The hardest thing about growing into a healthier self is that you have to leave other selves behind. The only coping mechanisms you’ve ever had get cast off, and, until you learn to grow new ones, you’re just a turtle without a shell, naked and looking like a weird flat lizard.
Sometimes it feels like a curse to know exactly what it is that you want. Because in all likelihood, you won’t get it, or if you do, it won’t be what you thought it would be. You’ll always be left standing empty handed in front of an open door. Maybe you should have brought flowers? Maybe you should have known better?
What I’m doing is writing this in the parking lot of my elementary school while listening to Frank Ocean’s Blond for the first time in almost two years. The temperature dropped for the first time in weeks tonight so this feels as good a time as any to mourn my loses. To vacillate between first person and second while I try to find some kind of ground on which to stand.
My best friend is going through some pretty serious growth spurts right now. She is a caterpillar dissolved by her own enzymes waiting to become something else, something better, something new. She is a turtle without a shell. Most days this summer we have driven each other around this town where we grew up and we have tried to laugh. We have always been good at laughing, we say, even when there’s been nothing else. We go to the coffee shop and our barista makes us the same drink and we try to write novels that people will want to buy because goddamnit we have dreams and what else can you do but try?
Most days I hate a cliché and deploy a cliché all in the same breath.
This summer has been a lot of things but most of all it’s been naked turtles and dissolved caterpillars and a lot of small hats. Because when you feel lost you’ve got to hang your small hats somewhere and this summer we’ve hung our small hats on each other and asked, does this look nice? And you know what? It does look nice. Our naked smooshed turtle bodies, dissolved and wearing small hats.
No amount of Frank Ocean is going to stop me from growing my way past whatever pain has been following me around for what feels like my whole life. No amount of crying will flood me no amount of sleepless nights will slow me down.
My therapist says it’s important for me to make space for what’s to come. That’s how she says it, like it’s the name of some deity I’ve yet to meet: For What’s to Come. What’s to come, I ask her. Something big, she says. Like an earthquake, I ask, as if I’m a child who doesn’t understand. But that’s the thing. I don’t understand. Nobody teaches you how to understand why you do the things you do why you are the way you are you’re just expected to roll through life ruining everything and not knowing better until one day you do know better, and then what?
Small hats. Laughing. Growing a bigger, better shell, a stronger self, a real home, a life.