dreams

I Was Here

When I was fourteen, I painted my name onto a sidewalk out back behind the middle school. We were painting foam stones for the set of Les Misérables, and my best friend dared me to do it. A few quick strokes of the brush, a G that looked more like a 6, and voila, vandalism complete. For a moment, I was immortalized.

It wasn’t even a week before somebody painted over it. I wasn’t exactly surprised, considering it was public property that I’d defaced. No one came after me or anything, I just kind of disappeared. Before the show even went up.

During the summers I lived and worked at summer camp, I was careful to write my name everyplace I could. The cabins I called home for one or two weeks at a time got a little Sharpie tag on the inside of the cabinet door. The picnic tables by the beach, too. The swim box, the snack bar window, the boys’ bathroom where I used the urinal once (summer camp is a weird place). I was meticulous about it without being too obnoxious. I was just staunchly determined to leave my mark wherever I’d been.

Memories aren’t enough. That’s why we pull out our iPhones every time we come across something beautiful. We’re afraid that without tangible evidence, we won’t have really seen it at all.

So what does that mean for us? How will people remember us, after we’re gone and everyone who knows us is gone and our Facebook pictures are lost in the depths of the cloud forever?

Will they?

Truth be told, I’m pretty terrified of being forgotten. I want my life to have meant something when I’ve gone; I want there to be proof that I spent a good long time on this earth. Even if it’s something as small as a tiny tag on the inside of a cabinet. But preferably something bigger.

That’s why we do it, I think. That’s why we do anything at all. We want, somehow, to believe that we matter beyond what we ourselves can see. We want what we think and say and wonder to be able to change the world, because we’ve heard stories of how, sometimes, it can. We pull out our paintbrushes and write it on the sky. “I was here.”

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Crazy

The walls weren’t the right color.

“They’re blue, please, they’re supposed to be blue,” I implored the white-clad women as they ducked in and out of my room. Nobody seemed to pay me any attention; the bustling never stopped or slowed long enough for my words to catch up. I just wanted somebody to listen to me. This was all wrong, everything, the walls and the floors and the noises –

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

The room trembled and quaked as a high-pitched wail reverberated off the strange walls and settled in my eardrums. Searing pain ripped through my head like I was being impaled by a hot poker. Suddenly there were hands pressing on my arms, my legs, my forehead, my mouth – oh.

My mouth. That was me. I was screaming.

“Can’t she talk yet?” I heard one of the girls whisper to another. “I’m so fucking tired of all this yelling.” The other girl giggled. What did they mean, couldn’t I talk? Wasn’t anybody listening to me at all?

“Relax, now,” one of the older women said as she cupped my face in her cold hand. I squirmed under her touch. She smelled like bleach and baby powder, and it was churning my stomach to have her so close to me. There were still too many people crowded around my bed. I felt the sting of bile rising in my throat.

“Stop it, please,” I begged, turning my head to the side. “Leave me alone.” My vision blurred as their faces grew closer and closer, until all I could see were faces, eyes, blackness – and then I couldn’t see anything at all.

“This one’s seriously batshit,” a voice echoed as the sound sped further and further into the distance. “She’ll be lucky if we lose her. It’ll save her a lot of pain.”

Lose her?

Laughing. Then nothing.

Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s kind of funny how hard it is to write when I’m not going through some kind of crisis. In some ways, I feel like happiness is boring; like now that I’ve grown closer to accepting the way things are, I’ve sacrificed some of the things that made me interesting. I worry that without the struggles that defined me when I started this blog, I have nothing worth saying.

I hope that’s not true. I don’t want it to be true. I think “interesting” is the greatest compliment I could ever get, and I couldn’t bear it if someone told me I was boring.

I’m worried that you guys, my readers, my crazy huge number of followers, are only here because of the hard stuff. Because there’s something about my journey through several levels of hell that struck you, or inspired you, or made you feel like you weren’t alone. Believe me, it has been unbelievable to be able to share my experiences with all of you. It has been a dream come true to be able to give some glimmer of hope to people who are struggling. This blog has been everything I ever could have hoped for and more.

The thing is, I’m doing well now. My life is pretty mundane. I’m a normal college student, taking a full courseload and working a part-time job. I spend my weekends marathoning TV shows and Netflix or spending time with my wonderful friends. I worry about normal college things, like graduating and getting good grades and finding a job. And being broke. And lamenting the fact that I’m still single. I’ve got a lot of worries, sure, but my health is no longer one of them.

