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

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Silk.

We stole

A day.

To make everything

Okay

Again.

 

Plans out the window and

I can’t control my thoughts,

Foot on the pedal and

My nerves are doused in rain.

 

Just this once,

There’s no need for

The endless chain of

Busses and trains.

Just this once,

My car

Will transport

My body and

My baggage

(And my heart

Is already,

Always,

Wherever you are.)

 

Now I’m on

My way

To you.

 

I tried

Not to

But I

Scripted

Myself

A vision

Of how this would go.

I was so sure

I had lost you.

 

I know you told me

You’re back

I know you told me

You aren’t out

I know you told me

This is it and

The reason is me.

 

I know everything you’ve said

And everything you say.

It’s just that

You can’t possibly fathom

How hard it is

For me to believe

You feel the way

You say you do.

 

And I don’t know why that is.

 

But you should know

I left

The words I sketched

Outside, in the parked

Locked

Car.

 

This is a relationship

On steroids.

You move so quickly

I can’t always keep up.

Sometimes I forget

What it was like

Before

I had you.

 

But I never forget you existed

And lived and loved

Before I knew you

Existed, lived and loved.

 

That night,

I made you promise

That we would stay up

Until

We felt close again

Like before.

 

But –

That night,

After hours

Of staring into your eyes,

Silk laced thoughts

Tracing our silhouettes,

There were other

Promises

On my mind.

 

We stole

A day.

And made everything

Okay

Again.

 

~~~

Ella

Song Quote:

We had time against us, miles between us, the heavens cried, I know I left you speechless. But now the sky has cleared and it’s blue and I see my future in you. -I’ll Be Waiting, Adele

Orange.

Who knew a butchered orange could be so sweet?

 

Standing in my kitchen and the dark world beyond can see us so clearly in the light. I think to myself, we’re like a normative couple with the time to cook together. We’re swaying to music and I smile at him as he’s focused on his mission of – making dinner. I pass him by the stove and he swivels us against the sink and I smile at him as he’s focused on his mission of – kissing me. He leans back and I lean into him and still we sway to the music and still the dark world beyond can see us so clearly and I think to myself, 

Is it the motown that makes us unreal?

 

I take him on park tours and he tells me everything and he knows how to make my heart miss a beat. I read him like an open book and we both think we aren’t photogenic (but love pictures) and  I own fairy lights. I barely notice his British accent anymore and we text each other black and white pictures of couples from a different century and he likes gummy candies (and beer). I worry about him being sad and he makes me promise to wake him up in the night if I don’t feel well and we read each other poetry. We visit his dad for afternoon tea and he sees right through me and we sit on a beach staring out at the sea. We sandwich our phones away and he holds his hand against my cheek and we watch a movie with my family and I think to myself, 

Is it the lighting that makes us unreal?

 

We’re young and the future is far away, but we’re not that young together and the future is on our minds. Together and apart we ponder this relationship and how can our hearts feel so strongly so quickly? We take it in turns and we yearn for some answer that will be enough. How will this go, how will this end, will this end – we freak out. We’re too young to have answers, or maybe we won’t ever have any, in fact – maybe it’s best if we forget all about the questions. We’re young together and actually not that young and what if this is the beginning of the story? Hand on heart, because it feels so right, and he tells me he’s waiting for the other shoe to drop and perhaps so am I. But I look at him when we go dancing and when he quotes a reference of mine back at me and and when he chuckles his little boy chuckle and I think to myself,

Is it the timing that make us unreal?

 

Sunlight reaching through the cracked open window because maybe our emotions needed a way to escape the room. Reality roaring it’s wretched wrath and crawling past our gaze, announcing the dawn of a new day and another goodbye. We almost got used to not missing each other. It’s time to go back to, “I love you, sweetie, I’ve got to go now.” But I don’t want to forget the way he smiles a tiny smile when he calls me honeybunny and how it feels to be in his strong embrace, pressed against his body, lining up because we fit (his arms containing my Goodbye Sadness). Little, kisses, squeeze, it’s so cold when he leaves, and I think to myself, 

Is it the distance that makes us unreal? 

 

A butchered orange has never been this sweet. 

~~~

Ella

Song Quote:

I’ll paint the picture, let me set the scene, you know, the future’s in the hands of you and me… but what do I know? -What Do I Know, Ed Sheeran

Honestly.

It’s stupid

But I so feel

Like this

Is goodbye.

  • A turning point

 

If anyone deserves

To have the world

Smile back at them,

It’s you.

  • Neither of us said what we really meant that day

 

I miss him and

I’m not even sure he’s

Mine

To miss.

  • Can we talk now?

 

I missed you,

I said.

I missed you,

He said,

The following night.

