

 

Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I glimpse the shadow of that girl. The one who couldn’t think, who couldn’t hear her own voice, who felt so torn apart inside it’s a wonder she remained intact.

 

That girl looked haggard.

She was in love,

But she was hurting.

 

I catch other glimpses though, in that stained and cracked bathroom mirror. I see the reflection of an elegant woman. She is brave and wise, confident and pure of heart. She is golden, effervescent, enchanted…

 

She knows how to love, and she will love again. And maybe next time it will be right.

 

~

Ella

 

“Birds flying high, you know how I feel / Sun in the sky, you know how I feel / Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel / It’s a new dawn / It’s a new day / It’s a new life / For me.” – Nina Simone

At first I called this “The Dock”, but now I’m calling it “In The Water”.

 

The girl was on the rickety dock for months.

The dock was familiar, and it felt like home.

Sometimes she was closer to the shore, at other times closer to the water, but most of the time

She was sat safely in the middle of the dock.

 

Until one day

She realized that the water seemed to be getting closer.

Maybe the tides were changing, or it had rained so much that the water level had started rising.

Or maybe, just maybe, the girl had been moving

Unnoticed even to her.

 

Something had changed.

All of a sudden the girl found herself on the very edge of the dock.

Her toes peeked out over the water, the water that was so close, and she felt the spray of droplets tickle her feet. She stood like that for a few days, sobbing, and looking back at the path she had walked. Then, she took a deep breath, braced herself and stepped off the dock.

 

Splashing

Gasping

Reaching

Crying

Drowning.

 

The blue coated her.

The sea claimed her.

Under the surface everything was dark.

She was cold.

 

And so the girl came to live her life from way out at sea.

Every day she kicked her legs to stay afloat, even as she drifted further into the depths.

Sometimes, her head was fully above water, and she could breathe.

She could even feel the heat of the sunlight on her closed eyelids.

But when she tired of the effort it took to stay in the sun, she sank back into the water,

Where the monsters were lying in wait.

 

The strain of the struggle has warped the girl’s perception of time.

Two full years of her life led her to that dock, and now

She’s been in the water for two months.

Both stretches of time feel equally as endless.

 

Only one has come to an end.

 

The girl is in the water.

She isn’t waiting there to be saved. She knows how to swim.

She’ll swim back to shore when she’s ready.

(She’s just not ready.)

~

Ella

“It’s everything you ever want
It’s everything you ever need
And it’s here right in front of you
This is where you wanna be…

So tell me do you wanna go?” -The Greatest Show

(No.)

Day 1.

 

December 3rd, 2016 – December 21st, 2018

 

His key on my desk. It’s over. Pile of tissues on the bed. On his side of the bed. An empty shelf in the closet. Missing utensils in the kitchen. No toothbrush. No future together.

I wanted one more night. I needed it. To live it while knowing it was the the last one, to hold him tight, to memorize the way it feels with him. To look into his beautiful eyes while I still could, and tell him how much I love him. I asked him for the night.

We both knew. We’ve known for a while. It was in the air, and we left it unspoken, so we could just have a little bit more time. It was heartbreakingly, gut-wrenchingly, sad.

There was nothing left to say. He won’t be my one and only forever. He won’t be mine anymore. Two years is the time we were destined to have.

But we tried so hard to save it. I tried so hard. It has taken me months to come to terms with the fact that there is nothing left I can try, nothing else I can do, except accept the situation. There’s no use fighting the truth anymore. You can only fight for so long.

We knew it had to end, and we knew that it would. That knowledge was tearing me apart. For months I’ve been stuck in a loop, trying to bring myself to end it but not wanting to. My heart has broken every day, over and over again, but it I never gave it a chance to heal. I’ve been preparing for Day 1 for so long, and fearing it for so long, but I never made it to Day 2.

Now it’s over. It’s Day 1. And tomorrow will be Day 2.

~

We put his things in the car and he pulled me a few steps aside. We hugged, and he twirled me around. We looked at each other lovingly, tears falling on my cheeks, glistening in the sunlight. We kissed. He called me his. I called him mine. He told me I’m beautiful. We walked the few steps back, holding hands. “My first love,” I smiled up at him, holding him with two hands. “And hopefully not your last,” he said. And smiled back.