As silly as it is, I wonder why any of you would care anymore. I’m nothing but average now, with nothing remarkable to show for my daily activities. It’s a blessing to be normal, to feel like I belong in the college culture, but as a blogger? Who wants to read about the life of a college math major? Besides the challenges I’ve worked to overcome, what makes me a worthwhile contributor to the WordPress world?

I am terrified that somehow, because I’m “normal,” my life has lost its meaning. That the things I’ve shared are the only things I’ll ever share. That I’ve reached my peak and nothing I do from this point on matters. All I’ll be is that blogger that used to be really insightful but now only talks about her job and her nights out on the town, losing followers left and right because she’s nothing special anymore. (Not that followers define me, but you know what I mean.)

I guess all I can say is that I’m still here. I’m still alive, which is something I never take for granted. I’m living outside of my URL, spending every day pushing toward the next phase of my life, hoping that something I do will matter someday. I still write 1000 words in my journal every day. I still think and wonder and love and cry and everything else humans do. I just don’t know how to say those things to all of you without losing my air of wisdom and courage. Without losing you.

Que sera, sera. What will be, will be. The only thing I can do is live the best way I know how, and I hope that I can take some of you with me along the way. Because God only knows what I’d do without you.

And Oh, My Dreams

dramatic dream

When I was little and had nightmares, my parents used to tell me it was because I had to pee. “Go to the bathroom,” they’d say. “The nightmares will stop.”

For the past three nights I’ve been having the strangest, scariest dreams. And no matter how many times I get up and try the whole peeing thing, they aren’t going away.

I’m probably just going insane from shutting myself up like a hermit in my apartment and doing nothing but study for my exams. That’s the most likely scenario I can think of. But in my semi-insomniac state, I always think my dreams are trying to tell me something. It’s not impossible, right? They could be. My subconscious is probably more in tune with reality than I am right now.

In high school, my chorus teacher had this really old book on dream interpretation on one of his bookshelves. One week I casually mentioned to him in passing that I’d been having a lot of dreams where I was massively pregnant, and he told me to look it up in the book. Apparently that meant I was on an archetypal journey to self-awareness. Duh. Like every other fifteen-year-old girl on the planet.

A couple of nights ago I kept waking up and falling back to sleep into the same dream world. It was very 1984-esque; everything we were doing was constantly under surveillance, and there were strict rules about things we could and couldn’t do or say. I texted one of my friends about it and she said I was probably feeling smothered. (Yes, absolutely. By finals.)

I hate being the kind of person that believes in dreams. It’s like palm-reading or gazing into a crystal ball. Except it’s not, because it’s me, and I’ve learned lessons in weirder ways. This doesn’t even make the short list.

I can’t ignore my dreams. They make sense. Lately I’ve been feeling scared and trapped and lonely, and I can see all those things in the images that dance through my head every night. Sitting alone at round tables in big rooms. Trying to jump from the dock to a boat that’s just a little too far away. Finding myself in places that look familiar, but aren’t quite right. As hard as I may fight, falling asleep doesn’t give me relief from my emotions. It strengthens them.

Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat and I tear the sheets from my sticky skin and I shake there for a little while, staring at the ceiling, and wish that I weren’t all alone. And then I drift into dreamland once more, only to find myself completely abandoned in a place I don’t recognize with people I barely know. I don’t need a book to understand my brain. I’m always on my own. I’m scared I’ll always be on my own.

The Letter That Never Came

It is raining. Typical for a spring morning, but as the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers.” Now it’s May, and it’s still raining. I stare at the rain as it drips slowly down the panels of my living room window. The clouds are gray and everything seems gloomy, yet I am sitting cross-legged on the windowsill, a hopeful glint in my big blue eyes. It is the middle of a school week, a Wednesday, but today is different. It is my eleventh birthday. Today I will be treated like a star; I will eat too much frosting and ravenously rip off wrapping paper. And most importantly, at least, to me, today an owl will fly through my window and deliver my Hogwarts letter, beginning my double existence as a wizard.

For months I have been analyzing my magical abilities as they develop, tracking each emotional outburst and its supernatural results. I have been practicing simple spells, and while they haven’t yet worked, I am sure it’s just because I haven’t gone to Ollivander’s and gotten the proper wand. I have gotten my hands on every piece of magical information; I have book lists printed out and a plain black robe hanging on the back of my door. Everything that I could have done since I learned of my potential has been accomplished. All that remains is to see that owl swoop from the sky and hand me my destiny.

My perch on the windowsill is vacated when my mother reminds me that I still have to catch the bus to school. I am reluctant to leave, but at least I know I will be back in just six hours. I am confident that if the owl comes while I’m at school, he will be able to manage to wait a few more hours for me. They’re pretty smart creatures, those owls.

