Don’t Worry, I Haven’t Gone Anywhere

I’m tired.

I’m not drowning. I’ve been drowning before, been so low below water that I had to struggle to keep my head up, but that’s not me right now. Right now, the water is safely pooled around my calves, the current most certainly pressing against me but not sweeping me away. I’ll be fine. Once I gather my strength a little bit, I’ll be able to walk right on out of here. So, I’m not drowning.

I’m not empty. I don’t feel nothing. I’m smiling and joking around and enjoying things still.

I’m not dead yet, I’m just tired. I just need a small rest. That’s all.

I’m unmotivated. I’m uncharacteristic; the Type A, hyper-ambitious bitch has been reduced to a motionless lump, in such a way that usually accompanies depression, but this time, I’m not depressed. This time, I’m just tired.

And ‘tired’ I can deal with. Tired is okay. Tired will pass. Tired had better pass, or I might have to do something about it.

I’m not done yet. I’m still here, I haven’t given up. I just need a break. I just need a direction. I just need some change.

I’m thinking. I’m planning. I may be a motionless lump, but I won’t be forever. And when it passes, I’ll be a force to be reckoned with, as always.

I’m still the same Type A, hyper-ambitious bitch you know and love. For now, I’m just tired.

 

Day 2: Tolkien

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His name is Tolkien.

While I call Lewis my “problem child”, Tolkien was one of those instantly perfect creatures that just makes you want to protect him from the harshness of reality. Every once in a while, he makes me wonder at how different his life could have been. He could have been born a lab rat, or a sewer rat. He could have been experimented on and trotted over. Instead, he was born to a breeder and adopted by me.

The first night in my house, he was so frightened that he ran to Lewis for protection. The second night at my house, I opened the cage and he walked right up to me, crawling into my hands and licking my lips, my nose, and my cheeks. From that night forward, Tolkien would do anything it took to cuddle with me, including struggling against the bars of his cage until I open it for him.

There is a quote by the writer for whom Tolkien is named, which begins with him saying: “I am in fact a Hobbit in all but size”. For this, I believe Tolkien is very appropriately named. He is a simple rat. He loves food and playtime and just about everyone he has ever met. He never complains, not even when I wake him up in the middle of the day. He has never bitten me or shown aggression. Although he will steal treats, he will also make sure that his brother gets some as well, even if that means giving Lewis a peanut when he is without. Tolkien is pure, and I adore that purity in him. Through his purity, he offers me a glimpse of the good in this world every day.

Day 1: Lewis

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His name is Lewis.

I adopted him from a breeder, and the very first time I held him, he struggled so much that I had to pin him between against my mouth to keep him from falling. For the longest time, he didn’t want anything to do with me, and truth be told, I felt a little betrayed by that. I called him my “problem child”, and joked about how much he hated me.

Nonetheless, I kept coming around because… well, what else could I do? I had adopted him. I was all he had – the one who fed him, protected him, kept him clean. I would hold him for the short periods of time that he would let me, and I would whisper to him, “it’s okay. I’m your mother. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Every day, he would stay with me for longer periods of time. He would stare at me from across the room, inside his cage, hiding in back corners and beneath dark shadows, big, black eyes glittering like diamonds. I began to see bits of myself in his personality – in how anxious he was, just like me. In how much he really rejected change, just like me. He liked things to be familiar and safe and warm – but he learned fast. He never bit me, no matter how scared he was. He never challenged me, even when he did run away. He was a gentle soul, who learned his name fast and watched my every move meticulously. He was a mad genius and a nervous wreck, just like me. We stressed each other out all the time, but we understood each other too.

Eventually, he came to accept me as a safe space. In unfamiliar rooms, he would cling to me like a small child. When he was afraid, I would hold him and whisper to him, and he would relax. And when he was calm and safe in his cage, he would get excited to see me. He ran to me and crawled across my shoulders and licked my hands with his tiny, pink tongue in anticipation of treats.

His name is Lewis, my sweet, anxious problem child.

We Need to Change the Way That We Think About ‘Pretty’

When I was ten years old, I started wearing make-up.

