On being 21

Some people have their growing pains during their teen years. Angst, confusion, feeling lost and unsure in a world that you realize is much larger than you had been led to believe. New experiences that shape our identities. New knowledge that shapes our beliefs. Feeling scared, alone, and emotional.

She had her growing pains in her twenties. Up until that point she had been protected, supported, partly because of privilege. It wasn’t until she moved away and her perspectives were expanded at university that she realized how sheltered her life had been. She realized that unlike many of her peers, she had not had to experience pain, racism, poverty, divorce, mental illness, or death. There was never any particular circumstance which called for the expression of emotion and thus she had little experience in feeling emotion, and none in expressing it.

But then, she moved away and suddenly learnt about the world. This was her coming of age, her growing up. She learnt to think critically and unlike what she had been led to believe, adults did not have everything sorted out. They themselves did not hold all the answers and did not know for sure how best to manage a government or a relationship. The world and its problems were stripped bare. There was no more magic. In short, she experienced a grand disillusionment.

There were no more easy answers or set courses of action. She had not previously understood the autonomy of the human experience. There was too much choice – there were so many ways of living that she could choose; so many paths she could take.

Nothing was for certain, and stripped of her supportive family environment, she was forced into an independent way of life. Suddenly, all decisions were on her; she was solely responsible for her future. It was exciting, but also terrifying and utterly exhausting. To this, most adults will no doubt say – Get used to it! Suck it up! But being so sheltered and supported and then suddenly being told of make a life was a lot for her, perhaps too much too suddenly. She was starting from scratch and had no passion, purpose, or partner. She had never felt so alone, both because she had no friends, but also because, as she realized, the world was so large.

And as for emotion, she realized that she was someone who felt things very deeply, but through repression and lack of occasion, had never felt like she did then. The loneliness was like a fog that she couldn’t escape and it pervaded all activities of her life.

There was just too much uncertainty. She had no anchor in the world (like I said before, no particular pursuit and no partner), no control. So unconsciously, she began to regain a sense of control through her eating. She controlled – and restricted. Rules were set in place. Food was the reliable variable in her life; she could control it so absolutely. She found great comfort in the structure of her food routines in her otherwise unstructured life.

The eating disorder was also a way to cope with her new-found feelings; it was a distraction from the loneliness, sadness, and uncertainty. And of course, it further isolated her. Relationships were messy, she learnt; they could not be controlled (furthermore, she had not really learnt how to build them in the first place), so they were put aside.

An eating disorder begins so innocently; she was almost completely aware of beginning it; the rational side of her knew exactly what was going on. But like a snowball, the disordered part of the brain grows stronger every time it is listened to, and before long she was spiraling.

Parental intervention and therapy managed to stop that crisis. She learnt so much and hopefully that hurdle has been cleared for good. A very ugly growing pain, but from which she came out so much more resilient, self-aware, and self-accepting.

She is still just as lonely and still doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. On the cusp of youth and adult. This is what it feels like to be young.

Nocturne

I want to write poetry, but all that comes out is prose. I want to make friends, but all I end up with are acquaintances, at that. And then that gnarling nocturnal creature that comes out with the moon whispers to you consistently and convincingly: You are alone.

Quick – before it can reduce you to tears you better race to pop some pills and go to bed, where hopefully that bug doesn’t bite. It has become a routine to try to avoid the night. But sleep is a slippery bastard: and it doesn’t come to those who seek it.

And my mind is too alight, distraught, emotional and alive; and I feel inspired and wonder foolishly if maybe a poem could take off the edge – but all that comes out is prose.

Bookworm

It is so difficult to explain why I love reading. I love it deep within my bones, and it is my favorite thing to do.

Some don’t get the point of reading and they say you’re not doing anything “useful” by reading.

I don’t care because when I’m reading I feel useful because I am someone else. I get to learn new things and experience things that I haven’t experienced. I can be outgoing and beautiful and anything else. I can live a thousand lifetimes in my life. And that’s what I love.

