Home.

I love the life I lead. I love the (brave) new world I’ve built for myself here. I love everyone around me – all of these people I didn’t know four months ago, who are intertwined in my story now. I love the aspects of my life that didn’t exist before.

But I want to go home. Real home. Just for a few days.

For a few days I want to go to sleep in my old bed – a bed that knew more restless nights than restful ones. A bed that is soaked to the core and coated in memories of pain upon pain upon pain. A bed I used to lay in and dream about having the life I have now.

I want to go home, so I can crawl into that bed and cry.

I want to cry surrounded by walls that are used to containing my tears, walls that know how to stay standing in the face of whatever it is I’m feeling. I want to cry covered by the blankets that have kept out the cold, harsh reality and kept in my dreams when I just wasn’t strong enough to get up. I want to cry looking out the window and seeing the view I saw every time I cried until I went and upended my world four months ago.

I’m tired.

There, I said it. A word that I use all the time, still, but the implications of which I’ve been pretending no longer exist.

My (brave) new world is intense. I wouldn’t change a thing, but I feel physically, mentally and emotionally wrung out by all that has happened since August. I have everything I was hoping to have, everything is going so well, and being happy about that is exhausting me. I never stop moving. I never stop feeling. (I never stop feeling like I’m missing out on things, whether I spend time in my new world or my old world. I’m always torn between the two – I want to be in both at once.) I never stop missing people.

“I miss you.”

Tomorrow, I’ll go home. I’m so overwhelmed I just want to cry. I wouldn’t change a thing.

~~~

Ella

Song Quote:

Must be love on the brain, that’s got me feeling this way. -Love on the Brain, Rihanna

Change.

 

Change is gathering up ahead.

I’m trying all of my adjectives.

A little while ago I was talking to my friend, Jewel,about how, when I was a little girl, I had this vision of my future self. The vision was very clear:

I’ll be independent, living in my own apartment, working a really cool job and helping people. I’ll be the person people turn to for support, understanding, laughter and ideas. I’ll have a worth of knowledge and wisdom to share. I’ll be sociable, confident, proud and happy with where I am in life. I’ll be glamorous because I’m free and comfortable with who I am.

Ringing any bells?

It suddenly hit me that somehow, without consulting the picture I had painted before I even turned twelve years old, I managed to create and execute a plan that would allow me to live exactly the way I hoped I would.

Magic? Truth.

~~~

Among the things that have already changed this past year is that I’m no longer The Sick Kid. Sure, I’m still sick (she says so nonchalantly), but I think that not being surrounded by healthy kids all day made the title fade a little. It’s not how I think of myself anymore. It carries much less weight in the equation these days.

And yet… I am sick. How will I manage?

The Change, it’s all-encompassing. I’ll be starting with a completely blank page. I’ll be living and working with people I don’t know. Absolutely everything around me will change and be different than it is right now. Three months from now I’ll have a whole new world.

I find myself in need of a reminder that that’s a good thing. That’s why I’m writing about Change – because it’s desired. It’s healthy. It’s what I want and what I’ve been waiting for all of this time.

Take a deep breath and look around. Appreciate where you are right now before it all changes. Don’t let a single good thing pass you by. Take snapshots of moments with the people you love and admire. Spread your arms and soak in the feeling of the present. Change is coming.

