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.)

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

 

Changed. – 20

19 brought it on.

At 19, I moved out. I built a new life for myself, by myself, in a new city. I said goodbye to a place I loved very much, and with the support of everyone back home I went in search of something new. I didn’t have a single friend here when I moved, and today I barely leave my apartment without seeing someone I know. I have fallen in love with this city – its rhythm, its quirks, its sights, its sounds and above all, its people. This is my home now, and I will never be alone here again.

That said, it wasn’t easy. This year has been riddled with challenges, some I anticipated and many I did not. There were nights I was so tired and so achy I couldn’t move to turn off the lights, and mornings I felt so sick I cried getting out of bed. There were complications at every turn and frustrating surprises, but there were also moments of pure triumph and pride when I succeeded where I feared I wouldn’t. Nothing was ever ideal, but I adapted, managed and rediscovered time and time again how strong I am. I was determined not to let anything get in my way, and I didn’t.

At 19, I worked harder than I’ve ever worked before and proved myself from scratch. I had no idea how stressful (and occasionally infuriating) my position at the Center would be or what a toll it would take. But when all’s said and done, I think I will always look back on it fondly for one reason: the people. If it weren’t for the Center, I would not have the community that I do. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by incredible, unique, good people. I have friends for whom words do no justice, and have had experiences so random and so amazing I could never have dreamt them up. I’ve gained beautiful people in my life without losing any I had before, and have lived memories that will last a lifetime.  

At 19, I learned a different kind of happiness I never believed existed. I used to say, “Happiness is not a state of being, it’s just fleeting moments that pass you by and you need to know how to notice them.” Now I know that the only kind of happiness I knew before 19 was incredibly fragile. That’s not the smile I wear anymore. Now, when shit hits the fan it turns into sparkles, because the happiness I have found is the kind that doesn’t run away. It trembles, sometimes, but it’s a pure and true joy that miraculously refuses to leave.

At 19, I fell in love. How strange to think that for the first half of 19 I didn’t have Tom. So much has happened, to us and between us, in just six months. He is everything I ever dreamed of, and everything I didn’t realize I should dream of. It took me a long time to believe he was real, to feel like we were real. But he is, and we are. I melt at the thought of him, and I never feel as at peace as I do when he finally embraces me in his arms. I never smile as widely as I do when he gets excited or want to sing as much as I do when I’m with him. He makes me shine. Or rather, I let myself shine when I’m with him.

I have no doubt the memories I made this year really will last a lifetime – and a lot of those memories are with Tom. We’ve gone through some really tough, trying times together, but regardless of whether I was crying or laughing at the beginning of a conversation, I was always laughing at the end. We’re the absolute cutest. We’re so in love even we think it’s a bit much. We’re a real life couple, but we’re a match made in heaven.

At 19, everything came up roses. I had fun. I worked, I worked out, I sang. I saw sunlight everywhere I looked. I cooked, I cleaned, I crashed, I took the stairs without realizing. I talked to strangers. I wrote, I read, I filmed, I edited, I felt like I could fly. I laughed so hard my collar bone hurt and I jumped every time I got a text. I cried. I listened. I took walks and got lost on purpose.

I watched the sunsets from my balcony and fell asleep on my roommates. I supported my friends, new and old, and I supported my partner, as each and every one of them went after the things they want and deserve in life. I spent hours and hours on the phone, being long distance not only with Tom but also my family and my friends from home. I took it all in and then I brought all of my worlds together.

At 19, I existed under a new sky, not because I went somewhere else but because I became someone else. I became who I’ve always wanted to be.  

I’m not 19 anymore. But whenever I walk the streets of this city, I will always be 19 again. These roads will be my memory lanes. Everywhere I walk I’ll feel the rush of independance and exhilaration all over again. Stairs will remind me of stories, buildings will remind me of people and alleys will remind me of feelings. Every step will remind me how it felt to be young and in love.

It’s on these streets that I felt more alive than ever before. It’s on these streets that I lived a life I wasn’t sure I would ever get to have.

It’s on these streets that everything changed.

I’m about to say my third big goodbye in three years. Everything is going to change all over again. Another new city, another new adventure, another chance to find myself fearless in the face of all of my fears. It’s the end of an era that has taught me more than I could probably realize right now.