And there are millions of books that I have yet to read. Unlike a TV series or a fantastic day, I don’t have to savour it and try to make the book last, because I know I will never run out. And that is a terrific feeling.

I read to escape – to escape those who say it’s pointless.

Moving Away

For once in her life, she didn’t fully think it through. She thought too much anyway, living more in her mind than with the people she knew. And that was her exact problem: at every moment in her life, she wanted to be loved, but to be alone. Incompatible, impossible. But on this occasion she didn’t think it through; she clicked “accept” with nothing but a spontaneous urge to be daring and start living as the TV showed her. So she moved away on a fine August day, to a city she’d never been, but more importantly, where no one knew her. And her heart leapt with the thought that here she could be free of her past, her failures, and preconceived notion of herself. She could finally be herself and not have to be what everyone thought she was. It took her exactly 4 days,  hours, 12 minutes, and 4 seconds to realize… to realize that she was the exact same as before.

Fantasy

Sometimes she fantasized about being hit by a car.
Not because she wanted to die – in fact, she had a strong love of life. But she knew, that if at that moment, flying down the hill on her bicycle, tears streaming down her face from the cold wind; she knew that if she were to get hit by a car, she would know it was “meant to be.”
She did not fear death or pain, (since at that time in her life she still believed in God), yet those were not the parts of the accident she fantasized about. She wanted to fly. She could imagine herself, soaring through the air in a way that her trusted bicycle never could. And in those moments, and the following moments lying on the wet hard asphalt, she imagined herself at peace. Perfectly content, with no regrets about the past or worries about the future, because, at that moment she was physically unable to do anything about either. The more she thought about it, the more she came to realize that it was not really getting hit by a car that she dreamed about, but rather unconditional peace of mind.

–also taken from my high school journal

What I did this summer

Isn’t it funny how when people ask “What did you do this summer?” you can’t think of something to say?

But that’s the problem. People think that it is important to “do” things, like travel or get a job or learn to sail or what have you.

Isn’t it more important to grow as a person though? To be at peace and ponder your meaning?

Isn’t it more important to learnt to appreciate the little things in life? Things that you don’t consider important enough to answer the “what did you do?” question.

Well this summer I read terrific books, I lay in the hammock, and baked gingersnaps cookies. I played tennis with my dad and cleaned my room with my mum. I sat on the garage roof eating cherries right our of the cherry tree. I learnt yoga and I babysat the kid next door. I feel more relaxed and rejuvenated for a new year. I feel ready to be a kinder and more thoughtful person.

And that’s what really matters, isn’t it?

–from my high school journal

Entry from my high school journal

I woke, not the annoying sound of my alarm clock, but to the sound of birds chirping. I stretched under my thick quilt. Today is Saturday, I thought. What a relief. I climbed out of bed and clomped downstairs. I was happy that today was simply a normal Saturday with nothing unusual happening. I munched on my Cheerios wondering “What is normal?” I quickly gave up and thought of how familiar and comforting my Cheerios were. On my way back upstairs I ran into my mum.

“Good morning! What are you planning on doing today?”
“Dunno”
“Maybe you should call up some of your friends.”
“I think I’ll go to the library.”

I walked into my room and shut the door. I thought about how I almost never called my friends anymore. My weeks are so hectic and I see my friends and other kids my age all day, that I just love being alone. Alone, but not lonely. Since today was Saturday, and the judging eyes of my peers were not on me, I didn’t shower and I slipped on some sweatpants I’d cut into shorts and a baggy grey T-shirt. I brushed my teeth vigorously, then I grabbed my bag along with the library cards, some books that needed to be returned, and my iPod. I turned up the music quite loud and I lost myself in it while walking the familiar route to the library. Once arrived, I returned the returns and then wandered over to the Teen section. This library was small and the Teen section consisted of only one rack. I sat cross-legged on the floor while I read the back cover of book after book after book.