Sitting in my neighbour-friends' living room held me steadfast. people I needed, and not just people I needed something from. the days often tugged at me, but these people lifted me up, every time. I started thinking about my future seriously. the old vices kept their claws in me. I tried keeping my hands in, I was afraid of how much things could mean, afraid of touching something so uncertain. I couldn't keep up. "I am not well."
The nightmare project at work had my stomach in knots the whole time. I only knew one way to feel better. always running my fingers along my ribs, looking for cliff's edges. I stopped pretending to aim for transparency. I learnt about boundaries but had no power to enforce them. God never stopped speaking. my friends had stitched themselves together into family and I thought my chest would burst with how beautiful it was. I started singing, on purpose. I turned 20 and was okay with it. I unraveled in the mirror.
We started looking at houses together. My sister called me in early April and I shattered over the phone. I finally went to the doctor and he told me where the sadness comes from. I had coasted on the light and life of these people and still, they couldn't touch the grey inside. I missed a lot of work. "In my head, it is hurricane season." I stopped creating. I was learning, but the truth was ugly. I drove halfway across the city to tell someone the honest truth about something, for the first time. at long last, I did what the doctor told me, and started picking myself up off the floor.
I started learning to recognize my own mind. we started planning for California. I got better, I caught joy between my fingers. I stopped saying no, gave too much away. I loved incorrectly, pulled esteem out of other people. I left the house and took my camera with me. "It's okay to be on the way to somewhere."
I felt the pull to freedom but I didn’t know how to get myself out of the way. I felt fire in my chest. I looked outward to the world that needs, couldn't see how to heal what needed mending. “I wish i could fix people.” Fear still held me. I faltered for a week straight, but it would be for the last time.
We drove to California, I travelled with a childlike excitement. Strangers fit themselves into my chest. I have to leave to see clearly, had to disconnect to hear God speak. I saw my selfishness. I adored the company I kept, loved them in a way I did not think was possible. Woven together, I could feel the vibrations whenever one of us was far away. I drove through a Redwood tree and swam in the ocean and got a tattoo in LA. I saw God’s image in everything. My camera never left my hands, I was the right version of myself. “Every place I’ve ever been moves in. I change in every new place, I’m forever there and it is forever with me.” Impossible to admit, but I need people. Leaving home raised more questions than anything, and rightfully so.
July was coming home with wide eyes. I went longboarding and explored downtown and pulled in everything I could learn from. I found an anchor point for the nights I went back in time. Our house of cards flattened and I couldn't get out from under it for a while. Things grew hazy, but the bad habits felt alien. I flew to BC to stay with strangers who share my pulse and it was more about bravery than anything else I'd done.
Nothing fits the same after I've been away. Treating the symptoms didn't heal the sickness, there was so much to go through and I was alone. August was the blackout. "maybe, instead of healing, I've been hiding. maybe the right kind of light still shows what I am lacking. I am always under some kind of influence. I'm just so damn terrified." I talked myself down, over and over again. I lost my gravity and he was gone. I did not write a single sad poem. there was light, and I got to stand beside one of my best friends as she married the love of her life. I lifted my own head. "I've got to be on my own side now, more than ever before."
I stood up and walked away when I needed to. "my tendencies suggest I stay dry, lest I drown." my dear friend suffered great loss and I had no words, only hands. I did not leave myself alone, this time. I laughed like I meant it. "it is not that I needed to believe I was beautiful, it is that I need to believe that it did not matter in the slightest." I visited my hometown just long enough to learn what I was missing. we drove to the river, that Friday the 13th was my favourite night of the whole summer. a week later, our two friends got married and we all danced the night away. I coached myself through the hard days. I had to say goodbye to my first car. "you let someone get close, and then you feel every move they make, or do not make. how do you survive that?"
October was all backlash. the novelty wore off and the war started up again. But I knew how to fight this time. I started doing photos for other people. I ate at every single meal. "I am both the solution and the problem." two steps forward, one step back but I was moving. leaving Egypt. I told my story to someone, by choice. there were less walls, after that. my loved ones broke me in half mid-October, and it was them who stitched me back together. most of October happened inside my mind. I celebrated Halloween for the first time in my life.
November cut me off from the start. there was blood under my nails again. I was not kind to myself. someone called me on the phone, taught me that there is still love unconditional. despite the waves, I felt a balance within me, like I'd aged 10 years in a month. "I am steadier. I'm growing. it's okay for that to be present tense." as per the doctor's warnings, my body turned on me. I was an open wound and it stung like betrayal, but I learned how to care for myself. I regret how little I photographed.
even on the bad days, Hope fluttered in my chest. I gave it room to grow. I kept myself too silent. I realized these people are my family here, now. I let someone hear me, first-draft. the mirror finally let me go. I laughed when I looked at it. my body has done nothing wrong. I went back to my hometown for the holidays and it was exactly as it should be. December always divides me in two, not everyone I love is in the same place.
I won't make any promises for the new year, and that's okay.
I'm so thankful for the things I've learned.