Turning 20 is a big deal. It’s a big number. I always hoped I would get a chance to be a healthy teenager, but that’s not how things have worked out. After graduation I began the journey of figuring out how to live my adult life while sick, and I’ve done that. I’ve succeeded. I have been fearless. And I know, I’ll be fine. I just wish it didn’t have to be such a struggle to be fine. I’m so tired of the endless circle of pain and I wish I could make it end. I never talk about it anymore because I try not to think about it. I’ve learned to soften, lean forwards and allow my feelings to be engulfed by the presence of another person, whoever that person may be. I find solace and refuge in words that having nothing to do with pain. I submerge myself in interactions, in conversation, in laughter, so that what weighs on my heart isn’t heavy enough to hurt it.

I wish I could say there was no sadness laced into this birthday, but there is. As much as I love my life, I was forced to give up a lot and I think that will always hurt. It comes and goes in waves, the sting of all that my health denied me. But I can say there are no regrets laced into this birthday, because I have proven to myself and everyone around me that healthy or not, I’m going to achieve every goal I set for myself and love every step of the way. I may be sick and sick of it, but I am living the life.

At 20 I can say with my whole heart that I am happy. I am confident. I am in love. And I am ready – to continue having the time of my life.

~~~

Ella

“That’s the delicate way you’ve shown me, you’re the strongest person I know.” -The Streets

One Hell of a Year – 19

18 started with uncertainty, exhaustion and a dramatic collapse. I was plagued by the question marks and the sorrow of regret, immersed in the emotional storm of goodbyes and the pre-graduation pressure. My strength was failing me, just when I needed it most. I couldn’t help but reflect on the year I had had and feel as though it might have gotten the better of me. I graduated and said goodbye to a place that had been my home for the best and worst years of my life. A few days later I fulfilled my dream of cutting my hair short, and embraced the new look as a symbol of the new phase in my life.

18 continued with me starting my volunteer position and feeling lonelier than I’d felt in a long time. Starting from scratch in a new environment was a challenging, frustrating and upsetting process for me, and my friends weren’t around. They too, were going through their own processes of change. It took some getting used to.

I wasn’t quite sure where my place was. High school wasn’t my home anymore, but the foundation wasn’t my home yet. It was strange, and at the same time sort of freeing.

A few months in and everything had settled down. By ‘settled down’ I mean ‘picked up’. I had so much going on – because things were going well – that I very nearly couldn’t handle it all… And I loved every minute of it. My friends and I adjusted and the time we spent together became true quality time. My memory and my diaries are peppered with our adventures, our birthday celebrations and our (many) lazy, lounging catch up sessions. We realized that not being together all the time meant having countless stories to share, and we appreciate every moment we get to spend together now. We are evolving and so is our friendship. I love them so much. I’ve also made new friends along the way, and we’ve had our own share of wonderfully random adventures…

The foundation became my home (understatement). I’ve always tried to be kind to other people, but this year it was my job to do so. I made people’s lives better and I made magic real. I’ve grown so close to the people I work with and we’ve had such a beautiful time together. The staff meetings, the lunches, the office banter, the events, the work itself… It’s been my everything. They know me: they know how much I care, they know what I’m capable of and they know just what to say and just when to say it. I’ve learned so much from them and I’ve loved feeling embraced by their love and appreciation.

As 18 started to come to a close I started to figure out what my next step would be. My goal was to know my plan by my birthday and my plan succeeded. I’ll be finishing my year with the foundation in two months and moving out of my parent’s house to do another year at a new non-profit. I’m not sure I’ve ever been this excited about something so inherently scary. Realizing how little time I have left with the foundation has made it all very real. I’ll miss them and I’ll miss being one of them, but I will never, ever, forget how much it has all meant to me.

18 is over, and it was better than anything I ever expected it to be. I’m overjoyed to say that looking back, I feel proud. This year did not get the better of me – I made it what it was. I truly lived it to the fullest. 18 will go down in history as one hell of a year…

This year I’ve realized that I love who I am as an adult, I’ve wasted way less time worrying about things I can’t control and I’ve learned how not to give a fudge and just cut myself some slack.

This year I changed my ringtone to “Here Comes the Sun”, and that really says it all.

19 – bring it on.

Love,

Ella

Song Quote:

I see skies of blue and clouds of white, the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world. –What A Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong

 

