When you find yourself falling, what do you do?
Only one room pulled volume from my throat. The dining table was covered with pages of novels left mid-word search, a few wayward pens, a little bowl of abandoned Custard, and a milky spoon. Sunlight poured in from the window; a reflection, a meditation.
How do you begin to write about the time you felt lost? And if it was more than two months ago, is it a fool’s errand?
Last month I had thoughts of feeling behind. Can you relate? I felt so lost and behind. Unwanted feelings, but I felt them still.
From childhood, we’re encouraged to dream big and aim high. And while having goals is important, the pressure of achieving those goals can sometimes be overwhelming.
There are times when things feel stressful like I have to do everything perfectly. I pressure myself to get good grades. I want to have a good future. I want to be a success, in every sense of the word.
But sometimes the switch just gets shut off and I am thrown into the black. And then I go online where people prop me up, and normally when we prop things up, we expect them to fall. I tell my friends I am leaving and I will be right back, but sometimes I don’t ever plan on ever returning. Sometimes, going off the grid in an embodied way can be deeply restorative.
“Agnes uh, if you could keep your struggles quiet, yeah, that would be great. We’d rather see you smile than talk about sad stuff.” That's my imagined response to my rants from people. So I quiet down. I tell no one about how badly I'm struggling in school, how much I hate this traditional uni system, and how lost and overwhelmed I feel. Quiet feels safe.
I asked my friend for happiness and she gave me none. "I can’t make you happy," she said. "You need to find happiness with yourself first." She said I needed to be alone. Humor me, girl, I’m always alone. Alone feels safe. "Stay with yourself without your gadgets or books. Sit with yourself in comfortable silence and figure out whatever is going on with you."
So I went to my hall of residence reading pavilion to sit with myself.
But I couldn't. I couldn't bear to be with myself. The silence was suffocating. I wanted my phone, a book, or a presence badly.
So I picked up my journal and began to write.
I don’t know. But since childhood writing has been the way I have processed my life - my fears, my hopes, my heartbreaks, my longings, and my goals. I don’t know how to do it much differently, even now. So I’m going to try this, knowing it will be insufficient, knowing it will be incomplete, knowing that some things are not for public consumption, but forming an alphabet around these feelings in the best way I can because language is the only therapy I know.
But again, that’s the stuff that I wanna tell. Some people don’t wanna put their hearts on their sleeves or their real stories out there, but I like to just be honest and tell the stories 'cause I think that people connect with the stuff that’s real.
I knew all the reasons I shouldn’t be worried, but to my mind, it didn’t matter. My mind was - and is - still trying to protect me. It is on high alert. It does not feel safe. It hasn’t been forgotten, and it might be a long, long time before it settles down. That’s okay, I remember. My mind did amazing. She kept me safe. She kept me alive. I owe her endless patience and compassion. I will be gentle. I will be grateful. I will remind her that we are safe now.
I wish for no more thoughts. Everything that leads to fear, failure, and loathing. Everything that leads to death.
For years, I thought my life’s worth depended on how many big accomplishments I had. But now I know that life isn’t about big things. Because 99% of life is small.
It’s a cup of tea or an evening walk. It’s a quiet laugh with a friend, wholesome chats with my guy, or a call with my mom.
Now without the distraction of conversation or worries about school or what the future holds, I find myself embracing the smaller things in life. I’m intentional about doing this now. I feel comfortable and myself again.
Having goals and a purpose are still important to me, but they’re not everything. I know I don’t need to get certain grades or have a certain number of followers. I don’t need to accomplish big things to be worthy of a beautiful life. Because the beauty of life is everywhere.
I'm learning that big achievements aren't the only thing that can bring me happiness. I'm learning that reveling in the smaller, quieter moments of casual magic can show me the beauty of everyday existence. I'm learning to find happiness even in the most unexpected places. And I'm learning that when the bough breaks in my life, I need not fall.
March 2, 2023.
I write personal essays because I am the person I know best. - adjusted.
The original quote, "I paint self-portraits because I am the person I know best." - Frida Kahlo.