Despite being what everyone assumes is a free spirit, I have as hard a time as anyone when it comes to moving on and getting over the past. Even though my Mom bought me therapy for my birthday a few years ago, I’ve yet to cash it in– which means I’m left with all sorts of unresolved problems. I can’t quite figure myself out—sometimes I seem happy to close the door and move forward, embracing the strangeness of the future. Other times I’ll rip off my emotional fingernails, clinging to a bad time I’m just not quite ready to get over.
A few months back, my washing machine broke. I stood there scooping out buckets of soapy water, secretly enjoying the tedious nature of the task, before texting my landlord to come and do something about it. There’s something wonderful about being on the cusp of actual adulthood—you can manage 97% of the things in your life, but still get to call someone else when things break. A few days and a few repair calls later, I had a new washing machine with a sticker on the front that warned me not to use anything other than high-efficiency detergent.
Woah there, Orson Welles. Let’s not go all science fiction in my laundry room.
I like shiny new things, and I like progress, but I wasn’t ready to stop using my huge-ass box of powdered detergent that still had a few scoops lingering in its cardboard bottom. I’d been given that box as a welcome home gift when I moved back to America with only $16 in my checking account. No car, no home, no job, but the world’s biggest box of detergent.
That was 4 years, 1 month ago.
Don’t think about that too much—no box of detergent (unless it’s the size of your house) should last that long. But I’m more of a “my clothes are dirty, better buy some new ones” kind of girl. Don’t judge me.
It’s hard to believe that four years have passed. Then again, it’s not. When I examine my life it seems to move in very specific 4-year phases, ignoring the New Year and lining up with my birthday/Chernobyl anniversary.
Birth to 4th Birthday:
These are the lost years, I hardly remember. I have some made-up memory of my brother giving me gum when I was in a car seat but I’m pretty sure that unless my infant-self had a panoramic camera on a dolley, its not a real memory. I was born in a hospital that burned down and raised in a house that also burned down. Because of this, I’ve always dreamed that maybe I’m an alien that was found in a field and they had to make up a cover story.
4 years old to 8th Birthday:
Pure childhood. Chasing my brothers, getting kidnapped, wearing Barbie high heels and riding my bike around our city neighborhood.
8 years old to 12th Birthday :
It becomes apparent that I’m a weirdo. I like to play games where I torment (WTF) animals, and am constantly trying to track down homeless people so I can befriend them. I want to be a spy and everything about the world seems large and magical.
12 years old to 16th Birthday:
I learn that life isn’t what it seems. My mom looks sad. Someone who wasn’t supposed to, gets pregnant. I hack into my dad’s computer and discover my perfect family is a lie. No one celebrates my birthday.
16 years old to 20th Birthday:
Depression. I’m supposed to be something other than what I am. There is something wrong with my body. I carry a secret and then put the truth on blast. I hate myself. I’m afraid all the time.
20 years old to 24th Birthday:
Wild, painful, freedom. I stop talking to my parents. I live however I please. I travel the world. I look at a very obvious choice and decide to choose badly. I reap the consequences of that choice and flee the country on my 24th Birthday.
24 years old to 28 Years Old
The transition out of utter stupidity and recklessness. I spend most of a year traveling SE Asia and learning to forgive myself. I date a guy twice my age who ends up being a class-A psychopath. I let myself be mistreated. But then I stop, I kick ass, and I don’t back down. I find out I’m good at a few things, I get a great job. Against all odds, I meet a great guy. He doesn’t mind that I’m a disaster.
28th Birthday and On
Somehow, despite all the epic mounds of shite and poor decision making, Alex wants to marry me. I don’t even feel boring. If anything, I’m getting weirder and weirder by the day. The self-loathing is gone. The second-guessing, the fear that I’ll never be or do any of the things I want—it’s mostly held at bay, surfacing only when I need a good kick in the arse to keep me going.
It’s weird to look back at life like this, to sum it up into nice little compartments that can be shut away and re-opened from time to time. But it also makes sense. And it makes me look forward to the future—whatever happens, at least I know I won’t get bored. And as far as all that clothing I bought in order to avoid doing laundry? I say out with the old, and in with the new. Happy New Years, everybody. Let’s keep on living.
Do you find it hard to “get over” certain aspects of your past? Can you identify the different phases of your life? How are you feeling about the coming New Year? Leave a Link if you wrote about it.
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