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.)
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I Hate Everything – A Tale of Optimism

For quite a while now my first thought every single morning has been, “I hate everything”. Well, to be fair, it’s usually a word that starts with “F”. Or “S”. But the second thought has been, “I hate everything.” It’s like the soundtrack to my life. *

Why? Because I’ve been in immense pain. But why have I been in immense pain? Because I’m busy. And that’s why it’s a phrase of optimism.

You’ve known me for a very long time – remember when I turned 16 and started freaking out about growing old and being sick? – and you know I’m big on self-reflection. I’m astounded when I think about how much I’ve grown in the past seven months, on so many fronts. Besides all kinds of official things – being upgraded to an adult credit card (not below 18 anymore), having no more age-related driving restrictions, having control over my own medical everything – there are the things that are less obvious.

I’m not here to list all those things. Normally that would be a classic post, but today I’m content with just the knowledge that I have grown. Today, I’d like to talk about the fact that I’m busy (and therefore I hate everything).

Since September I’ve been volunteering with a certain charity, and in the past few months I’ve had to make a decision: either find another place to volunteer for a year, or go on to university. I took the higher education entrance exam (psychometric test) and got a high enough grade to enter the excellence program and receive a 50% scholarship (!) at my school of choice. Attending the course, preparing for the exam and still working (i.e. volunteering) three days a week took a lot out of me, but the success felt amazing. So that covered the technical aspect of university for me, but I was left with the question: am I ready?

I’ve never told you where I live, what my real name is or what my religion is, and you’ve never seen a picture of me. You know no truly identifying factors (which I’m sure has driven some of you crazy). I have my reasons for this, but the reason I love the most is that this blog is the opposite of real life. In the real world, the first things you (usually) know about a person are what they look like, the part of the world they live in, their name and maybe their religion. It takes longer to learn about their personalities and their feelings, if you ever do. In this world, our world, the only things you know about me are my personality and my feelings.

Which is why I’m still not telling you anything, including where I’m volunteering or what country I live in. I wrote all of this simply to explain that in my country, it’s not weird that I’m not starting university at 18. In fact, even if I go when I’m 20, I’ll still be on the younger end of the scale. Generally speaking, I’m much older than my age suggests, so I’m not worried about fitting in socially with an older crowd, but I am worried about my feelings. I’m so separate from my contemporaries as it is, and if I jump shoot choosing a profession, studying and starting a career I fear I’ll feel galaxies away from everyone.

It has come down to the fact that I have doubts. I’ve decided that the fact that I doubt I’m ready to start is enough to decide I’m not ready. I’m not the sort to waste my time and I take things very seriously, so I’m not going to start until every aspect feels right.

Which leaves me with finding another place to invest my heart for a year. I’ve been busy because I’m following leads and putting myself out there, all the while keeping up my regular work schedule. Sprinkle in tutoring, physical therapy, exercise, doctor appointments, additional work events and the occasional (*gasp*) attempt at fun, I am exhausted.  

So my brain is occupied with hating everything the majority of the time because I constantly feel like I’m dragging my body around and running myself into the ground (please note that I’m still taking care of myself – I haven’t aborted the mission of health just yet). When the thought first started popping into my brain I was kind of amused – it is kind of a funny way for my mind to have phrased my displeasure – but I recognize that it’s a sign of me being proactive with my own happiness.

I am my own person, and I am making the decisions that are right for me. I’m not just sitting here, feeling miserable, and hoping I do something worthwhile with my time. I’m already doing it. I’m being smart about my life. I’m building my path from scratch and turning it into something I can be proud of. Even if I don’t always realize it, I know that every step I’ve been taking recently has been an offspring of a superpower: optimism. Somehow I’ve been operating under the assumption that I have the ability to make everything work out.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why hating everything means I am a true optimist. Farewell.

~~~

Ella

Song Quote:

We’re on the right side of rock bottom. –Rock Bottom, Hailee Steinfeld

*I literally push myself up into a seated position on my bed and think, “I hate everything.” Then I go to the bathroom and think, “I hate everything.” As I’m getting dressed, I’m thinking, “I. Hate. Everything.” When I find my way to the kitchen and start making breakfast, I’m just a broken record of, “I hate everything”. It’s quite the life I lead, my friends.

The Interview Anecdote

Don’t let your cheek twitch. Yes, yes, I know it wants to, but don’t let it.

This is exciting! You might be setting foot on the campus of your future for the first time! In fact, the campus doesn’t look all that pretty… and the guys here look kind of weird, not handsome like you imagined… but that’s okay, this is still cool. This is still exciting!

Room 112, that’s where the magic will happen. If only we could find it. Around and around and around… I swear I’ve been down this corridor. Front desk, we meet again. Didn’t you hear? They changed the rooms. 112 doesn’t exist, it’s a typo.

Down the hall, hall down the, the hall down. Here we are!

Why thank you, I am welcome.

Is it just me or is this chair built weirdly? How do I exude leisure and confidence while in a chair that awkwardly leans backwards? I don’t know.

Maybe I should have realized that I would need to speak, need to tell them why I’m interested in joining this lovely and competitive school, but I didn’t. At least someone spoke before me.

The man was nice and he seemed to like my answer. Good job! You’re doing so well!

I will let you tell me a little bit about the course.

It’s fancy, yes, that’s why I’m here.

It’s revered, yes, that’s why I’m here.

It’s creative, interesting, professional, yes, yes, yes, that’s why I’m here.

It’s night courses.

Don’t let your cheek twitch. Don’t let the nice man see your face fall. Don’t let yourself acknowledge the disappointment coursing through your insufficient veins. Don’t let this inefficacy affect you. Don’t let your body’s inefficiency be a character in this conversation.

Don’t let your cheek twitch. And whatever you do, goddamit, don’t you dare cry. Tears are beneath your pain right now.

What? Oh, no, I don’t have any questions. Actually, just one: do you offer any daytime courses?

Oh.

Have you heard of any places that do?

Oh.

No, thank you, it was great meeting you.

You wish me health.

I wish me health too.

Cause wouldn’t health just be a great thing? Wouldn’t it just solve this all right here, right now? Wouldn’t it save me this pain, quite literally? Wouldn’t it spare me this turmoil of watching my independence quiver into a mere dream, of watching everything that excites me be cut down and vaporized, barred from me because I just can’t freaking do it?

It would. But it won’t. Because health is nothing but a rumor around here. My body believes it to be a fantasy, in fact. You should never hope to chase a fantasy, it tells me. Because this body of mine, it hates me. I’m looking down on it now, in fact, using it to type these words, but it’s using me, too. Using me to make me miserable. What it gains? I’m not sure.

I won’t be going there next year. I won’t be going anywhere. I will remain exactly where I am, writing about being sick and totally sick of it, treading water, paddling backwards and discovering that all my hopes are in the muddy puddle I keep treading in over, and over, and over.

Game over. Wave your dreams goodbye as they pass you in the car you could drive if you had anywhere to go.

The people around say: “It’s okay, there will be other courses. Something with daytime hours, something you can do.” The people in me say: “Believe them. Please, please, believe them! If you don’t, what will we do?”

I say: “Give me a chance to live my life for once. Give me my choices back. Give me freedom. Give me an interview I can be happy about.”

But whatever you do, in this life, don’t let your cheek twitch.

Ella.

Song Quote:

I have tried but I don’t fit into this box I’m living with. –The Box, Damien Rice