This is a reflection of the stages of my life from birth until now. It is about how the different ‘selves’ I have been over the past 21 years relate to one another, if at all.
On the seventeenth of November 1999, white walls and fluorescent lights and desperate sighs of relief welcomed me into the world.
Is it wrong to romanticize the beginning? To look back nostalgically at that tiny lump of flesh twenty-one years later, jealous of the vulnerability and the pureness in her dark brown eyes? No thought had yet been thought. No word had yet been spoken. No worry had yet been worried. It was a time when I simply gazed into the world with naïve, eternal optimism.
I want to grow up, I often say to my parents. Their efforts to convince me otherwise, that adulthood was in fact not as exciting as I had envisioned, were pointless. I was ready to be a “big girl”, to make my own decisions, my own memories, and my own mistakes.
Every so often, I stop and think about the paths I have travelled to get to where I am right now, curled up on a couch, hair doused in conditioning treatment and a half-finished painting sitting quietly on a table behind me as a means to ground myself and ease my mind in the midst of early adulthood woes. At twenty-one years old, I feel as though I have yet to reconcile with the unnerving fact that there is no invisible force waiting idly by to carry me in a loving embrace from the comforting nest of childhood to a table with food and a bed full of blankets and through another door where I would be reassured that everything would be ok, that no monsters would come to get me at night, and I could sleep like a baby once more.
In the midst of a turbulent hailstorm, this novel virus continuously upending the remaining comforts in my life, I ask: is it wrong to be jealous of my younger self, my smaller, more vulnerable body? My doors were opened for me with certainty of what was behind them with certainty that no monsters hid inside my closet , with certainty that there would never be a need for me to hold up my tiny fists in a valiant yet futile effort to say to the world, “Fight me. I fight back.”
How unfortunate that those brown eyes, my eternally optimistic younger self, would one day come face-to-face with fears I didn’t believe in, fears that hid behind doorways I didn’t know existed, waiting inconspicuously for me to step through and fall into an avoidable mistake.
Sliced evenly throughout, my life up until this point has often felt like a TV series. Thus far, I have lived three seasons. Just three. And in each stage, I have wondered the same thing time and time again: if one door closes will another open? By whom? For how long will it remain ajar? If I enter, can I come back out again? Are the fears I envision as I pass through them real or figments of my imagination, paradoxically disguised as terror yet there to help me find another open door if I so desire?
In my life’s first season, the doors to the future, to new possibilities, to new thoughts to think and new songs to sing, were wide open, waiting for me. I was a wide-eyed ten-year-old. Flowers were my best friend and my imagination my closest confidant. I feared nothing, for fear did not exist as long as I didn’t let it. Life smelled of sunshine and daisies and sunscreen on a hot summer day.
In the second season, I found myself trying to open a door, but it didn’t budge. The daisies stopped smelling oh-so-sweet, the sunscreen dried up and flowers were harder to find. My imagination stopped listening to me. I tried another door yet remained fearful that the uncertainty and unpredictability waiting on the other side would trip me down, down, down, the entrance into a deep dark abyss. Time passed in a haze, remaining on the periphery of my mind where I refused to acknowledge its transitory nature.
Eventually, I felt a sense of content ennui in a new door that stretched open for me but by whom, I did not know. My fears slowly became my confidants, toxic friends that pushed and pulled me in a directionless manner.
Enter season three: As I grew into my teens, I was ready to explore another door. I picked the one that felt like my missing half, the answers to my questions, my mother’s womb I left long ago.
The door did not budge.
A different one swung open instead, one with a personified fear on the other side that I begrudgingly welcomed into my life. I trusted that fear to show me what is right, what calls out my name in the deep of the night and bring me to it. And bring me to the answers it did, but at the expense of losing all the previous doors that I had left in a naïve pursuit of newer ones. That fear showed me how that toxic relationship, that rejection letter, that fallout with a friend…they were necessary evils. Without them, I would not have been able to shut, lock, and throw away the keys to doors that, unbeknownst to me, had been utterly soul sucking. Fear had become my friend, a beacon of light, a possibility, a second chance in a new world filled with a little less imagination and a little less sunscreen and fewer flowers and sour daisies.
Currently, all the doors I have passed through in my life have closed all but for a crack. A sliver of light for a sliver of each of my lives I’ve lived thus far stays inside me, reminders of what once was but is no longer relevant. Like the musty petrichor after a heavy summer rain, I keep the memories from my experiences of passing through the stages of life as gentle reminders to take life as it comes, and to please, please, please, always be careful what I wish for.
Art by Desiree Finlayson