It wasn’t good make-up, but it was make-up. It was a heavy smudge of black eyeliner, as though two big, bad raccoons walked up and punched me in both eyes. I liked it. It didn’t make me feel pretty, but it made me feel badass, like a punk rock rebel chick, and that was the look I was going for. I wanted to be Joan Jett before I was even old enough to know who Joan Jett was. I wanted to stand out of the crowd, to look unique. And as I got older, I discovered that there was more to make-up than just looking ‘unique’, and I learned about it as an art form. I started modelling myself after the beautiful girls I knew, who stood apart from the crowd, who looked like ethereal goddesses sent down from heaven to brighten our days with their presence. I asked them to teach me their tricks, and I learned them adequately.

People would say to me, “you know, you’d look prettier if you wore a bit less make-up. Boys don’t like girls with a whole lot of make-up”, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t spending my money and time on make-up for anyone but myself.

When I was nineteen years old, I started my collection of tattoos.

It was something that I had always wanted to do, ever since I was little, when I saw my mother get her first tattoo. She came home with a fairy on her lower back, and I thought it was the most exquisite thing I had ever seen. A form of art that could be carried with you forever. I saw people with tattoos and I loved them, because it was a piece of their story that you could read by sight. One look, and you knew that butterflies or bible passages or the infinity symbol meant something to them. Maybe it meant that they got drunk with their friends one night and accidentally agreed to regret something later, but still – it was a part of them. A piece of their personality that couldn’t be erased.

People would say to me, “you know, girls don’t need to get tattoos. It isn’t a very pretty or feminine thing to do”, but I didn’t care. It was a part of me, and the way I saw it, anyone who truly loved me would accept that part as well.

When I was twenty-three, I shaved my head bald.

And, okay, maybe I came to regret that decision. What can I say, I like my hair, and I like all the funky colours that I can dye it: pink, red, orange, puce, chartreuse, whatever. But end of day, I wanted to try it. I was curious to see what it was like. I was curious to see what would change if I stopped depending on my hair to be there, if I would feel more or less beautiful because of it. And the truth was, no, I didn’t feel less beautiful, I just felt less personally comfortable, and that’s okay. There are a lot of women who are jaw-dropping with a shaved head, and I wanted to see if I could be among them for a moment. And now that that moment has passed, I will join the women who are jaw-dropping with hair.

People would say to me, “you know, men prefer women with long hair”, but that really had no bearing on my decision either way. I don’t design my life and my style choices around what men want, because that would be a thankless way to live.

I never wanted to be pretty. I wanted to be me. I wanted to express myself and the way that I felt, and maybe that wasn’t always pretty, but it was always beautiful. In it’s own way. I believe that, whenever a person is truly being themselves, regardless of what that means, it is beautiful.

Because ‘pretty’ is accepted, but ‘beautiful’ is something more. Beautiful is an artist caught up in their work. Beautiful is smile lines and stretch marks and the scars that built who you are. Beautiful is unique to every person, because what makes them beautiful is what makes them them.

Beauty lives in tears and in blatant shows of affection. Beauty is honest and raw and real, and you just can’t capture it by trying to be what people want you to be. That is, unless you just happen to be one of those very rare individuals who happen to be everything that people want you to be – but I haven’t met many of those people.

We so frequently tell people what they can and can’t do to be considered ‘pretty’. We tell women what to do so that “men will like them”. We police their actions, their clothes, their make-up, their grooming habits, their food, their exercise. We give them no chance for unique choice, because we stuff their heads with what they ‘should be’. And we internalize these ideas so often; even if you know that there’s nothing wrong with being a little on the heavy side, how often do you look in the mirror and criticize yourself for being fat?

We all want to fit in. We all want to be pretty, but we strive for that at the sacrifice of our individual beauty.

So change the way that you think about pretty. Ask yourself what your individual beauty looks like, and indulge in it. Stop denying yourself. Stop shaming yourself. Stop worrying about whether or not you’ll fit in, because you will. It’s impossible to live up to mainstream expectations, but if you’re fully and completely yourself, then you will attract others who share and respect your beauty. You will give others permission to find their own beauty, to become their authentic selves. People will see you, being who you are, and they will know that they are alright, just as they are. They will know that there is nothing wrong with being true to themselves.

