I am rarely one for self-promotion and hate being in the spotlight. Despite my dislike for attention, my musings today call for it. I turn twenty today–a whole two decades of being alive. Wow. I’m not saying this because I’m afraid of or complaining about getting older. I’m saying this because I’m twenty. And it makes me want to cry.
You could say that I’ve always had a fascination with death. I clearly remember having my first suicidal thoughts at seven years old, and darkness seemed to grab hold of my life. It guided my thoughts, the way I saw the world. Was I hopeless? At times, very much so. There was something darkly romantic about dying young, about an unfortunate and untimely end. I longed for it. In the beginning I longed for it as release, a place where you didn’t have to pretend to be okay, an oasis where all the pain and the hurt and guilt and shame faded away into oblivion. Dead, I would not disappoint. Dead, I would not disgrace, humiliate. Dead, I would burden. Dead, I would be free.
The years went on, and death took on a more sinister form. I longed for death like a punishment of my sins, but death was too good for me. It was a greater punishment to live, to see the beauty but not feel it, to get a glimpse at freedom but never grasp it. I was undeserving of death, condemned to a life of watching the people I loved die. I saw them hurt, I saw myself hurting them, I saw them hurting themselves. Everywhere, pain. And some got away, some reached eternity and I wished them well. I withdrew from the ones that stayed. I built up my walls, my skyscraper, my castled tower of Babel to the heavens to keep out man, woman, God, child. This life was not for enjoying. It was for surviving. It was for coping as long as you could, struggling through whatever was handed my way next. It was managing the darkness day in and day out until death, sweet death who took his own time, would come my way and rescue me. It was self-denial and masochism and I’ve got the scars and flaws to prove it.
You get to a point where you pass from self-pity through self-loathing to an apathy. You’ve adjusted to the dark, the pain. You’re not angry about where your life has taken you, where you’ve ended up. You harbor no feelings of hatred towards those who have hurt you because that’s the way life goes and bad things happen to good people and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. And you deflect everything, knowing you’re not that good of a person anyway and maybe you didn’t deserve it but others certainly deserve far better. You accept that this will not change and that’s okay. You will always hurt. You will always be off, misaligned if you have a place to fit and placeless if there’s nowhere for you to belong to begin with. You’ve died, living every day believing you will never be alive again.
In two decades, I have passed through all those stages. But I’m still here. This, of course, isn’t by my own will. How am I still alive? Why? Well the first nineteen and a half years were so I could get to January, 2014. So I could discover that things can change. So that I could experience being alive. So I could learn to be okay with being alive. So I could find myself glad to be alive. It’s taken a lifetime of death for me to get here–my own innocence, people I loved and complete strangers I’d never meet losing their lives, an epidemic of hearts shriveled into bitter bricks. Most of all, it took the death of God. How, you might ask? He gave this dead girl His Own life. He took my nothing, and gave me His Everything. Do you know what it’s like to feel so full of life, so overjoyed? It’s like a fire racing through the very core of your being, a sort of molten joy in your marrow, fueling a delight in and for life. Life. Christ my Savior, my God, my Life.
I never thought I would make it through middle school. My parents worked incessantly, there was always tension in the house, I didn’t belong at school–but that was nothing new–and this whole church thing didn’t have the answers people had always claimed it did. I never thought I would make it through high school. Higher tension, shouting matches, more work, more travel. More placelessness. Deeper depression, worse anxiety. An accumulation of scars. A suicide attempt or three. Pills, pills, pills. Death. Manipulation, abuse, assault. Anger. Pain. Betrayal. I don’t remember much of what happened those four years, but I remember how it felt. I remember I didn’t want to survive it. I remember being sure that I wouldn’t–and if I did, I certainly would not survive college. Even last semester, I had my doubts. Would I finish these years? Would the darkness, a constant companion and sometimes friend, nudge me to dance, to embrace, to sleep with it one last time, for good?
I’m twenty, today. I’m passionate about pursuing a career in counseling adolescents and young adults. I have discovered and come to embrace God’s love for me and am compelled to love love love everyone. I find strength in the faith that He has allotted me. I am anchored in the hope of His Truth. I have a heart that He has melted from stone, turned to flesh, and given the desire to follow His will. I have eyes that He has widened to seek out the Beauty in the middle of the dark places, to watch for where He is at work at all times and in all areas and ways. I have ears that He has attuned to hear the graces of others and to rejoice in conversation and community. I have a body with diseases and scars. I have a mind with disorders and gaps. I have a spirit prone to darkness. And I have a future ahead of me.