I was 25 before I finally admitted how fucking miserable I was. How the years of just surviving, of barely making it, of scraping by, had made me weary down to my bones. How badly the heartbreak had made me equal parts hard and fragile.
The admission itself was hard. It felt like a spectacular failure; a mess of my own making from making bad choices and not practicing self-care. But there I was; 25 and miserable, miles from the people I loved, far from where I wanted to be, heartbroken and tired and working a job I hated that did not stretch me. I was single by choice, leery of letting anyone in, committed to remaining warm and detached. I can’t remember who was in the picture at the time, who I’d compartmentalized into a specific role- lover, companion, arm piece- whether that was the part they wanted to play or not. I do remember random crying fits, long stretches of insomnia, weight gain and hair loss, the pallor of my skin as though the misery had become a second skin I could not peel away.
I don’t remember when I decided I could not live this way anymore. I don’t even know that it was a conscious finite decision, or if it was just the realization that at 25 I was too young to resign myself to a life weighed down by unhappiness, that having to will myself out of bed in the morning, and needing to tuck myself into it immediately after exhaustedly trudging through every day, was not the way I wanted to live. Not if I wanted to actually live.
The last five years have been heavy lifting. It has been slicing open old wounds to drain the poison I trapped beneath the surface in my haste to appear whole. It’s rebreaking my bones along the fractures healed haphazardly so that I may set them correctly. It’s been cleaning and clearing. It’s been the reappearance of old apparitions I ran from rather than faced and expelled. And the introduction of new spaces for my soul to feel safe in. It’s been a breaking down and building.
This year on my birthday, unlike last year, I woke up happy. Contentment and gratitude flooded my body like the sunshine through my gigantic windows. I prayed a prayer of gratitude. I wrote my annual list of things I am grateful for. I got up and sang and danced to Stevie Wonder. I spent the day surrounded by people who love me, drinking whiskey and having good convo, and doing other things I won’t immortalize in print. And that night while I laid in bed, spinning slightly from the liquor, I thought about how far I’ve come.
I have cried. I have fought. I have been disappointed and I have been loved. I have moved. I’ve been weakened. I have persevered. I’ve been broken and I’ve been buoyed. I’ve been cold and I’ve been crazy. I have laughed and I have fucked and I have made love and I have hurt people and I have smiled, and been resentful and been overwhelmed by pride and anger and gratefulness. I have changed. I have gotten all that I prayed for.
I have lived.
Make no mistake about it, I am not whole. I am not healed. I am not where I want to be or whom I want to be when I get there. But I am further than I ever thought I’d get. And I know how to get there. And I know that I will get there. And I’m willing to do the work.
Bring on the dirty 30.