You can set the world free, in your own small way, by being yourself.

 

Why It Is Important to Talk When You Aren’t Okay

As human beings, we are not always okay.

We are not consistently positive, every single moment of every day. We are not always right. We are not always kind. We have moments where we feel broken and discouraged and hopeless and cruel.

And I’m going to tell you a secret: you don’t always have to be okay.

This should not be a secret. Because I think we have all generally accepted this idea that people are not perfect. We say, “to err is human”, and we expect that everyone will, at some point in their lives, make a mistake, or get hurt, or be down and depressed and lost. And yet, despite all this, we still make an attempt to hide it. We still think that we will be judged for being flawed – or, alternatively, we are judged for being flawed.

It has been a long time since I tried to hide the fact that I wasn’t okay. I’ve worn my status of ‘not okay’ quite proudly for a while now – speaking up about my experience with depression and anxiety, my struggle with toxic people in my life, as well as the simple daily struggles that I think all of us go through. My experience is not a particularly unique one – I think that many of us deal with these issues, if not all of us, at one point or another. And yet, despite this, I have been described by people – both personally and online – as “really messed up” or “seriously ill”, not because of the things that I have gone through, but because I chose to speak up about them. I never tried to hide the fact that I wasn’t okay at certain times in my life, and for some people, this was unacceptable – a sign of weakness.

What these people didn’t see was just how therapeutic this was for me. Speaking up allowed me the chance to see that I wasn’t alone. That other people experienced the same thoughts and feelings and issues that I was experiencing. Some of these people went public, like I did – expressing these issues loud and proud for all to see, while others simply whispered it to me behind closed doors. And either way, I am grateful for them – because they helped me. They relieved my guilt, my fear, my need to repress. They freed me. Because all of a sudden, I wasn’t only speaking for me – I was speaking for us.

And, on the other hand, I have known many people who tried to fit into a certain image of flawless. I think many of us know these people as well – the hyper-yogis and gurus who never have a negative thing to say. Their social media platforms are full of inspiration and positive thinking and little more. And while inspiration is great – necessary, even, there is such a thing as going too far in this direction.

Because when these flawless people do, inevitably, show a flaw, they cannot accept this. They cannot hear it. They must blame everyone else for their flaw, or deny that it is a flaw, or push it deep down, never to see the light of day, never to be worked on and fixed and improved upon.

And often times, these flawless people are so insecure, so afraid, so depressed, and never allowed to acknowledge the source of this, because they do not allow themselves to talk about it. They are too afraid that they will be judged, or looked down upon. They are so frequently told that they will not be strong, or admirable, or acceptable, if they are suffering. And we are all suffering, at one time or another.

Ultimately, you do more harm to yourself and to those around you when you do not allow yourself to discuss the fact that you might not always be okay.

End of day, life is not about being perfect. Life is about growth. And you achieve this growth by confronting your pain, rather than pushing it down and ignoring it. Now, the way that you confront this pain can take many forms – whether you speak out about it openly, or with a trusted friend, or a therapist, or your personal diary, whatever the case may be. But regardless of the way that you choose to speak, there is nothing wrong with it. There should be no shame in the methods that you choose to better yourself, and there should be no cause for judgement either.

So if anyone makes you feel ‘lesser than’ because you choose to speak out about your problems, please keep in mind that that reveals more about them than it does about you. You are not ‘messed up’ or wrong – you are dealing with the natural problems that many of us deal with, and you are dealing with it in the way that works for you. Meanwhile, they will not allow themselves the same luxury. They are still caught up in this myth of perfection, or flawlessness, that none of us are truly capable of.

And if you are someone who will not allow yourself to speak out, then allow me to say this: I understand that it can be frightening. It might seem weird, and you might think that you will be judged, and maybe you will, but more than that, you will be received with love. You will find kindred spirits, so much more personal to you than they would otherwise be, because they understand what you have been through. They understand the workings of your mind.

And you can start slow, if you want to. Start by simply saying it to yourself. You can move on to speaking out when you feel more comfortable. But end of day, you need to speak out. You need to do it for yourself, and for the kindred spirits who feel silenced, alone, and frightened.