“We changed again, and yet again, and it was now too late and too far to go back, and I went on. And the mists had all solemnly risen now, and the world lay spread before me.”
– Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
It’s true what they say about teenagers feeling like they’re invincible; once your teens are over, you can’t seem to get a hold of that feeling anymore.
I’m 23, would turn 24 next Saturday. My teenage ended 5 years ago, and already I feel like I was so much braver back then than I am today. More than anything, I was tireless, unrelenting in the pursuit of whatever I wanted, no matter what it cost me.
If I were to describe the 23rd year of my existence in a single word, I’d say tough, because being 23 was just that. I can truthfully say I haven’t lived through such a difficult year for the entire time I’ve been alive. The closest to this I can recall is probably when I was 21, in 2016-17, when my body shut down and the whole weight loss thing happened. That was tough too, and reaped glorious results, so if that’s a pattern to be followed, I do expect that 23 would result into something good, too.
You know, in my head, the years I live through are not just 365 days, but a theme party. Each year has its own theme, and the entire time we’re in the party, we live with that theme, until it’s time for the theme to change, for me to grow another year older. For 23, the theme was ‘trip, stumble, fall, but stand up’. More than that though, this was the year where every single day was a test of sorts, and I can proudly say I flunked most of them. No, really. I did horrible.
But I’m here, still standing (bruised and fractured, but standing nonetheless), so that ought to count for something, right? I think so.
What did I learn? Nothing. Except that ice creams taste better in the winters than they do in summers. And that while blasting music while driving is great, sometimes driving in silence is just as therapeutic.
What do I remember from being 23? This:
I remember being so insanely happy, that I had to remind myself to breathe. There were moments where I was so happy that I got giddy with it. Good times.
I remember feeling accomplished, like I had made something of myself. Moments of accomplishment were there, too, and they made my mother happy. Which, as we all agree, is the best damn feeling in the world, making your mother smile.
I remember feeling loved, surrounded by people who lived up to the words ‘I’ll be there for you’. It’s a rare thing to have people promise you ‘forever’ and other such unestimable lengths of time, and then actually show up when you need them; but I had that this year. When people said that they’ll be there for me, they were.
I remember feeling anxious, like there was something slipping away from me. This started around late February, early March, this feeling of unbriddled anxiety took over and blocked everything out. I tried to push it down, of course, but when has that ever worked? Yeah, never.
I remember not feeling anything, because I was too busy navigating everyday life with my destroyed state of mind. You know what is worse than feeling sad or intensely upset? Not feeling anything at all. There’s so much time missing in my memory, more than two months of it, and it shakes me up when I realize how much time I spent not feeling anything, just going through the day for the sake of it.
I remember feeling hopeful. Bad times don’t last long; they at least give you a little bit of a breather in between bouts of despair. I felt that, and after two months of nothing, I felt the relief of hope.
And lastly, I remember feeling overwhelmed. 23 was big on overwhelm; things were just never regular, you know? It was either extremely good, or really, really bad–no happy middle. Good days weren’t just good, they were phenomenal. Likewise, bad days weren’t just bad, they were hellish. It was one long roller-coaster ride this year, if I’m being completely honest; and we all know I love me some roller coasters. ‘Be careful what you wish for’ has never rung truer than it does now. 😛
Anyway, that was 23 for me; the party where there were disasters erupting every minute, but managed anyway. At least, it was a party to remember. It was a year of growth, learning and love, which was very closely accompanied by pain and hurt, but hey, can’t get the rainbow without a little rain, right?
Also, I realized that little things matter to me so, so much, way more than the big ones, the grand gestures. A simple ‘hello’ in the morning would make me happier than say, an extravagant present; the two categories aren’t interchangeable with each other. I am yet to come to a conclusion about whether this is a superpower, or my cross to bear for life, but it is what it is.
E. E. Cummings once said, “it takes courage to grow up and be who you really are.” In fact, it might just be the hardest things you would ever do in your life: staying true to yourself, always, even when it could cost you the things and people you don’t want to lose. The important thing to remember in such times is that if someone isn’t willing to accept you as you, scabs and scars and smiles included, it’s their loss, not yours.
23 drained me, but I believe it was more of a cleanse, for the year and the things to come. I haven’t had any expectations set for 24 yet, but I do have a feeling about it: it’s going to be life-changing, and I do hope it’s going to be good.
If it isn’t, we deal with it anyway, like always.
Here’s to another year that’s gone by, rife with memories and stories that shall always be remembered and cherished.
Here’s raising a glass (or coffee mug in my case) to the year that is yet to come, with promises of a better tomorrow.
Here’s to being alive. ❤