And one day it became irreparable. It wasn’t just a phase or a stage – I was different. The woman in the mirror didn’t look the way I remembered her and that was the scariest feeling of all.
But by happenstance, or some great design one day I also met people who liked me as I am.
Right now, I am not the best version of myself – I know that. Most of the people who have loved me for years know that. I am crispy and inflexible and fragile. I bend to snap instead of to encompass the way I used to. But theylikeme. They laugh at my jokes. They think I am funny, genuine, kind and soft. Maybe a bit strange, probably too quiet and shy – but they still want to be my friend. And there is something about them loving me now, with no expectation of me to be anything different to what I am that changed something for me.
For the first time in a long time I had someone love me for who I am instead of despite of it or regardless of it. And for the first time in a long time I stopped feeling scared of myself and how I felt and who I was – and I started to feel brave instead. Brave enough to stand on my own feet. Strong enough to say a goodbye that I had been putting off for years. Healthy enough to know that there was the possibility of something happy and real and good out there for me. I wasn’t afraid to be sad anymore – I didn’t want to be – but I wasn’t afraid.
And every day I can feel myself come back a little more. It’s miniscule moments – not a constant steam, just tiny seconds of satisfaction where I feel suddenly like myself again. I recognise my fingers, long and thin, with the gold rings on them. I recognise the pink, sweet scent of perfume, almost overwhelming. I recognise sparks of old energy, backed up by new confidence and knowledge. I have a renewed urge to take care of these kids that I’ve known for just a few days the way I have wanted to take care of people my whole life. And as I see these things I start to remember parts of myself that I had forgotten – inconsequential character traits that matter. I like the NZ herald daily crossword, I like phone app games that nobody else plays like spider solitaire and best fiends. I like sports games and human evolution and loud discussions. I like going on adventures.
There are parts of me that have changed permanently. But also, parts that have changed into something better. I don’t keep big secrets. I’m not afraid to chase people or fight for people or want people. It’s worth it to want people. It’s worth it to have them to love. But I also talk less these days. Even when I write this all you don’t know every bit of the story – and that’s a good thing.
There is a lot more growing to do. I still have the urge to go big and make a spectacle and to chase things that are not quite mine not quite yet. I still think of myself in terms of other people who stopped caring for me a long time ago. It will take many, many months until the small ache in my chest disappears for good. But also I have been braver, and stronger and more self-sufficient in the last month than I have been in all of the last four years combined. I let my feelings roll over me without sweeping me away – and even though I am not ready to see my reflection quite yet, the feet stood in the sand are satisfyingly, and recognisably mine.