My day at school is uneventful; I celebrate with my friends and share cupcakes on the playground, but my mind is elsewhere. I don’t tell anyone about the cake I’ve seen my mother making or the mound of presents that is waiting for me on the kitchen table. The only thing I can chatter about (although secretly, because not everyone can know about the wizarding world) is the letter that is only a short time away and will change my life.

“You know,” a snooty voice tells me, “all that stuff isn’t real, right? Harry Potter and his stupid school thing. Somebody just made it up and wrote about it. You actually believe that stuff’s real? You’re so stupid. I bet you believe in Santa Claus, too, huh?”

I don’t want to look behind me. I hear the laughter; it is pulsating in my brain. Tears begin to well up in my eyes. They’re making fun of me. I try to blurt out that it is real, and that I have proof, and that they will be sorry one day when I can bat-bogey hex them right off the playground. But I can only come up with a feeble sneeze, which just makes them laugh harder. I have never been so embarrassed. I have a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach telling me that I have been deceived, that my letter will never come. I don’t have any magical ability, with or without an Ollivander’s wand. I have not made unexplainable things happen out of anger or fear. Years of preparation and I will never be able to levitate objects or duel my enemies. I can’t believe I fell for such an extravagant lie. Tears begin to slide down my cheeks like the morning’s raindrops on the windowpane.

I remember, then; it’s still my birthday. Regardless of the fact that I’m not going to be whisked away to a school of witchcraft and wizardry, I’m still turning eleven. I still have the hot pink ribbon that says “Birthday Girl” pinned to my jacket. There is still a huge pile of presents on the table that could contain anything at all. The cake my mother has been slaving over for days is still sitting on my counter, ready for me to make a wish on the eleven candles. And besides, I don’t really want to go to boarding school. I’d miss my mom and my dad and even my annoying eight-year-old brother.

I wipe my face with the sleeves of my jacket and stare up at the gray sky. It’s not raining anymore; the clouds are starting to slowly clear and let the sun shine through. I’m not a wizard, sure, but I’m only eleven. My future is an unwritten story, and I am completely free to unfold it any way I want.

When I Knew You Wouldn’t Love Me

This is a really hard post for me to publish. But if this blog is all about baring my soul, then it needs to be said. 

To the person about whom this was written: if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.

I met you at a coffee shop when I was eighteen. You were shy and kind of awkward and so was I. You walked me back to my dorm even though it was out of your way and told me it was nice that we finally got to meet. I smiled because I already kind of knew that one day I could love you.

You used to come into the gym while I was working and even though you always had a workout to do, you would stop and stand by the lifeguard chair, sometimes for my whole half-hour shift, and make me laugh. You told me crazy stories about your time spent abroad in exciting places, and listened while I made bad jokes about my own boring life. For months I thought about telling you how easy it was to talk to you and how much I looked forward to the Monday night shifts when I knew you would be there, but I never did.

You left my life, but you were always there. You ran through my mind when I least expected it. I thought about your big goofy smile and the way your arms moved kind of funny when you were doing the crawl stroke. I watched enviously as you went on adventure after adventure, never afraid of anything, eager to take chances. I thought about you and how scared I was and how much I wished I could borrow some of your bravery. I hoped maybe one day you’d be able to show me how to be fearless.

In those moments, I knew you could never love me. You were so far beyond anyone I’d ever comprehended before. I had nothing to offer someone who already had the world.

But then you came speeding back into my world like a roller coaster and you stopped to let me on and I didn’t even bother buckling my seat belt. I was more afraid than ever, but you were there and you were so close and I thought maybe it was finally time for my adventure.

You said all the right things. I heard you and I believed you and I tricked myself into thinking that maybe one day you could love me after all. And every minute of time I let myself be with you made everything feel less scary.

One day you were sitting sideways on your bed, plucking your guitar strings with your fingers and talking enthusiastically about your mythology book, when it hit me. I could love you. I didn’t right then, not yet. But I thought about the way you elbowed me in the ribs after you told a bad joke and the way your eyes lit up when you explained to me why sugar cubes spark when you hit them with a hammer, and I knew for sure that it would be incredibly easy for me to fall in love with you.

And I knew you wouldn’t love me. Maybe you thought someday you might be able to, just like I had, but I knew better. I knew you would love someone who gave you that same “Oh, shit” realization I’d just had. I knew you would love someone whose wanderlust was on par with your own, who thrived off of passion and adventure just like you. Someone whose hand you wouldn’t have to hold every time she was afraid.

