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