A year ago, on my birthday, I was alone. My birthday was on a Monday and I was hoping that some of my friends would still want to come out and say hi, but they didn’t. I thought it was a fluke. I thought that things would change. I spent the majority of my life as a 28-year-old alone. Drinking alone. Hitting rock bottom alone. You always hear that saying about how one can feel lonely in a group of people. I know that feeling all too well. I didn’t realize it, but that would be the case until the door was closed on me, I left that crowd behind and got to know myself again.
It took me a really long time to get out of my own way. Even tonight, as my best friend was making me an early birthday dinner after she had a long day at work, in my head, I was looking for ways to push her away because I thought that she would want that. Because I’ve been thinking nonstop about where I was a year ago, how maybe that’s where I still belong.
28 was the worst and the best year of my life. It was the year I spent an entire weekend crying because I missed my brother’s birthday for the first time since he was born. It was the year that I nearly got evicted – twice. It was the year I finally remembered that I have grown up and maybe, it was time to let the rest of the world see that too.
It was the year I cried so much, I went numb. It was the year I spent too many nights finding myself drowning at the bottom of a bottle. The year I borrowed money from my family for the first time, asking for help from friends in a way I never thought I would have to. It was the year my friends proved themselves – for better and worse. I opened up a vein and let the rest of the world see the truth behind my words – even if that made you uncomfortable.
“Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.” – The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams
For the first time ever, I truly bet on myself.
I admitted to myself, and to the world, that suicidal thoughts crossed my mind again when I was at my lowest. I promised myself and to the world that the next part of my journey would be epic. It was hopeful thinking, sure, because it wouldn’t be epic for a while. But hey, fake it till you make it, right?
I shed a lot of old skin. I was raw. Exposed. Incredibly vulnerable. Timid to the touch.
I went on dates. First dates – that sometimes just turned into one night stands. First dates that were awful. First and second dates that gave me hope – but then taught me about what I don’t want. First dates that reminded me that I just wasn’t ready. After all, I needed my would-be wedding date to pass before I could even be remotely ready. I wanted to be – oh, I so wanted to be but I wasn’t – yet.
“I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired
I know right now you don’t care
But soon enough you’re gonna think of me
And how I used to be”
I let the world see me, unfiltered. Full of passion, fear, anger and ugly.
Most of all, I lived. I got out of my own way, let others leave me because they wanted to let me go and slowly began letting others in. I learned to trust – in myself, in my heart and in those who see right through me. I giggled. I acted like a dork – alone and with others. I let others in. I let them show me their love, unconditionally.
The biggest lesson I learned at 28 was that what I needed out of life and out of my friends at 22 are not the same things I need from them at 28. No – I take that back. I’ve always needed the same things out of my friends – honesty, acceptance, love, and understanding. The difference between the friendships I forged at 22 and the friendships that found their way into my life as I was buried in the ashes is this: the friends I have now never let me apologize for who I am – they accept me, unconditionally. Not only do they give me the honesty and respect I deserve, they don’t just stand by and let me disrespect myself.
This is the biggest lesson I’m taking with me as the clock ticks one more year closer to 30. I spent the last 20 years living under the shadow of self-doubt, judging eyes of the world, and the insecurities that covered me, from head to toe.
The thing about shadows is that they need light to exist – and I’ve spent far too long wasting my light giving life to the shadows, instead of illuminating the path in front of me.
So on we go, full of ridiculousness, silly faces, immigrant moments, all the penguins, all the unbridled passion and of course, adventures with my best friend. After all, I’m just a caffeinated April Fool that you either love, hate or love to hate.