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.)

Rising.

 

I am rising.

 

Rising, as opposed to drowning

But not rising, as in forgetting.

 

The yearning

For him, the love, the passion

Persist inside me.

Nothing is gone.

(Except for him.)

 

It hurts less and less,

But I still think about him every day.

 

He’s with me every step of the way,

As I step towards a future

Without him.

I carry the past with me,

Wrapped and entangled

And entrenched

Always

In memories that wrench my heart

And blur my mind.

(More than anything),

I am stronger for it.

 

I am rising.

 

~

Ella

 

“I’ll rise up and I’ll do it a thousand times again.” -Andra Day

And all the sad words.

 

And all the sad words have been written and recorded.

In a loaded diary, in untitled documents, on discarded pieces of paper,

And in tears that have since dried.

 

And all the sad words break my heart right back into a million pieces,

Into sharp edged shards of glass that glisten and glimmer, mocking me.

And yet slowly the glass crumbles into sand.

 

And all the sad words sound like they were written by someone else,

Someone who seems to know exactly how I felt,

But who isn’t me. Because my attempts to distance myself from those shards of glass…

 

Are starting to work.

 

I can breathe.

 

Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I glimpse the shadow of that girl. The one who couldn’t think, who couldn’t hear her own voice, who felt so torn apart inside it’s a wonder she remained intact.

 

That girl looked haggard.

She was in love,

But she was hurting.

 

I catch other glimpses though, in that stained and cracked bathroom mirror. I see the reflection of an elegant woman. She is brave and wise, confident and pure of heart. She is golden, effervescent, enchanted…

 

She knows how to love, and she will love again. And maybe next time it will be right.

 

~

Ella

 

“Birds flying high, you know how I feel / Sun in the sky, you know how I feel / Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel / It’s a new dawn / It’s a new day / It’s a new life / For me.” – Nina Simone

At first I called this “The Dock”, but now I’m calling it “In The Water”.

 

The girl was on the rickety dock for months.

The dock was familiar, and it felt like home.

Sometimes she was closer to the shore, at other times closer to the water, but most of the time

She was sat safely in the middle of the dock.

 

Until one day

She realized that the water seemed to be getting closer.

Maybe the tides were changing, or it had rained so much that the water level had started rising.

Or maybe, just maybe, the girl had been moving

Unnoticed even to her.

 

Something had changed.

All of a sudden the girl found herself on the very edge of the dock.

Her toes peeked out over the water, the water that was so close, and she felt the spray of droplets tickle her feet. She stood like that for a few days, sobbing, and looking back at the path she had walked. Then, she took a deep breath, braced herself and stepped off the dock.

 

Splashing

Gasping

Reaching

Crying

Drowning.

 

The blue coated her.

The sea claimed her.

Under the surface everything was dark.

She was cold.

 

And so the girl came to live her life from way out at sea.

Every day she kicked her legs to stay afloat, even as she drifted further into the depths.

Sometimes, her head was fully above water, and she could breathe.

She could even feel the heat of the sunlight on her closed eyelids.

But when she tired of the effort it took to stay in the sun, she sank back into the water,

Where the monsters were lying in wait.

 

The strain of the struggle has warped the girl’s perception of time.

Two full years of her life led her to that dock, and now

She’s been in the water for two months.

Both stretches of time feel equally as endless.

 

Only one has come to an end.

 

The girl is in the water.

She isn’t waiting there to be saved. She knows how to swim.

She’ll swim back to shore when she’s ready.

(She’s just not ready.)

~

Ella

“It’s everything you ever want
It’s everything you ever need
And it’s here right in front of you
This is where you wanna be…

So tell me do you wanna go?” -The Greatest Show

(No.)

Day 1.

 

December 3rd, 2016 – December 21st, 2018

 

His key on my desk. It’s over. Pile of tissues on the bed. On his side of the bed. An empty shelf in the closet. Missing utensils in the kitchen. No toothbrush. No future together.

I wanted one more night. I needed it. To live it while knowing it was the the last one, to hold him tight, to memorize the way it feels with him. To look into his beautiful eyes while I still could, and tell him how much I love him. I asked him for the night.

We both knew. We’ve known for a while. It was in the air, and we left it unspoken, so we could just have a little bit more time. It was heartbreakingly, gut-wrenchingly, sad.

There was nothing left to say. He won’t be my one and only forever. He won’t be mine anymore. Two years is the time we were destined to have.

But we tried so hard to save it. I tried so hard. It has taken me months to come to terms with the fact that there is nothing left I can try, nothing else I can do, except accept the situation. There’s no use fighting the truth anymore. You can only fight for so long.

We knew it had to end, and we knew that it would. That knowledge was tearing me apart. For months I’ve been stuck in a loop, trying to bring myself to end it but not wanting to. My heart has broken every day, over and over again, but it I never gave it a chance to heal. I’ve been preparing for Day 1 for so long, and fearing it for so long, but I never made it to Day 2.

Now it’s over. It’s Day 1. And tomorrow will be Day 2.

~

We put his things in the car and he pulled me a few steps aside. We hugged, and he twirled me around. We looked at each other lovingly, tears falling on my cheeks, glistening in the sunlight. We kissed. He called me his. I called him mine. He told me I’m beautiful. We walked the few steps back, holding hands. “My first love,” I smiled up at him, holding him with two hands. “And hopefully not your last,” he said. And smiled back.

~

Ella

~

Like it was written for our last night together…  “All I Ask” by Adele:

 

I will leave my heart at the door

I won’t say a word

They’ve all been said before, you know

So why don’t we just play pretend

Like we’re not scared of what is coming next

Or scared of having nothing left

 

Look, don’t get me wrong

I know there is no tomorrow

All I ask is

 

If this is my last night with you

Hold me like I’m more than just a friend

Give me a memory I can use

Take me by the hand while we do what lovers do

It matters how this ends

‘Cause what if I never love again?

 

I don’t need your honesty

It’s already in your eyes

And I’m sure my eyes, they speak for me

No one knows me like you do

And since you’re the only one that mattered

Tell me who do I run to?

….

Let this be our lesson in love

Let this be the way we remember us …. 

 

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

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