Displaced.

 

It’s okay to be afraid to leave the first place I’ve ever truly been happy.

 

The microwave outside the door that we kept the spare key in.

The nighttime and the relief it brought with it.

The criss-cross paths around my office and the new staircases I discovered every day.

The watermelon and coal store.

The roof where I worked out under sunset skies.

The delicate brush on the light rail door.

The blue-pink-white-green-gray horizon from my bedroom window.

The gap at the bottom of the shower door that let all the water out.

The approximately 12 people it felt like I lived with.

The glass and marble table.

The pedestrian rage when tourists walked too slowly.

The park on Saturday afternoons and the market on Friday mornings.

The breeze that always played with the hemline of my dress..

The shop owners who knew my order.

The top step.

The beep that meant the laundry cycle was done.

The road I parked my car on – half an hour away from my apartment.

The trucks and cars and busses and ambulances and motorcycles – the noise I filtered out.

All the other noise I tried to filter out.

The spur-of-the-moment excursions that didn’t always make much sense.

The sunlight or the moonlight.

The view.

From the porch.

The porch, the porch, the porch.

With the swing.

The swing, the swing, the swing.

 

I’m really going to miss it.

 

I’ve left.

I’ve left the first place I’ve ever truly been happy

And now

I feel a little bit displaced.

 

~

Ella

 

“There is a place where I can go, when I feel low, when I feel blue, and it’s my mind, and there’s no time when I’m alone.” -The Beatles

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

21.

Part 1

Finally. Sweetheart, darling, sunshine, honey. I, miss, you, dearly. Far, apart, distance, expanse, away, shake, mama, shake, your, head, come, home. (21)

Tiny, dancer, I, love, the, peace, in, the, backseat, wish, I, was, there, direct, you, into, my, arms… I, love, you. (21)

Tom. (1 because you should know)

Part 2

Break, down. Missing, him, him, missing, me, so, much, happening, alone, confusing, questions, doubts, taken, aback, is, this, right? Missing, him. (21)

Always, waiting. Always, waiting, for, a, call, always, waiting, for, a, text. Him. Always, waiting, for, him, always, waiting, for, him. (21)

Confusing. (1 because it’s true)

Part 3

Trembling, in, your, arms, overcome, emotion, real, real, real, “You’re, not, a, burden, honey, you’re, a, blessing”, embracing, me, at, last. (21)

Warm, cozy, comforting, glowing, whisper, soft, tender, new, close, closer, illuminated, attentive, quiet, melting, fuzzy, admiring, dazzling, serenity, hushed, golden. (21)

Happy. (1 for good luck)

Part 4

Good, morning, Sunshine, snuggle, me, don’t, leave, and, then, and, then, and, then, his, life, was, almost, almost, and, I, can’t. (21)

I, can’t, believe, I, can’t, breathe, how, close, I, was, to, losing, him, please, fear, don’t, panic, leave, so, me, afraid. (21)

He’s, I’m, we’ll, be, okay, okay, okay, surreal, real, not, everyone, was, lucky, hold, me, we, are, gratitude, okay, unsettled, alive. (21)

Alive. (1 to remind myself we are)

21 days.

And. (1 to write this)

~~~

Ella

Song Quote:

I believe in miracles. -You Sexy Thing, Hot Chocolate

Now.

img_8829

I used to wonder. Now I don’t have to. I used to hoard love songs in a playlist called “Some Day”. Now I don’t have to. He was baffled. Now he doesn’t have to be.

Now I don’t need to be confused, or overanalyze, or miss him and worry that he doesn’t miss me or feel the same way.

He misses me. He feels the same way.

And so the girl has a boyfriend.

And she really needs to find a good nickname for him.

~~~

Ella

Song Quote:

It feels so real, lying here with no one near, only you and you can hear me when I say softly, slowly, hold me closer, tiny dancer. -Tiny Dancer, Elton John

Blanket.

I made soup last night. It came out delicious. McLaughin came over and we sat on my couch and ate soup out of mugs. I turned off the stove.

The pot caught fire.

McLaughin and I went out and met up with our friend, Tom. Together we went to… where he works. Was this wise of us? No. Is it what we did anyway? Uh-huh.

McLaughin was up to date, but Tom wasn’t, so I found myself sitting and filling him in on the entire story as he walked back and forth around us. I told Tom the truth: “I hate him for not being interested.” I say it’s fine — if he isn’t into me, I’ll just move on. There will be plenty of options.

But that’s easier said than done.

“I feel pathetic!” I exclaimed to my friends. They comforted me, laughed with me and distracted me. The waitress brought over our drinks.

It’s cold here. I was wearing Tom’s fleece and shivering. And then he came over and handed me a blanket…

“No! Don’t read into this,” McLaughin said as soon as he was out of earshot. “There are plenty of blankets around, it’s not a move.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t ask for one… he thought of me.” As I finish my sentence I drop my head into my hands because McLaughin is right and I don’t want to feel like this anymore. Yet I really can’t help but think about that night, how such a big chunk of the flirtation was around me being cold and him warming my hands…

Tom patted my knee. They both agreed: the situation is bizarre. The wires got crossed somewhere and we’re obviously not on the same page, but it’s just strange of him to make such obvious moves and then flip a switch and turn cold.

They also agreed he’s incredibly handsome (not the word they used).

As we neared midnight, I decided it’s worth enjoying this feeling. Because really, this confusion and angst? It’s so perfectly normal (it’s almost laughable). Tom tells me I’m “practically ‘Sex and the City’”.

They walked me home. They didn’t try to kiss me when we got there*. 