I could love you, I thought, because with you I am falling in love with myself. You make me feel stronger and braver and wiser and more beautiful. You’ve helped me break down a lot of walls that were holding me back.

But I never did anything for you.

And the second I realized I could love you, I decided you could never know. Because I knew you wouldn’t love me, and you had to realize that on your own.

On Wanderlust

Sir Alistair Rai

“I want to do something.”

She looks up from her magazine with surprise. “Okay, so do something.”

“No, I mean really do something,” I say back, stretching my hands forward to grab my toes. “Not just, like, I want to go get some pizza.”

“We could, if you want. Go get pizza.”

I sigh and release my stretch. “I don’t want pizza. I want an adventure.”

She rolls her eyes and casually flips to the next page of the magazine. She takes a moment before she sighs and laughs a little. “What are you, Inspiration Barbie?”

“Never mind,” I tell her, bending into a forward fold.

“No, really,” she says in a softer tone. “What do you mean?”

I straighten and look her in the eye. She is concerned, and wondering, and she has every right to be. But in her eyes there is sturdiness and a sense of peace. She knows where she belongs. She has people and places and things that make her whole and complete. I see her and I think, she will never understand what it’s like to be missing so many pieces.

I like to imagine that when we are born, we scatter fragments of ourselves all over the world. Sometimes they fall into some specific place, like a beautiful lake shrouded by mountains, and sometimes they fall into people. And then when you go to those places, or you meet those people, you can recognize those tiny little pieces and allow them to fill the empty spaces of your soul.

If you are lucky, maybe you can find them pretty quickly, at least enough of them to feel satisfied. But sometimes it feels like you’re losing more than you’re finding. Sometimes more of you gets lost along the way.

And when there’s too much hollow space, you get hungry. You get cravings nothing in the world can satisfy. You become a creature of lustful desire, hunting down new people and new places and new things until you’re too exhausted to carry on. You settle in and try again to live a normal life, but you can’t. There’s too much of you left desolate and alone.

I can’t be here, practicing yoga poses on my living room floor. I can’t be here, listening to lectures and following dress codes and completing assignments. I can’t be here, eating the same quinoa pilaf every single day.

I have to do something. To fight the emptiness. I have to try.

But she is so sure. I will not break her with my brokenness.

“I could go for some pizza after all,” is all I say.

She puts down her magazine and picks up her car keys. “Well then let’s go,” she says with a smile, scooting her feet into her boat shoes and turning to me expectantly.

“Let’s,” I reply as I stand to meet her. Pizza doesn’t sound so bad. I am, after all, insatiably hungry.

Why I “Sold Out”

As some of you may have noticed, I have “sold out” this blog. That’s right, it is now inarguably associated with me, very publicly, via every social network I’m a part of.

Pretty scary, huh?

I mean, it was definitely a tough decision to put myself in the spotlight. It’s been nine months since I was diagnosed with anorexia and started this blog, and still there are huge numbers of people I’m fairly close to who don’t know. It seems counterintuitive, then, for me to share my stories so openly. I mean, I’m sharing a very personal struggle in a very public way. It’s a risk, one that I’m not entirely sure I’m really ready to take.

But what I’ve realized from keeping up this project for nine months is that it’s stopped being totally about me.

Through this process, through my recovery and my limited sharing of information, I have met so many amazing people who are struggling with very similar things. I have received messages from people I know and people I don’t know, via Facebook and email and the comments section, telling me that the stories I have to tell are inspiring and powerful. I’ve had people confess to me their own struggles with eating disorders and self-harm, people who I might never have expected to hear from.

It’s not about me anymore. It’s about all the people who think they’re alone and anonymous and hopeless, all the people who haven’t given themselves a voice. I’m using my voice to speak not only for me, but for everyone who has ever felt inadequate. I was given the gift of words, and I’m choosing to use that gift for something bigger than just my own passion and pleasure.

Chances are, someone else out there is dealing with the same things I am. And there’s nothing better when you’re going through a hard time than knowing someone else is right there with you.

So yes, I sold out. I went public, and now everybody on the internet knows a lot of really personal details about my life. My roommate told me if anything happens to her because of this blog, she’ll haunt me forever, so I guess I have to be careful. But any backlash I end up with is worth it if I can inspire even one person to keep fighting. So here I am. Wide open for all of you.

Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of this project so far. I am forever grateful to have such beautiful and inspiring people in my own life. I hope one day I can return the favor.