Get your adjectives ready.

~~~

Ella

Song Quote:

I walked off an old me… And now, breathe deep, I’m inhaling. –Alaska, Maggie Rogers (in love with this song!)

{By the way, please note that this is filed in a new category called “Changed.” Future posts will also be in “Changed.” Welcoming in a new era, three years on…}

 

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

I’m Going Home

 

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Not my window, but a dreamy window indeed

 

I can totally do this.

The past few days have been filled with pain and the past few nights have been filled with consciousness. I am tired and tired of studying. I am sick and suffering, but I can do this.

Two tests left. My window is open to let the cold, crisp air in and onto my face, and every now and then I remember to breathe. I have a playlist of Coldplay, Maroon 5 and Beyoncé to keep me from getting too bored of my material, and a yellow highlighter that matches my dried mango (god’s gift to man).

A classic study set-up.

Not only am I motivated and uplifted by the light I can glimpse at the end of the tunnel, but I now have something to look forward to: I’m going home. I moved away from my hometown when I was 7, and in many ways where I live now is a larger part of my identity. It’s where my family is, where most of my friends are, my school, and my past ten years of life. This culture now feels as much an inseparable part of my identity as the culture of my early childhood.

But still, the thought of going back for a visit makes the words “I’m going home!” shout in my mind, bang around and jump up and down (primarily as I try to study). For once I have something to look forward to, and by golly, is it uplifting.

I just feel like I can do this, I can make it through these tests and then go home. The first time I went back to visit was many years after we moved away, and at the sight of my neighborhood I began to cry in the back of the cab. Those tears were because I missed it all and I wished we’d never moved. The tears I’m sure will come this time will not be the same. I’m no longer a 7-year-old girl. In a few months time I will turn 18 and I will need to accept that the fibromyalgia will become a part of my adult life too.

This time I will cry because I really need a break from the reality of my life that is so often sad and frustrating.

This time I will cry tears of joy, because despite it all I love the person I have become and I know I would not be the same if we had never moved away.

This time I will cry, and then leave the tears aside and focus on being where I am. The Dalai Lama said that there are only two days that do not exist: yesterday and tomorrow. In my life, my yesterdays always carry over to my todays (in the form of a headache) and I can’t help but worry about all of my tomorrows.

This time I will cry.

Yours,

Ella

 

Song Quote:

Millions of miles from home in the swirling, swimming on, when I’m rolling with the thunder, but bleed from thorns, leave a light, leave a light on. –Midnight, Coldplay

 

Stay tuned for part 2! I plan to write all about my trip.

Part 1: I’m Going Home

Part 2: I’m Home!

The True Reason You Should Be Kind

How cool is the world? I mean, seriously, how cool is it? Because I think it’s pretty freaking cool. There are just so many people. Every single one of them has a name, has thoughts, feelings, and a story. Then I think of how many people have lived since ever, how many nights have been slept through and how many sunrises watched. How many breaths have been breathed!!! The average person takes between 17,280 and 23,040 breaths a day, and there are about 7.2 billion people alive today. And that’s just one single day…

I am the only person who will ever be me, and there is so much to me. That means that… it’s just… wow. I can’t wrap my mind around the vastness of it all.

I think these thoughts more often than is probably normal (we’re talking at least once a day, usually more), but especially prompted by two things: good news and bad news.

The good news is when I’m uplifted, when I realize how awesome and incredible the world is (in other words, a Big Thinking Moment). Things like the “Project for Awesome” remind me how many people have good values and are creative and inspiring. Music and books and movies remind me that I am not alone. Nature brings me back to earth (literally), and it’s when I feel peaceful and whole that I value the beauty of our surroundings and remember to stay connected to it. My family and friends remind me how lucky I am to have them. Or all of these at the same time.

FullSizeRender

Had quite the onslaught of Big Thinking Moments as I stood staring at this and wondering how the colors could possibly be natural. I didn’t edit this picture at all — it was real life, in all it’s glory.

The bad news is when I hear about suffering. War makes me sad, and I become sadder when I realize that if we haven’t yet found a way to eradicate it, we are not as developed as we think we are. My hopelessness strips away the beauty I previously saw. Racism, cruelty, prejudice, hate, torture, rape, murder… I lose my faith in humanity, if only for a few moments. This is when I realize that if there are so many people in the world and we each experience hardships, there’s a sh*t-load of hardship going around.

The bad news is also what leads to me keeping things in perspective and not taking anything for granted. So on the personal scale I suppose you could say I find a way to make something positive of it, but in reality it just sucks and I hate the world sometimes.

I would say I range from being realistic and practical to being truly optimistic, and this is what keeps me going. My ability to find good and change the way I look at situations is something I have worked to cultivate and plan to fall back on throughout life.

So the way I approach the bad news? I try to be nice. Because yes, there are those with a vision who can change the world, and yes, I could set myself the goal of being one of those people, but that isn’t me (at least not yet). What I can do now is see people. I can notice when they’re having a hard time and need a kind word or gesture. I can tell when they need to be recognized for their personal successes and their abilities, and I try to do that for them. I also just say “hi” and ask how they are because I genuinely want to know. The ways are endless…

This doesn’t mean I’m perfect. This doesn’t mean I’m a good person. What this means is that I’m trying. That is all that can be asked of a person, and that is what I ask of you: please, try to be nice to all of those around you. Small gestures can make such a difference to people, and I’m not going to get all cliché and say that together we can change the world, but together we can make someone happy. Maybe that’s enough.

In the words of the great Ellen Degeneres, be kind to one another. Bye-bye.

Ella

Song Quote:

So, so you think you can tell heaven from hell, blue skies from pain. -Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd

To Growing Up and Staying Young – 17

party ballons

