As I prepare to embark on a new journey in a different land, I’ve been reflecting on the past decade, the ups, downs and everything in between.
It’s not often that I just sit and think of my journey in it’s entirety. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment of things, and when taking time to reflect, focus on one specific moment, whether good or bad.
Davis, California May 2018.
These past few weeks have been really good. So good that I feel as if I am living in a dream. So good that when I ride my bike home and when I’m sure there are no cars besides me I belt out the lyric from a favorite song.
Three little birds, sat on my window and they told me I don’t need to worry.
I come home and I’m full of energy, I listen to music and clean up a bit then settle down to complete any outstanding assignments. I’m motivated to prepare a healthy meal and sit and feel thankful while I drink a cup of lemon black tea. How am I so lucky? How is life so great? I want to live forever. I have so many plans of good things to do, ways I can help people. I’m really impressed with who I turned out to be. Thank you, a million times thank you.
Davis, California August 2018.
These past few weeks have been unbearable. I’m surprised I’m still here to tell you about it. I’ve felt trapped against a wall, compressed into myself, unable to break free. I opened my eyes and realize my own arms are wrapped around me and it is me forcing myself against the wall. Held hostage at my own hands.
I come home at the end of the day and seconds after closing the door behind me, the convulsions begin. Slight at first, then magnified. But is it all in my head? Together with the panic and anxiety that quickly turns to rage and self loathing? And for what? I haven’t done anything besides exist.
Quick, jump into the shower and let the water fall over my head, my hair absorbing it and growing heavier and heavier still. The only thing that saves me from jumping elsewhere is jumping into the shower and letting the water rain down on me. Hot water. So hot that if I turn the knob just a little bit more to the left my skin might engulf in flame. So hot that once the water stops running steam rises up from the surface of my arms and legs. This is what I want. This is what I need. To feel. To feel something other than crushing emptiness that is the side effect of being completely alone.
This American Life.
Ten years later. I’ve come full circle. When I started out, I was bright eyed, bushy haired and terribly afraid. Afraid of going back from where I came. That was the force that carried me. The desire to never return no matter what.
Over the years I’ve gone from periods of fearlessness bordering on insanity, to moments of crushing defeat. From being so broke I didn’t have money to buy toilet paper and instead stole one of those HUGE rolls from the library to having my first really well paying job and making enough money to buy everything I wanted and still have more left over to keep and give away. I remember the first time I felt wealthy, when I could afford to grocery shop without looking at the price. Whole Foods in Capitol Hill across from my tiny adorable studio apartment. I wanted the best of everything.
Some evenings eating kale salad and pan seared salmon I would think back to the days I was tasked with going grocery shopping with my father for the entire family. I guess my mother couldn’t stand to be around him for the car trip and the ensuing walk of shame. There was always so much shame. So somehow I ended up being the one assigned to the task. Mostly the budget was $350 XCD ($129USD). The pressure was on. My ability to do mental maths improved tremendously. Anything to avoid the consequence of a harangue at the cash register and then having to decide what to put back. And my father, with one eye on me and the other eye on the cashier who was constantly batting her eyelids at him and making unprovoked exclamations like ‘I feel like a woman!’
On the drive home how I longed for the days of making my own money to be able to feed myself whatever I wanted. And not just food but tenderness. Some things can’t be bought. Still, I got almost everything I wanted. In some instances realized it was more a curse than a blessing.
My time in America has been in a word – an education. What started as an uncertain meandering across state lines, confused, bewildered and alone, transitioned to a confident march across corporate America from the plains of the heartland to the rocky mountains. And everywhere besides.
And then the inevitable (mis)step whereafter everything came crumbling down. I should have known better. And maybe I did, but it was an extremely creative manner of self flagellation. I wonder at times if I am constantly punishing myself for a sin I never committed. One that was pinned on me and I’ve been trying to scrape it off. How to you un-curse yourself?
The long winding road to redemption that one must walk alone. Imagine walking down a dark path trying to make it to the light and being dragged back several feet every ten steps, punishment meted out from all sides, by external forces or better still self inflicted. There’s no way to tell. What to do? Stop moving? Run far far away? Curl up and weep. Weep for yourself. Weep for who you could have been. Weep for who you should become. Weep for what you did. Weep for what you didn’t do. Weep for what they said. Weep for what you heard. The tears dry on their own. Time to move on.
Rebirth, reconfiguration, remorse is absorbed and the spirit of resilience emerges. Time to live again. And with this newfound zeal for life I say goodbye to California and fly across the United States of America then a bit further across the ocean and France says Bienvenue to me.