Maybe your starting line was supposed to be your finish line. Don’t be afraid to walk backwards.
– Tablo from Epik High
I cried the first time I realized I had grown into my own person, no longer the shadow of Eldest Sis who guided me through the first eighteen years of my life with exemplary tenacity, detail, and patience. The realization that I have a mind of my own, opinions and feelings separate from her, felt like a betrayal to our roles in each other’s lives. I grew up wanting to be her; whatever she liked and disliked were things that I would, too. I was convinced it was only a matter of time except three months shy to nineteen, I tasted independence for the first time and discovered the exact toughness of my skin. I was home when this happened and realized that I had come home as a different person.
Somewhere between nineteen and twenty, I learned to stop apologizing for being myself – no, for existing. Somewhere along the way I learned that I needed to do my own saving and that I couldn’t do so when my head is constantly hung low and my self-worth is pathetically low. Somewhere between the end of my starry teens and the awkward, fumbling start of my twenties, I learned the painful reality check that one’s childhood heroes are in fact only humans disguised as mythical creatures, knights in shining armors only exist within the pages of fairy tales and real heroes are those who do their own saving. I was everywhere when this happened, but always present in a moment’s worth. I was no longer apologetic for taking up space. In any moment within the boundaries of time and space, I was present. Listen, I’m here.
I was angry the first time I realized what it means to be one’s own person as I stubbornly stood my ground and refused to bend simply to please someone dear in my life. I learned to curse, that very first time I shook with anger and disbelief and responded with two words, “Fuck you.” The aftermath was two months of silence and along the way, the word fuck becomes a vocabulary that comes easily when anger pays a visit. I learned to express my opinions and uphold my fort, however foolish and weak, when faced with opponents of greater force. I learned to demand for my right to be no one but myself. I learned what it means to have a voice and more crucially, to use it (well). I was half the globe away from home when this happened and I, for better or worse, had grown up.
I was dumbstruck and wide awake the first time I realized just how much of my life I’d overlooked; the things and people I took for granted and the person I’d become as a result. Enveloped by the dark and crammed within the four walls of my rented room, it was like I was seeing myself for the first time. It was an ugly sight; I was disgusted by the person I’d become, an ignorant and obnoxious young woman who believed she knew the world. How foolish. I didn’t shed a tear because the shock had taken over completely. Instead, I made futile attempts to grasp at something, anything, tangible in the dark to make sense of a life and self that suddenly felt like a complete, total and utter lie. I was home away from home when it happened and left the town as a completely different person.
Somewhere between twenty-one and twenty-three, I learned about happiness. I learned to revel in its brief respite whenever it made an appearance, to count my blessings from the moon and back for the contentment that glows in my heart. I learned about humility and the kindness of strangers. I learned what it means to live in the present; to appreciate life’s little wonders, enjoy meaningful company and let others in, bit by arduous bit. I learned that there will always be ‘girls like them’ and myself, and that’s okay. I learned to view life as half-full and not half-empty. I took cues on trying to treat other people as I’d like to be treated and forced myself to think about and then do something about my relationship with God. I was everywhere in the world, both spatially and temporally, when I learned to accept that change is inevitable and believe it or not, difficult or otherwise, is inherently good.
And now I’m twenty-three and trying hard, really hard, to make sense of this present that I am in. It is summer and I am home. Correction. It is still summer and I am still home. It’s been difficult, extremely difficult. There are small, fleeting moments of happiness but more than anything it has been emotionally taxing; I don’t want to talk about it. It’s been about everything I’d picked up over the years, only to have them spit back to my face. It’s about devastating truth-telling and about finding out that the monster under my bed was in reality, myself. I have learned a lot of things, too many in too short a span of time; I can still taste the bitterness in my mouth from having chewed on them. I have learned exactly how difficult it is to stand one’s ground against the ones that one loves the most. I’ve fought with everyone who matters in my life that I am starting to wonder if it’s me, if it’s really all me that is defective. It’s been a summer of haywire truths and adult-like decisions. I have learned how heartbreaking it is to find out that even the best of us falter and that the love for each other, even if it’s packaged with the best of intentions, means very little. It is enormous, this task of being unapologetically human. It weighs heavily against my soul, the price I pay for holding on to myself.
I want you to remember who you are, despite the bad things that are happening to you. Because those bad things aren’t you. They are just things that happen to you. You need to accept that who you are and the things that happen to you, are not one and the same.
– Colleen Hoover, Hopeless