  • I’ve got a really good feeling about this

 

What was that?

A self five.

For what?

You.

  • What if this is the guy?

 

My feet are cold.

I guess that’s what you get

With a winter romance.

  • “Not just a winter romance”

 

Good morning,

Sunshine,

This time tomorrow

I’ll be 

On my way to you.

  • A day never felt so far away

 

Good night,

Darling,

I miss you dearly.

Was nice talking to you

However briefly

Thinking of you

Hoping to dream

Of you.

  • It’s okay to cry because he isn’t here to see it

 

I have to go

I’m really sorry

You finish at 9.30

I’ll call you then

I love you

I’m sorry

I know I said

I love you

We’ll talk about it later

I have to go

Bye.

  • “You realize two weeks ago I didn’t know if you liked me or not?”

 

I think my patience will outlast your ability not to say it back.

  • Could you read it in my eyes?

 

Why are you dancing?

Because I want to.

  • 3 in the morning, wrapped in a fluffy, orange blanket

 

I have never

Seen him this happy.

  • He doesn’t know she said that

 

I have never

Felt this good in my entire life.

  • Only I know he said that

 

I just want to cuddle the fuck out of you

Already.

Read to me?

I can’t sleep because of you.

I miss you so goddamned much, it’s crazy.

How is it fair that so much of my

Thoughts are taken up by you?

I can’t wait to simply hear your

Voice.

  • Thoughts from a distance

 

Honestly

If in three years’ time

We’re still together

I can hand on heart say

I’ll marry you.

  • You made my heart stop. I love you too

 

~~~

Ella

Song Quote:

When the evening shadows and the stars appear, and there is no one there to dry your tears, I could hold you for a million years, to make you feel my love. -Make You Feel My Love, Adele

Velvet.

We stole

An hour.

To say hello,

Again.

 

We stole

A piece of time

And made it our own.

Amid the trains

And the busses

And the shops

And the people,

We stole

Glances.

We smiled,

Eyes crinkling

Hearts beating

Cheeks seizing

Absorbing

How it feels

To be together. (Again).

 

We traipsed and traipsed

Over the same

Ground and ground,

Lifting all our baggage and carrying it around,

Piling it up in corners as we sat

So we could get

Close.

Closer.

 

We stole

Back

Fragments of

Thoughts and

Feelings

Swept

Around constantly

By distance

And (my) doubt.

We took

Our (sliver of) time

And put everything back together. (Again.)

 

We stole

A cuddle on a bench, a kiss in an elevator, a picture in a reflection. Embraces by the trains and the busses and the shops and the people.  

 

I trembled, like I always do

When I finally get to see him.

I rested my head

On his chest, beneath his chin.

A vision of velvet emotions.

I leaned my body into his,

Lined my heart up with his,

Let myself be wrapped up in his,

Love.

I let my erratic pulse sing with the silence,

And my incessant thoughts rhyme with the quiet,

And my tireless unsettled movement tango with the grounded hush,

Because all I really wanted

Was time.

 

We walked by all the people and we walked by all the shops, and he got on his train and I got on my bus.

 

We stole

An hour,

And said goodbye

Again.

 

~~~

Ella

Song Quote:

I wanna feel what love is, I know you can show me. I’m gonna take a little time, a little time to look around me, I’ve got nowhere left to hide, It looks like love has finally found me. -I Wanna Know What Love Is, Foreigner

 

Waves.

img_0303

Fireflies, fairy dust, flowing sparks and floating stars, flickering in the air, falling light moats around us when we’re together.

We curled closer.

Peachy lights casting enchanted glow and cold night air I don’t feel when I’m with him.

Heart all aflutter when I realize how he feels about me.

Comfortable quiet of the hushed world beyond and the harmony of our emotions trembling in sound waves between us.

The way he looks at me… “And how’s that?” Like you love me. “I do.”

If you thought my heart was beating quickly before…

The way he makes me feel when he says my name, the way my heart melts at the sound of his softest voice, the way he makes the air crackle with electricity when he’s near me (the boy brings the sun to its knees every night*).

The way he makes me miss him.

The way I almost want to resent him for making me miss him so much (but he says I do the same to him and it’s not fair).

The way it dawns on me every time that as tired as I am of waiting for him, he’s beyond worth it.

The way I discover over and over that he is everything I’ve been looking for (he is my wildest dreams).

The way I’m simultaneously euphoric and petrified when I realize my heart isn’t just my own anymore – it’s also his.

We curled further into each other.

The way I always have and always will forget to take things one day at a time.

The way I simply wouldn’t change a thing…

~~~

Ella

Song Quote:

You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you. -Franki Valli

* “I know I should crumble for better reasons
but have you seen that boy he brings
the sun to its knees every night.” – Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur

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