“You can take the girl out of the foundation but you can’t take the foundation out of the girl.”

Beach Happiness

Last year, on a particularly hard day, I spoke on the phone with my friend, Beatrice, about why we were both so depressed. We had many reasons, and this led us to a discussion about the different types of sadness. The list covers a lot of ground, including: hypothetical sadness, death sadness, projecting sadness, jealousy sadness, bittersweet sadness, extreme weather sadness… we ended up listing about 75 types.

 

After half an hour of compiling this list, I forced her to help me come up with the different types of happiness. Surprisingly, we found this extremely difficult. When we challenged ourselves to think of the bad it poured out of us as though we’d been mentally preparing our whole lives for the moment we’d need to recount it. But the good? It was slow to come to mind. Over the course of a few days, with the help of a couple more friends, we eventually had a list consisting of around 50 types of happiness.

 

One of these types is beach happiness. Neither Beatrice nor I thought of it initially, but it rings true for all of my peers and I. When I’m on the beach I just feel… peaceful, I suppose. The sound of the waves replaces the sound of worry in my mind.

IMG_1896

I stand on the beach looking out at the sea and marvel at how tiny I am compared to it all. If my life is so small compared to the world, then the problems in my life amount to nearly nothing. I’m never one to belittle my own suffering or the hefty challenges I face every day, but during certain rare moments I truly believe they aren’t all that important. The beach supplies the majority of these moments.

 

Yesterday was an odd summer day in the middle of February so I flocked to the beach with my friend and her boyfriend. The water was freezing but I almost prefer feeling numb to feeling my normal pain. The smell of the water and the sunscreen smeared on my (pathetically) sensitive skin remind me of summers past, in just the way that bug spray reminds me of hiking trails around my childhood hometown.

 

My mom reminded me that one year I had a birthday party at the beach and that I hated it. I remember the reasons for this being that sand got on my birthday cake and watermelon, that we never had time for the dance party or limbo (I’ve always been quite the planner), and that a boy from my class (who was not invited) saw me in my bathing suit (mortification. I hate you, Speedo.)

 

My mother remembered the reason being that I got salt water in my eye and that at that exact moment the love affair between the sea and I became a tale of regret and disappointment.

 

Safe to say the discord has dissipated, and I have kept a special place in my heart for the beach throughout it all. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I’m forced to miss out on fun – a seemingly harmless substance the majority of young adults seek and occasionally experience. I’m more of an 80-year-old stuck in an 18-year-old’s body type, and I have to “take care of my health”. Which means I often need to miss out on all sorts of experiences because fun has a clear consequence for me – pain. Pain leads to sadness, but mainly, pain leads to more pain. More pain leads to trouble sleeping, which leads to extra fatigue, which leads to extra pain, which leads to even more trouble sleeping… it’s only one of the viscous cycles that people with chronic illnesses need to live with.

 

But just because I have less fun doesn’t mean I have to be less happy. This year I’ve been privy to a few types of happiness that weren’t on my list before: proving myself happiness, spreading joy happiness, professional growth happiness and above all – somehow, it will all be okay happiness.

 

At the very least, that’s how I feel after I go to the beach.

 

Love,

Ella

 

Song Quote:

Take me back to the basics and the simple life, tell me all of the things that make you feel at ease. –Ease, Troye Sivan

 

Have a suggestion to add to my lists? Share in the comments below please!

The Year of the Extreme – 18

18

My dad always says that the best way to live your life is by being where you are.

I’m very good at being where I am and feeling everything to the fullest, for better or for worse. Today is my 18th birthday. Looking back on 17, I see it as the year of the extreme.

When I was happy, I was really happy, but when I was hopeless, I was really hopeless. So it went with every emotion, from anxiety and sadness to excitement and love. There were times when I felt like I loved my friends so much I would burst, but others when I felt like my struggles were all for naught and I have no future. I felt everything so strongly, and though it’s part of what makes me who I am, it doesn’t lead to the most stable way of life. This year has been exhausting. Maybe it has to do with age or maybe with my personality, but I hope that in the coming year I’ll be able to maintain a steady, positive outlook.

I am a happy and optimistic person, stuck in a situation that often leads me to lose sight of all the good. There is a constant war inside of me, trying to lift myself, suspend myself, and run far, far away from the pain.

There are two things I’ve learned from a person I appreciate very much:

