So, this post is very belated, but I turned 20 two weeks ago and I’ve never been more content with where my life is at the moment despite the fact that it’s not really going anywhere and I don’t know anything. I think it’s because I spent a lot of 19 trying to figure out why I didn’t quite feel like myself most of the time, or being angry or sad or disappointed with myself for things I couldn’t control, and I’m finally past that. I felt like 19 was this weird stage of repeated puberty where I experienced all these highs and lows and growing into my skin and all the messy feelings of entering adolescence, except as a college student, which was exhausting but also very necessary because it was truly a transition period. I am simultaneously sad it’s over, because now I can’t belt out the lyrics to Perfect Places by Lorde the same way, but glad to see it go.
In the spirit of aging, I want to share something I wrote last September after Zoe and I talked for hours about the unrelenting, suffocating, terrifying nature of time passing, or more melodramatically encapsulated in the phrase that so often now slips off my tongue when I come upon the slightest inconvenience: “the burden of existence is unbearable!!!” At that point in my life, I was feeling so weirdly gray all the time and desperately wishing to be the bright and happy and hopeful girl I was just a year ago. But then I realized how I was probably just romanticizing some past version of myself, and that I was never really completely 100% happy all the time, but just thinking and pretending that I was.
This piece is still very dear to me because that night, upon writing it, I felt inexplicably lighter. We are all just growing. We’ll never stop growing. And we’ll grow through all these different lives and moments and mindsets that we’ll never quite shed but will never really hold onto, either. And the best part — there’s so much more of it left to do.
9/25/17 – obituary
Tonight I mourn the girls I used to be.
Sweeter. Simpler. They’d laugh, and it wouldn’t sound forced. Or maybe it did, and I’m only imagining that there was ever a version of me that didn’t feel the way I do now.
I mourn the desperate imagination of fifteen, who was in love with outer space and finding answers to life through moon signs, who spent half her time convincing herself everything in the cosmos was somehow beautifully, magically, profoundly connected because it made her life less dull, who thought one day she’d write a novel about how the end of the world would look (the sun explodes, there is nothing but light, animals feel no pain, and all the humans on the decaying earth realize with a crescendoing definitiveness that they have been misers with love).
I mourn the blooming passion of sixteen, who believed she really could change the world, who, with full faith, clutched at the belief of humanity’s inherent goodness like a child grabs at a mother’s hands when she first learns to walk, who romanticized loneliness and insecurity to color her days pink, and who, later, realized just how much high school can hurt: sixteen was the first goodbye to a purely naive youth.
I mourn the bright-eyed spunk of seventeen, who had just begun to figure herself out, who danced in art museums and fell in love with Van Gogh, who drank sunsets and seawater and spun daydreams out of disillusionment, who started a journal – and thus formally birthed an obsession with preserving each fragment and frame of existence – because every day was too sweet to forget, who stood out of sunroofs and bled onto red track and climbed rocks and crags and trees without ever looking down.
I mourn the controlled confidence of eighteen, who, though terrified, saw the future as something curious and exciting, who tasted the rare and inimitable sweetness of the first stroke of self-belief, who learned to speak louder and with more conviction, who lied to her parents so she could feel like she was living deeper, who tripped endlessly over her own detached heart and didn’t care, not once, not at all, who still held onto the belief of humanity’s inherent goodness with a white-knuckled fist.
We keep losing ourselves in the fleeting yet unremitting process of growing up. Sometimes existence feels light, like a stray eyelash or dancing dust particles or anything that is distinctly beautiful when noticed yet, in the grand scheme of things, completely irrelevant. Do our souls carry weight? Perhaps not, but there are times when the weight of everything – the buildup of thoughts, self-doubt, experiences, emotion, confusion, detachment, traumas, regrets, appreciation, nostalgia, longing, hope, fear, emptiness, etc. – physically feels heavy. The Law of the Conservation of Mass states that mass is never created nor destroyed. When it comes down to it, our ever-changing personalities and past selves are but different patterns of firing neurons in our brain. They have no mass, but it sure as hell feels as though they do sometimes, so I will say this: the parts of ourselves that we lose as we grow older are never destroyed, simply transformed. The starry eyes of fifteen morphed into the fiery heart of sixteen, who could not have come to be without falling in love with the universe first, and the fiery heart of sixteen became the restless feet at seventeen, who could not have existed if she had not tried to change the world first, and then the restless feet became became the lips that could, at last, speak with conviction and ease at eighteen, who owed everything – her bloom, her energy, her ambition – to her past selves.
So tonight, I mourn the girls I used to be, because I think they used to be happier than I am now. But maybe that’s not true, and I’m simply romanticizing the past like I used to romanticize the present. Nineteen feels like the true and irreversible loss of youth and all it’s naivete and childlike wonder. Nineteen is defeatedly accepting that humans are sometimes cruel, cruel without qualification, cruel in the way that can make your heart sting. Nineteen is full of questioning: why do I work so hard? Is anything I do ever worth it? Will I ever be worth something? Why don’t people care about hungry, dying people? Or the dying Earth? Why do they only care about money instead? Why am I starting to care more about money instead? Why don’t I know what’s most important to me anymore? Why don’t I care as much as I used to? Why am I so neurotically fixated on the passage of time? Why can’t I ever open up to anyone? Will anyone ever really know me? Will I ever really know myself?
But that’s not to say that nineteen isn’t made of laughing about horoscopes with your best friends and doing research into star signs (I’ve just discovered I’m a Libra Moon, I think it’s pretty accurate but that could just be my fifteen-year-old astrology fanatic speaking). Or feeling so charged with anger about the US prison industrial complex and injustice of incarceration systems you could scream. Or taking spontaneous, solo trips to different areas of New York and simply basking in the light-hearted and lovely way life can be when you let go. Or reading intensely fascinating descriptions of professional avenues you never before knew existed. I’ve shed the skins of my past selves but they still live on in a transformed amalgamation of me that will only continue to grow. I just have to remember that. I just have to love who I’ve become, not who I once was.
Tonight, I mourn the girls I used to be, because that’s somehow the easiest way to deal with the anxieties and grayness that nineteen feels like so often. In doing so, I’m comforted by their foreverness. I think we – humans – have all just survived our own mini-traumas and losses of youth and crushing confusion, yet somehow, are collectively fine. We’ve all experienced the deaths of parts of ourselves yet we still simply exist. Through barely-there stranger smiles, titanic outpourings of hearts, and everything in between, we lend each other solace.
Solace. The comfort and alleviation of distress or discomfort, one of the greatest gifts we can give to one another. It’s such a nice word, slipping gracefully through your mouth like silk, gentle and with as much promise of refuge as a lullaby.
Nineteen, you will be (sort of maybe not really) missed!! And, because I make playlists for everything, I made a playlist for you. All these songs were transformative in one way or another. I probably listened to them sitting in an emo bubble on the subway or walking briskly through the streets at night marveling at how beautiful the world is or lying in bed drowsy off of melatonin but still trying to make it to my favorite part or strolling across campus counting sunspots on Butler.
Goodbye, Aquarius season! You were a good one.