A letter to my fickle friend
I usually start out these letters reflecting on the first times I’ve ever encountered my loves, but with you, I feel like I need to reflect on when you left me.
There isn’t really an exact moment I can point to and exclaim “Yes! That’s when I started feeling cold and dark and empty everyday!” Rather, you left in small doses. As I grew from toddler to adolescent to teenager, you slowly stepped out of my life. I never really noticed you were gone, until I came to the realization that the world wasn’t as colorful or as fun or as wonderful. Most of all, I didn’t realize you were gone until I realized I wasn’t making myself proud anymore.
For a while, I’d get angry. I’d throw my hands up at God, at Hogwarts, at the world, at whoever was responsible for taking you away from me, just looking for someone to blame. I’d yell at my parents for hauling me and my brother and a van full of all our stuff across the country so many times. I’d stop talking to my friends for not empathizing enough. I was so busy getting mad at my teachers and the kids playing on the street and a random passerby at Starbucks and literally every single person in my life — that I never stopped and considered the possibility that maybe, just maybe, you were never really gone, but I just made it harder for myself to find you.
Of course, being the kind of person that I am, I immediately shoved this thought down. For years, I’ve shied away from my most important truth: the only person responsible for my happiness is me. I’d get angry (shocker) at people who tried to tell me this because, obviously, I can’t change the way my brain is wired. I can’t change the chemicals (or lack thereof) that are responsible for keeping you with me.
But there are two variables in that equation: you — and me. Yes, I can’t control the chemicals or wiring in my brain, but I can do my best to control the way that I view myself. I’ve realized that I was never really angry at everyone else — I was angry at myself. I was angry with the way I looked, the way I acted, the way I worked. Every single part of me I could find fault in, I did. Because of that, you decided to leave. I guess you and anger don’t really work well together. So, from that point on, I decided I didn’t want to be angry anymore. I wasn’t sure how or when or even if I could do it, but I knew that if I truly wanted you back, that was the first step.
And slowly, but surely, I’ve grown more comfortable in my skin. It didn’t happen overnight, and it surely didn’t happen without a couple of slip-ups and tears along the way, but I’ve learned how to forgive myself. I’ve learned to love the random black spots on my face and the giant birthmark on my foot that looks like a splatter of paint. I’ve learned to be proud of my stubborn nature, though at times it can lead to harm, and my brain somehow figures out how to not cringe at every single decision I make.
When you started coming back to me, I almost didn’t notice. To be completely honest, I was so busy learning how to love myself, that I almost forgot that you were my end goal. And you came back to me in the most unexpected places.
I lose all track of time in the library taking notes from my history readings, stressed as can be, and suddenly I look up and there you are, sitting across from me with a soft smile and a cup of iced tea.
I’m channeling my inner cat, listening to music and sitting in the one corner of my backyard where the sun is especially bright, when I hear my phone ring and hear your voice through my headphones.
I walk to my local coffee shop after a particularly exhausting day, and see you walk in and sit next to me, following a guy who’s just rolled out of bed and thought it would be a good idea to bring his pet lizard to get coffee with him.
In each of these scenarios, I wasn’t trying to force you to be with me. Much like a shy cat (I need to emphasize my love for cats), I’ve realized that if I try too hard, if I get angry at you, you retreat back into your hiding place. You only started coming back to me after I found peace, not just with my situation and the people around me, but also with myself.
So yes, I do love you for all the times that you’ve been with me. I love you for the warmth and light and radiance you bring into my life, and also for the times you haven’t been with me. Because of your absence, I was forced to appreciate myself, to grow into my skin and eventually, to love myself. That’s not to say I don’t have my moments or my days or my months where I retreat back into my cycle of hating everything I do or say, but I’ve learned how to pick myself back up, and I always find my way back to you.