  • Every time I feel pain, of any kind, it only makes me more human. With every new experience of hardship there are many more people whose difficulties I can relate to and to whom my understanding can extend.
  • The moments in life of intense emotion are beautiful. Never before had I looked at my breaking points as beautiful, but this statement of sorts fits perfectly into how I view the world and manage my way through it: we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we look and approach it. I now suddenly find myself sobbing in anguish in my bed and thinking, “This is beautiful. These feelings are beautiful.”

I am eternally grateful to this person.

There’s this exercise where you imagine all of your thoughts as cars on a highway in front of you and you need to try to stay calm and just watch them as they pass by, without feeling like you’re in the traffic yourself. You are an observer of your own thoughts, and you don’t need to find yourself in chaotic, honking danger of being caught in the way of the cars. This year I definitely found myself precariously jaywalking.

The truth is that from every time I’ve reached rock bottom, I’ve risen with newfound insight and maturity. I’ve known for a long time that happiness is not a state that you achieve, but rather something you need to learn how to glimpse when you pass it by. If you don’t notice it, appreciate it and cherish it, you will never feel like you’ve found it. There were moments this year when I was happy. Albeit greatly overshadowed by pain, fear and anger, I will not let myself view this year as one devoid of happiness.

This year holds the record for fewest moments of hating myself. I genuinely like who I am, and in my better moments, I can see myself succeeding in my life. My parents raised me to acknowledge my strengths, and so I do. My strengths are my weaknesses, and vice versa, but I’ve made my peace with that. I am a wonderful person, if only because of how hard I try to be so, and it feels really good to say that.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. I can’t view myself in two months, and definitely not in two, ten or twenty years, but I have a few wishes.

I hope I never forget to remember that people are large and we contain multitudes (Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”, section 51). I will live my life with an open mind, open eyes and an open heart. I will always try to see people and accept them for all that they are. If there is one thing that really gets to me, it’s when people judge others and don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. Every single one of us has feelings, memories, and a story of their own, and that is never to be belittled.

“I want to encourage you to be vigilant in the struggle towards empathy… You will have a choice about how to read the actions and intonations of the people you meet. I would encourage you as often as possible to consider… the possibility that the lives and experiences of others are as complex and unpredictable as your own. That other people… are not simply one thing or the other – not simply good or evil or wise or ignorant… You will always be stuck inside of your own body, with your own consciousness, seeing the world through your own eyes, but the gift and the challenge… is to see other as they see themselves, to grapple meaningfully with this cruel and crazy and beautiful world in all of its baffling complexity.” –John Green, commencement speech 2013

I hope my relationships grow stronger and more meaningful every day. I hope I keep trying even harder to be a good person. I hope I don’t lose sight of how much I love life. I hope I fall in love (she puts in the middle of the paragraph to feel less silly for writing it). I hope I keep writing, because it brings me joy and pride. I hope I retain my enthusiasm for everything I love. I hope time will do its job and freaking cure me already. I hope I never let my difficulties cloud my vision. The vision is everything.

Nothing is ever ideal, but the love I’ve been receiving today fills me with warm and fuzzy feelings. Kind words pouring in from everyone that matters to me makes it all seem worth it.

Here’s to being 18.

Love,

Ella

Song Quote:

The backs of my eyes hum with all of the things I’ve never done. –Welcome Home, Radical Face

The Sleepless Anecdote

One might think there’s something romantic about a late night. The dim lights, the silent house, the rustle of the wind outside.

There isn’t. I couldn’t sleep. I got into bed at 10:30 and fell asleep at 4:30. That’s six hours of non-romance. It was frustrating. The crazy thing was, my brain was totally awake and processing the implications of the situation while also enjoying the game of keeping me awake.

I finished reading The Bell Jar. I watched three episodes of Friends. I meditated. I ate cereal. I took everything off my bed and put it all back. I solved a math question.

I did everything but sleep. My body is like “you suck” and my brain is like “yay I won!” and I’m like dead.

What do you do when you can’t sleep?

Insomnia for the win,

Ella

Song Quote:

Even when you’re sleeping, keep your eye-eyes open. -Eyes Open, Taylor Swift

P.s. Happy second birthday “Sick and Sick of It”!!! Rather than creating a virtual cake with candles, you’re each invited to just write a wish in the comments below. I think my wish is obvious at this point.