This day last year, I was at OSU Newark next to the pond and I wrote SONG FOR SLEEPING as I was wrapping up work on TAKE THIS WITH YOU.
Today, I am at Sam’s house dog-sitting and I had a revelation in her backyard. The trees are in vibrant shades of fall and it’s an exceptionally windy and crisp cool day. It's my favorite kind of weather. Feels like Autumn. Smells like it. Reminds me of being in school as a kid. Reminds me that there is deep grief there - in the remembering of childhood. That I hold a deep grief even from the transition into adulthood.
My dad dying really affected me. It really changed my personality. I think about how I might have felt or been able to cope if it had only been that my parents got evicted and we lost all our possession. If it only had been that and not my dad dying as well. I would have still had a relationship with him. I would still be tethered to the realness of that life. What happy memories I could salvage or could have gone on to make with him. It feels like I lost that life and my dad’s death was the end of any good memories I could have kept living in. I was only left with my mother and all the sadness and hurt. I was left with the bad parts.
Unfair to my mother who certainly tried as best as she knew how.
I also think of the rampant mental health issues in my family. The horrible desperation of poverty that still clings to my bones and fills me with anxiety and hopelessness as I sit in a beautiful house like this.
Something I don’t believe I will ever attain in my life.
Something that feels so much like make-believe that I don’t ever think it could be something I deserve to experience.
My dad died and it transformed my personality into something else. It was the final door closed at the end of multiple traumas in a row and left me in this life that feels like I am a different person entirely.
Like I am lost. Nothing. A ghost.
Like I am the ghost of events long forgotten. Here floating, reliving the same trauma every day but never moving forward although life continues to swirl around me.
That’s where the grief sits.
Standing, facing the past, crying into the void about the things I could have had or been without trauma, instead of turning to face forward and figuring out what to do with what I have left. I don’t want to forget.
Everyone always told me to never forget what I come from. How could I ever forget?
The trauma that shaped my DNA, rewired my brain and my sense of safety, implanted the belief that something must be inherently and seriously wrong with me for me to have deserved it in the first place.
I will never forget where I came from.
But I am afraid of forgetting what I loved about it, because all those moments were shared with only one other person and he’s gone.
Is it as deep as that? Do I remember things with rose-colored glasses?
No. My dad really did love me. He treated me with so much kindness, respect, and trust. He was a good parent to me - as good as he could be with the tools he was given. He genuinely tried to be a good dad, despite being so mentally ill and disabled from his own trauma. He was so violent. And tried so hard not to be that way with me.
My mom, on the other hand, seemed to hate me, despite always treating my brother so well. She also didn’t treat my sister right obviously, but my sister didn't grow up with my mother - didn't have it instilled in her from childhood. I don’t know why my mother picked me. I don’t know why I didn’t get the same level of love and attention. The kinds of things she said to me deeply hurt me. They shaped my inner voice. That echoing voice is sometimes so convincing that I keep seeing her face staring back at me in the mirror. The ways she made me feel about me, who I was, my thoughts, my intentions - that has stuck with me all this time so unconsciously, even though I am fully conscious that she's the first person who said those things to me. I don’t know why I believe it so much, knowing she was just a hurt person hurting others.
So… I am 27 today.
And I feel like I’m in year 0 of getting to know myself. Year 0 of figuring out what I want my life to look like. Figuring out what will make me happy. Am I already happy? Was I happy back then?
Will I be okay? Will I get better?
I wish I could talk to me at 28. At 29. At 30.
I wish I could know if it gets better. If I will ever be able to appreciate the better.
If I will ever feel good enough.
Will I get better?
I wish I could see how my teenage self would react to where I am now. I know I was her, but her mindset seems so far removed from my own.
I hope she would like where I am. I hope I am where she dreamed of being. Because then I can only move forward with more dignity. Less comparison.