With warm summer air surrounding us and the sounds of the crickets drifting in through my open window, I curled into my mother’s body and she hugged me to her; though I may be bigger than I was on the day I was born, exactly seventeen years ago, I will forever be her little baby and she will always be my mother.

She told me last year that as she turned seventeen, she was sad to part with sixteen. Today, I understand the way she felt then. Though sixteen might not have been exactly glamorous or particularly spectacular, it will forever hold a special place in my heart.

A lot has changed this year. I gained freedom, in a way, because I started and completed the whole process of learning how to drive and getting my license. Finally, something that everyone my age is tackling and mastering, and I could participate just liked everyone else. I even mastered it quickly and well, if I do say so myself. I probably annoy people a lot at this point when I talk about driving, but it’s fun to be the expert and the sage around my friends (I’m one of the only ones who can drive so far) on a topic unrelated to medical things.

The way I think about things has changed, drastically. I just approach things in a better way now. I keep up my positive thinking and I’ve developed an inner sense of humor that I’ve always had into a shield and a mood booster. I see humor in a lot of places I didn’t use to see it, and I cherish that change. It’s a change for the better.

I’m also more cautious, in a way, but at the same time I dare myself to do things I never would have done a year ago. I’m cautious with what I say and how much I share, not for fear of hurting someone else’s feelings, but for fear of sharing thoughts and feelings that I’m not yet sure about. I used to just blurb out whatever I was thinking, but now I take the time to actually form my thoughts before speaking and weigh the weight of what I’m sharing and how frustrated I will get if I can’t explain myself properly.

But I also take myself out of my comfort zone: I go places alone, I call people and talk on the phone, I do the things I know I should do but always feel awkward doing. I’ve just developed this way of approaching things and talking myself through them, and it’s starting to feel like I can tackle the things that have always intimidated me. I’m starting from the smaller things, like those I mentioned earlier, and at some point I will have the courage to face the bigger ones.

I also made the switch from thinking of all of the things I would like to do to actually doing them. I do more than talk, nowadays. Take, for example, my horrendous lack in general knowledge. For a bunch of years now I’ve been saying that I don’t know how I’ve been in school for so many years and yet there are basic things that I don’t know. This year, I just started educating myself. I bought a book called “The Knowledge Book”, and I read it before bed.

I’m just very aware of how I’m changing and how I’m learning to accept myself more and more. That’s another major change this year, my self-confidence. It’s been hard learning to accept my body with all that it puts me through, and that affected my self-confidence for a long time. But I’ve somehow learned how to separate fibromyalgia from my body, and because of that I’m learning to accept and like the way I look.

It’s exhilarating to realize that I’m getting older and there’s a whole new world of opportunities opening ahead of me, and absolutely terrifying at the same time. I’m sad to lose the feeling of being a child, of being protected by these strong and kind parents who are nothing but my parents. It’s huge to realize and to process that parents are people too, and to think of them as people before parents, but important. You do lose something though with that realization, because you can never go back. On the on hand, I still want them to take care of me and be there all the time, but at the same time the independent woman in me is showing her true colors and I just can’t wait to get out there in the world.

I’m sure it won’t be easy, but with every passing day I feel more and more ready to do it. To live life.

I propose a toast, to growing up and staying young forever.

 

Yours truly,

Ella

 

Song Quote:

Time may change me, but I can’t trace time. –Changes, David Bowie

 

My True Identity

 

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Where I call home.

 

The time has come for me to tell you all the truth. You deserve to know who I really am. My name is Isabella Petracca.

I haven’t been fully honest. I’ve kept something huge from you: I had a brother. It’s awful; I automatically say “had” when it’s really “have”. He’s not dead or anything. It’s just that my family doesn’t talk about him anymore. Not since…

Not since he was convicted for meddling in drugs. This was a couple years ago now, when he was in his early twenties and living away from home. I’ve always looked up to him, he was my role model ever since I was a baby. He was my big brother, and I thought he walked on the stars and the moon was his personal spotlight. When he was picked up by the police my family cut off all contact with him, and I was too scared to try and contact him on my own and go against my family. Now we just ignore his existence. I’ve been ashamed of what he did, and I’ve spent all this time feeling guilty, as though I played a part in his downfall. I know it’s preposterous, but that’s how I felt.

There’s a reason I’m telling you about this now. Because I don’t feel like that anymore. I was visiting family in the States (I live in Greece, in my dad’s hometown, and my mom is American) and I went with my grandparents to distribute food for the needy. My main worry was that I would get tired in the middle, and have a horrible headache and suffer because of the noise of the city. But then, I was handing sandwiches to homeless people, and they were joking and laughing and making everyone around us crack up. I realized something: if these homeless people are not ashamed of their lives and they are not embarrassed to tell people the truth about what they have gone through, there is absolutely no reason I should be ashamed of something my brother has done.

I can tell the world about my brother now, and walk with my head held high and the truth ringing in all of our ears. I have a brother. Maybe he doesn’t walk on the stars or have a close-knit relationship with the moon, but that doesn’t mean he’s not my family. The time has come for a change.

Thank you for listening to the naked truth of my life.

Yours truly,

Ella (short for Isabella)

 

Song quote:

All of your flaws and all my flaws, they may have been exhumed, you’ll see that we need them to be who we are, without them we’d be doomed. –Flaws, Bastille

P.s. Now click on this:

The Truth

 

(Yay for 40th post!)

 

IMPORTANT MESSAGE:

20.4.14: Hi everyone, I just wanted to make sure that it’s perfectly clear that this post was an April Fools Day joke! I am not Greek, I do not live in Greece, my name is not Isabella Petracca, I have never had a brother, I didn’t go with my grandparents to feed homeless people (though that’s a nice thing to do)… It’s all made up! I came up with it with a bunch of friends as a joke, but I figured that as it’s been so long since April Fools that it wouldn’t occur to anyone that it’s a prank. It is!

Well, have a nice day!