You

You have this way about you that makes people pay attention. You’re beautiful, sure, but it’s more than that. You’re captivating. The world unfolds as if just for you. You smile at no one in particular, and everyone feels like you’re giving them a gift. We all watch as a stunning ephemeral being deigns to speak, to laugh with us. You are different. You are special.

You are strong, so quietly strong a passerby might miss the toughness beneath the soft exterior. You have felt love and loss and pain and despair so deeply it has shaken you to the hollows of your bones, but still you stand. Something anchors you to the earth, even when the emptiness threatens to let you slowly float away. You do not let the nothingness win, for there is a somethingness that pushes you to keep fighting. Although you feel weak, you are a warrior.

You do not fail. You make mistakes and you rectify them as best you can and you try again, and sometimes you make more mistakes, but you’re never afraid to make them. You do not let failure define you. You are a paragon of resilience, of valiance, of pushing forward when it would be so much easier to stop. You know, somehow, that the easy way is a trap and that you are always a better person for choosing what is difficult, because it is right.

Love has teased you, seduced you, abandoned you, betrayed you. And yet you love. You love more passionately than anyone I have ever known. You love with a ferocity, with a loyalty that seems to flow straight from the atria of your heart. You worry that your love is tainted, flawed, imperfect; you fear that your love is not enough. But it is a miracle in itself that love still lives inside of you, flourishing like a flower in the desert.

You once held my hand and we looked out at the startlingly blue water of the Hudson River and you said these words to me: “No one will ever replace you.”

But I, I am replaceable. There are dozens of me waiting to have their lives touched by someone like you. I was the one the rock star called to the stage; it could just as easily have been somebody else.

You are the one who cannot be replaced. You, with your strange sense of humor and your paint-splattered jeans and your chaotic propensity to play around with recipes until they’re perfect. You, with your poetic words and your blunt observations and your willingness simply to be, no matter how uncomfortable.

No one will ever replace you.

You.

Exactly as you are, right now, with your quirks and your scars and your dreams.

You.

The Morning After

Love Is In The Air

Flickr

I wake up early, like I always do. The beams of sunlight surround me like a blanket as I glance over at Emily, who is softly snoring next to me. Every one of my senses is heightened; I can hear the girls upstairs whispering foreign words and scraping their cereal bowls with spoons. In the glow of the daylight I feel whole again.

I stretch out my arms and watch as my hand slowly blurs. Like my memory, it remains just out of focus. I clasp my fist around air and close my eyes. I think I fell in love last night.

How do I know? I remember little things.

I remember you were laughing and I looked over and saw you, and I thought you might have the kind of smile that could change my life if I let it. The kind of smile I’d be willing to spend my whole life looking at, working hard to make you laugh so I could claim part of that silly grin as my own.

I remember laughing about something so hard I couldn’t breathe, and you reached over and put your hand on my knee, with amusement in your eyes, and asked me if I was okay. As I nodded our eyes met and and the place where our bodies connected began to glow like the kindling of a fire, like water that had just begun to simmer.

I remember resting on the arm of the couch and you sitting down next to me, the two of us ignoring all the heated conversation around us. After what felt like a lifetime I slid sideways off the arm until every nerve in my body sparked and buzzed toward yours. When I looked up into your eyes and the corners of your mouth curled up curiously, I was overcome with the desire to dive in and taste every bit of you. I couldn’t help thinking if everyone else were to suddenly disappear I would have reached out and traced the outline of your lips with my finger, capturing every inch of your perfection before it was gone.

I remember, at the end of the night, when you got up to leave and my entire left side ached from the constant tingling. For the past several minutes we hadn’t said one word to each other, only passed a Rubik’s cube back and forth as we both struggled to finish it, neither of us remembering how to finish the top layer. We understood each other. We were both a little lost.

I don’t know. Maybe that isn’t love. I have nothing to compare it to.

Emily stirs next to me. She feels the sun too, I know, and she is probably recalling the night’s events with the same fuzzy wonderment. I peek over at her, but do not speak. How can I tell her that I have fallen in love with a stranger?

It is almost certain that I will never see him again. Someone else will spend their life sharing his perfect smile and quiet confidence. I will never get the satisfaction of knowing I captivate him, too, never know the thrill of more than just a static touch. If it is love, it is only a small and unsatisfying taste that leaves me desperate to feel it again and again and again.

In my mind I have captured the night in powerful vignettes, memories that I will always recall as my first taste of love. Although I am awake, I roll silently onto my side and drift off again, not into sleep, but into possibility. For the first time in a long time, I do not give up hope.