~

Ella

~

Like it was written for our last night together…  “All I Ask” by Adele:

 

I will leave my heart at the door

I won’t say a word

They’ve all been said before, you know

So why don’t we just play pretend

Like we’re not scared of what is coming next

Or scared of having nothing left

 

Look, don’t get me wrong

I know there is no tomorrow

All I ask is

 

If this is my last night with you

Hold me like I’m more than just a friend

Give me a memory I can use

Take me by the hand while we do what lovers do

It matters how this ends

‘Cause what if I never love again?

 

I don’t need your honesty

It’s already in your eyes

And I’m sure my eyes, they speak for me

No one knows me like you do

And since you’re the only one that mattered

Tell me who do I run to?

….

Let this be our lesson in love

Let this be the way we remember us …. 

 

A quiet storm. -21

20 was quiet. I’ve known happier years, and I’ve known sadder years. Last birthday I was bursting with words, none of which were enough to describe the life I’d been living. But this birthday, the words are harder to find.

For a multitude of reasons, this year I found it very hard to make it through the day. Whether it was pain, exhaustion, anxiety, frustration, disheartenment or confusion – it just took a lot of conscious effort to keep myself going. It’s been a struggle. A quiet struggle.

This year I left the first place I ever felt truly happy with my life, and moved to a new city again. It still doesn’t really feel like home, but it’s comfortable here. I bought a mattress and a rocking chair, and filled my room with lights. I’ve had 3 different gym memberships (it’s a long story). I take walks, even though there isn’t really anywhere to walk to. At first, when I moved here, I was so lost in memories of the past. I would walk the streets of my old home in my mind, and I missed it so much that it hurt. But I have a good, humdrum, routine life here. A quiet life.

In October, I started university. It was the first time in a long time that I felt like I didn’t fit in. It took me a while to find my people and find my place. I loved my first semester – everything was interesting, exciting and challenging. Now I’m in my second semester, and it totally sucks. I’m genuinely counting the days until it ends (coincidentally, 21 days).

Despite that, university has still been a good place for me. I’ve been doing well. The university itself has offered me 4 different jobs in the time I’ve been there (I took three of them), and so many opportunities have found their way to me. I joined my university’s radio station, and now I produce and host two shows on the radio every week. I spend so many hours at the station that it feels like home. I’ve created really cool things as part of my workshops, and I’ve gotten high grades and high praise on everything. I’ve succeeded. I guess, when I think about, I actually took university by storm. Somehow it was just a quiet storm.

This year I didn’t settle for anything less than what I deserve. I challenged myself to be in control and to face everything – even things that scared me. I did everything I could think of to take care of my health, and went through such upsetting processes along the way. It was a really difficult health year, but I never gave up on myself. I’ve been dealing with my pain for 7 years, and I’ve fought for my right to find salvation. It might be right around the corner now. I’ve done what I can to give myself my best shot at life. And I’ve done so quietly.

I guess the loudest thing that happened this year was the breakup. It was the epitome of not settling for less than what I deserve. Even though most aspects of my relationship were so beautiful, it still caused me so much heartache this year. Ending the relationship was terrifying, and I was so proud of myself for doing it. As he told me that night, he was also kind of proud of me. Tom and I were broken up for 9 days, 9 days that changed so much.

Breaking up with him was the second best decision I made this year. The best decision was to get back together with him. It’s crazy to think the story could have ended there, and not evolved to become what it is now. It took brutal honesty, brave decisions and a lot of trust, but we worked through it all. I’m so grateful he loved me enough to try, and I still get to have him be mine.

I don’t know why I feel that so many things this year happened quietly. But whether my days have been quiet or loud, I know that I’ve been living a good life. It’s a thought I have when I remember that my childhood bike had streamers running from the handles, when I walk onto campus and look at all the beautiful trees, and when my mom sends me pictures of flower arrangements in the vase I gave her. Please remind me forever to be thankful for the life I have had.

This is the 6th birthday in a row that I’ve sat down to write, and it’s weird for me that it doesn’t feel so significant this time. Even though university was an entirely new experience, I suppose I just feel I haven’t created a new world this year. And that’s okay. I’ve been living in the world I created last year, and I’ve appreciated it for what it’s worth.

I can’t describe this year as dazzling, but I can say that I’ve felt proud of my achievements. Nothing was particularly exhilarating, but I’ve been lucky enough to have my loved ones close by. And even though nothing really changed this year, the good things have stayed good, and for that I’m grateful.  

I wonder what 21 will bring.

~~~

Ella

“I know you’re feelin’ weighed down tonight, and you can’t find the breaks. Every day is too long for you, you are sworn to your fate. But we got everything we need, baby, in the memories we make, in a world of reinventions it’s never too late.” – Sam Smith