I let myself in and transferred my smoky soup to a container. I started scrubbing the pot and scraping off the charcoal layer at the bottom. As I scrubbed and scraped (and scrubbed and scraped) I felt lousy and elated and stupid and… happy.

Because this, ladies and gentlemen, is what happy looks like. It’s been six weeks since I moved here, five weeks since I started my job, and the biggest problem I’m dealing with is some stupid boy who’s playing it hard to get. It’s been six weeks and I feel like everything’s falling into my place and my life is starting.

“She believed she could so she did” has never felt truer than right now. Everything really is coming up roses.

~~~

Ella

Song Quote:

I’m drawing perfect circles round the life that we could share. -Light Up the Dark, Gabrielle Aplin

*Ha. Humor.

Onion.

My single roommates and I sit around our living room, scrolling through Facebook on our phones and announcing: “Engaged”… “Married”… “Engaged”. They understand there is no max to how shit I can feel. They say I make love to my food – I take my time, I make sure everything is well orchestrated, I put background music on…

My roommates and I sing nursery rhymes as we walk to the ice cream shop. We read each other texts from guys and congratulate each other on being empowered. We share our writing and speak truths.     

There was a gathering at work, a celebration. I was waiting in line for the sandwich bar with a few friends. He walked over and asked if I could put some red onion on my plate for him. I said yes. Later, after, he said, and I quote, “Thanks for the onion.” So, you know, I figure we’re friends now.

I was walking back from my pilates class a few days ago and all I could really think was, “Eff yeah”. I’m simply loving all of this.

I feel surrounded by hot and cold, hot and cold. I’m giving it no thought.

My roommate calls, “Come look at this girl’s wedding dress!” We flick through pictures and I smile inside out. One day those pictures will be of me, but not yet. I’m good.

I am thrilled through and through with the here and now.

~~~

Ella

Song Quote:

Everything’s coming down roses. – Whole Lot of Heart, Ingrid Michelson

Mint.

A ray of sunlight will always find its way through my metal slab shutters in the morning. The front door swings open of its own accord if it isn’t locked. There’s a little girl in my building named Ella – she’s always being called outside to play. My stove only responds if you touch it very softly. My windows don’t reopen if you close them. My bed’s too big for one person – I need another person to make it feel right.

This is home. It’s been three weeks, but it may as well have been a lifetime. I’m on my own now.

There’s a guy, who will forever be known as “The One Who Was Nice To Me On My First Day”. I hope he knows that he’s infamous in my book now. He started a conversation as I sat awkward and out of place, and invited me to a movie with a bunch of people. I didn’t know their names until I got there. Until the movie was over.

There’s another guy, who will forever be known as “The One Who I Flirted With And Who Flirted With Me.” He was sweet, and thoughtful, and warmed my hands when they were ice cold. We were surrounded by people the entire night – his people and apparently now mine too. He didn’t seem to care. He cared about my story and what I’ve been through, without knowing who I am. We laughed, and joked, and he made my face all warm and my heart expand. I felt something, maybe for the first time ever. I could see it.

He walked me home, even though it was out of his way. He told me about himself and I won’t share much, lest someone put two and two together. But he made himself vulnerable – more vulnerable than I would have thought him capable of after only a few hours. My apartment came around too soon. It was late, but the entrance to my building was swarming with people. We hugged. We pulled apart. Or rather, I thought we were pulling apart but he was pulling me in for more than a hug. I didn’t realize. He got my cheek.

I was flustered. I should have expected it – I was hoping for it the whole night – but it took me by surprise. I felt uncomfortable surrounded by all those people, the children, everyone watching us. I quietly said, sweetly I hope, “Not in front of the kids.” He smiled, I think. I’m not sure. We hugged again, and held hands as I parted for the building. I couldn’t sleep, running the whole thing through my mind and wondering how I could have made things end differently. I couldn’t sleep, thinking of the next time I would see him.

I saw him today. I don’t think I imagined the whole thing, but today… it didn’t seem like we had the same experience that night at all. He hugged everyone around me, but barely said hello to me. I wouldn’t care, except that when I saw him walk through the door I felt like my insides were struggling to escape. I’ve never felt that before. I watched as he made his rounds, and waited for him to reach me, suspended by the suspense of not knowing how he would greet me. But I don’t think I imagined the whole thing, so now I’m left with… Did he misinterpret my response that night? Did he feel rejected (like I do now)? He has no way of knowing what I’ve been thinking ever since then. How I’ve been thinking of him.

My new job is strange. I’m not sure how to find my place in an environment that’s so dynamic, but I’m taking it as it comes. Ask me one day and the place is amazing – the people, the cause, the projects – it’s phenomenal! Ask me the next and the place is confusing and I am out of my element. 

We’re five roommates, but three are subletting to other girls, so in the span of less than 20 days I’ve had 7 roommates.

There was a while when fibro was a non-issue. It’s an issue again, but I refuse to accept that.

I joined a gym. They’re requiring me to bring a doctor’s note that it isn’t dangerous for me or other people to join classes.

One night I sat on my porch in the dark and watched a show on my laptop. One character proposed to the other, and I burst out crying. It was just too much.

There is not a single person around me who has known me for longer than three weeks.

The light switch closest to my front door controls the light furthest from it. My fridge has a “pour water” option, but the spout isn’t where the marking is. There are four mirrors on the trip from the entrance to my room. The microwave isn’t broken – only the “Start” button is. The pictures I’ve strung up along my wall fly off when I turn on my fan. I’ve stopped using my fan.

This is home, and I love it more than anyone could possibly imagine.

This is my life now, and it’s all I’ve ever wanted. 

~~~

Ella

Song Quote:

Something inside me has changed, I was so much younger yesterday. -Starving, Hailee Steinfeld