One of the first truly sunny Saturdays of the year, I’m in a friend’s red pickup truck en route to a baby shower. The first of many, seeing as the majority of all of my close friends are pregnant. It’s that time, I suppose, for all of us kids to have kids of our own.
The friend who’s driving is pregnant herself, a little bump starting to making its place in her belly. It seems like pregnancy has made her even more beautiful than she already is, her skin glows, her lips are fuller. The whole process scares me to death, but it’s fascinating to see these women I’ve known for years doing what I it seemed only my teachers and church leaders did. But now we’re the teachers and leaders and I struggle to make sense of it, of the way I am who I am, but at the same time, still entirely who I was.
The 16-year-old from a decade ago sitting alone in her room, furiously scribbling into a journal, Jesse Lacey serenading in the background.
“This story’s old, but it goes on and on until we disappear.”
I’m still her. I still feel all of her pain, as well as her triumphs. Big or small, they were all so very significant. A decade passes, and most of my closest friends then are still my closest friends now. A decade gone, and I’m still that girl alone in her room, scribbling out her feelings into messy paragraphs, who will never stop listening to Brand New or driving to other states to see them live. Assuming they ever tour again.
“Would you say,” my friend asks from the driver’s seat, “that you’re happier now? You just seem happy lately.”
She speaks carefully, always pleasantly and always with tact. The sort of person that could make anything sound like a compliment. She doesn’t want to make it sound like I used to seem completely miserable. Though, would that really be so off-base?
I answer in the affirmative. Yes, I’m happy. I’m as happy as I never thought I could be. I’m happy in the way I never understood how people were. I think about Before, the crippling anxiety, the periodic mental breakdowns, Drew trying his best to calm the turmoil in my mind. Winter used to throw me, scoop me up and hurl me into a dark state of self-loathing and paralysis. But this year, not so much. Sure, there were low points. I still felt the grinding monotony of life without light or color. I’m still not sure how 5:00 sunsets are morally acceptable. But, other than that, I was fine. No seasonal depression, no darkness near as dark as what I’ve encountered in the past.
It feels so good, better than I would have thought, for someone to see me as happy.
Not to say that I’m any less annoyed that our culture seems to demand happiness over every other equally-valid emotion. Not to say that it’s been without effort. I’ve been working at myself, or, at loving what that is. About a year ago, I began the process of forgiving myself all of my inevitable little blunders. At accepting that my value is something I was born with. And then I came across something I hadn’t expected.
That those blunders, oddities, moments that used to bring blushed cheeks and feelings of shame, are actually what I love most about myself. They are the defined edges that keep me from vanishing into the background as I once did. They are what make me decisive. Tangible.
I have found a new truth. Or, a new personal truth. I’m sure many have discovered it before me, and I hope that many do after. It is truth to me that when something is loved simply for what it is, nothing less or more, it becomes luminous and beautiful. Just like sunshine and good soil bring empty branches into bloom. Yes, it feels like that. Like I have done the work necessary to clear away those things that were blocking my light, grounded myself with deep roots, allowing myself to bloom.