notes from my birthday
When I was a teenager, I had a lot of ideas about what would make me happy in life. I thought I had to like certain colors—red and black and silver ONLY, absolutely NO navy or gold—and types of music—Taylor Swift was off the board. I had an idea about how to decorate and design my space, uniform. I thought I had to dress a certain way to meet my own standards. My standards always, always had to defy mainstream trends.
As a classmate once called me—a hipster hipster. I had to go against the trends the hipsters were going against.
Looking back on it all is funny in a way. I suppressed a side of me that wanted to surface so badly that in the end it came back full force and had its way. Navy and gold and angels and horses and Taylor Swift and hipster trends, the love of water and the sun and nature and wildlife—it came back and crushed me. And I, happily, surrendered.
So here I am on the night before my birthday, wearing a navy and gold tank top in my bedroom decorated by nicknacks and records and knives on the wall.
I thought wrong about all the things I was so persistent would be the right outcome for me.
God had a bigger plan. It’s not one I would’ve anticipated in a hundred years.
I think one has to hit rock bottom before realizing none of these things hold merit. Not friends or family, not careers or social status, not style or swagger. At the end of the day, friends and family can (and one day will) leave you, careers and social statuses crumble, and style and swagger are just as easily broken. What do you make of it, then, at the end of the day when all of this is gone?
Hitting rock bottom at nineteen sounds silly and I’m sure some of my seniors would say I haven’t lived enough to know.
What I do know was nineteen was the buildup of every heartbreak in my childhood—every fear of being taken from my mother, of my only parent dying of cancer, of not fitting in at school. It was finding a best friend and struggling with codependency. It was knowing what I wanted to do with my life and being disregarded or told it was a fad. It was being medicated because the emotions were too loud, too strong, to wild for anyone to even stop and think that maybe—just maybe I feel too much.
I don’t feel any less these days; now I just harness it. Creating is my constant output, a channel. It never stops, and it’s exhausting.
But the chain of events that lead to nineteen—a cruel custody battle, a parent’s cancer diagnosis, a suicidal and codependency phase, watching a good friend lose her sister (also a mentor of mine) to cancer, breaking it off with a friend of seven years, and finally medication withdrawal—
With bipolar, everything feels too fast. I feel like I hit new highs, new milestones too fast.
I remember sleeping for the whole month of October when the buildup finally came crushing down on me. I don’t remember the sun, or feeling, or anything. I just remember black. Sorrow.
And then finally, January. Three months of withdrawal, then a spark.
I let the spark run its course. It wanted to start a fire—a God-breathed fire. I let it go. I let it snap and sparkle and flicker and dance. At the end of the second week of January, something was starting. The following week revealed to me a story—just three major plot points (a beginning, middle, and end)—and not much of that has changed.
But of course, everything has changed.
2018 was rough. It was getting back on my feet and drawing lines in the sand that I refused to cross. It was remembering I am an artist. (The previous three years on medication, I’d barely touched a pencil.) It was letting a story take shape. It was rebirth, a new beginning. From the ashes, per se.
2019 was golden. 2019 was letting those things—navy and gold, Taylor Swift and the sun, hipsters and swagger—lead the way into new, uncharted territory. It was driving to Florida from Indiana on my own—my very first solo road trip(!) It was job hunting till I cried, sure I’d still suffer from hating every retail gig I threw myself into. But there was something different this time.
After letting my nature surface, after pouring my heart and soul into a God-given calling, God led me the rest of the way.
I remember job hunting at every small business I could. One even turned me down and hired my mom instead. I remember sitting in my car on Centre Street and getting a text from my mom—a phone number of a guy who was hiring. Little did I know…
I think I’d actually applied and called to follow up. The office girl answered, said they were going through applications. But I called the personal cell given to me by my mom, from her new boss, who had hired her over me…and got an interview. When the day came, I sat in my car, unsure how to approach it. I had a jean jacket and a suit jacket in my car. I opted for the jean jacket and went in. Resume in hand, mulling over pro and cons of me. I sat and listened to the business owner talk over the premise of the job, ask me if it sounded like something I wanted to do—work on the beach? I mean, “yeah(!)”—and handed me a W4 and asked me to bring in my social security card.
And nothing better has happened to me yet.
I remember the first call too—“We’re testing out some CraigCats, do you want to come?”
If you had know the first thing about teenage me—getting on a little boat out on a river was the LAST thing I was about to do. But I rolled up to this marina on the island I grew up visiting, swallowed that fear, hopped on, and off I went.
Flash forward to 2020. Now I’ve finished the first book in my series (Angels’ Compass). I learned the whole shebang for marketing snd businesses. I’ve been on good terms with my job going on a year and a half. I just owned it, and somehow it all clicked together. After letting it run its course—whatever it might be—everything finally made sense.
God knows I wouldn’t have thought 113 degrees in Florida, on the water or in the sun, working solo on a project bigger than (my) life—it’s not where teenage me thought I wanted to be. But it’s where I needed to be.
Needless to say, at the end of the day, I’ve waited all my life to be twenty-two (mainly due to the Taylor Swift song). It was not at all what I had hoped, but I think, more of what I needed. It was weird, but I finally feel like I am who I was always meant to be. A coming of age almost, where the accumulation of all the past pain and heartbreak and hope took on a new form and became beautiful in the process of healing. Some days are rough, but I can finally say I feel at home in my own heart. I feel genuine, authentic. I feel like me with no shame or strings attached.
It feels good.
So goodbye 22, it was weird.
Here’s to all the wonder that’s 23.