I’m turning 20 next week which means that I’m growing up but it feels like I’m growing older, although I haven’t even begun to experience my youth yet. So I sit on the floor of my bedroom at 3 am caught between looking forward to my youth and looking back at my childhood. And I’ve never been good at decisions so I convince myself that I can do both. I can write a eulogy for all the parts of me that did not make it out alive and a love letter to those that did. I have no balance, it’s a funeral or wedding in my head.
I stop to remind myself that this one is only a birthday and I’ve had 19 of these before but the problem is that I can’t remember growing up. I can’t remember when my mom stopped chopping my food into tiny pieces at the dinner table, or when she stopped checking on me for brushing my teeth every morning. I can’t remember when I stopped asking for goodnight kisses or sliding into my parent’s bed after having a nightmare. I can’t point out when adults started cursing around me without apologizing, or when I was allowed to make my own decisions. I don’t remember things changing.
I don’t remember when my morning routine changed from getting out of bed for breakfast to staying in and convincing myself that I am enough and I’m hardly convinced, so I repeat it like a prayer throughout the day in every mirror that I face. And I’m making an effort to face mirrors more often.
I spent my teenage years being obsessed with how I looked and feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. I’m very resentful and I’m very angry at myself for that, I had so much potential, energy, and drive but instead of doing anything that I wanted with that I directed all that fire inwards and burnt myself up, and tried to make myself beautiful and perfect. Now I’m planting wildflowers in that same ash, not because they grow beauty but because they grow happiness through thick and thin.
I believe that there is a moment in your youth when you don’t belong to anybody. A moment when I’m not really a daughter, a sister, or anyone’s partner. When I’m not related to anyone at all so that I can madly fall in love with myself. But I can’t love myself if I’m resentful at versions of my past, especially when I’m alone. I repeat at my reflection that I am more than a shrine of my past traumas.
So I owe the biggest apology to my past self because no one’s crueler to her than me. I forgive her because I know that she was only trying her best. And I remind myself that she does not define me, rather she will always be the context for who I was becoming, who I am today.
And I thought that I would have finally found happiness, but happiness and acceptance aren’t interchangeable. I still need to unpick parts of myself that I’ve created to protect myself, skin so thick that I wouldn’t drip with blood in case I brushed up against something. And I still don’t know what happiness feels like without the impending wave of sadness to hit like a tsunami. All that I do know now is that I’m not scared anymore, to grow up, to grow old, or to grow young, because nonetheless, I am growing.