hurting in growth; ’19


“When we allow ourselves to hurt freely and fully is when we finally grow.”

I don’t think I’ve ever quite viewed myself so clearly before this year. Relative to the past seventeen years, I wholeheartedly felt myself grow into the age of eighteen.

I thought waving goodbye to high school was going to be the toughest thing I’d have to endure this year – to bury the demons of my past and move on with a blank page. Of course, that would be my first mistake of the year. We can never be free of the monsters that chain us to our old selves, the ones that lurk under our beds and in our heads. The shells we grew out of will still be baggage no matter where we escape to. While I found that difficult to accept, slowly, I embraced it.

Before I could spend enough time with fun, I was plunged right back into education. I’m not complaining; I’m lucky enough to have the chance. College seemed promising. After all, fresh starts are always a gift.

When I was told the world was my oyster in high school, it was hard to believe; when I was told the same thing in college, I was launched into all these new possibilities and opportunities. As the first semester rolled by my window where I was studying yet again (this time not to test, but to learn), I acquired new friends. Fascinating ones. These people had stories that shaped them and they weren’t afraid to tell. I saw in college a brand new expression of what it means to be living in this society as compared to the way we were all automated to think a certain way in high school. Everyone I’ve met this year has taught me at least one lesson in life, either purposely or accidentally, drunk or sober.

Above the surface, it was all relationship complications (both platonic and romantic), spilling profanities while downing shots after shots of liquids, debating about topics that were barred in high school, and having gossip sessions over dinners. But, as we’ve all seen from the oh-so-familiar iceberg diagram, there’s so much more underneath.

I was learning. Not from textbooks or lecture notes that sang to me like a lullaby, not even books or films that used to bring me joy. I was living the lessons. When you learn through experience and through pain, you remember the lesson. It becomes imprinted in your mind, engraved on your heart. It becomes a part of you.

Life has never bestowed me such pain and loneliness prior to this year. Did I claw my nails at the wall asking for a reason? Did I cry myself to sleep refusing to move on? Yes. To pen it as unbearable would simply be an understatement; I’ve never known pain this way, I’ve never known the size it could grow up to be or where it could come from.

I think when I had to come to terms with not seeing my best friends as often this year it tore something inside of me. I’ve always been reliant on people I trust. So when my best friend left for university at the other end of the country, I lost a beacon. She wasn’t there to point out my flaws anymore and I started making mistakes. I guess that’s what happens as you grow.

1 I would take on so much. Too much. As if the world would decay if I didn’t. As if I had to be Atlas for a while. I’d agree to everything everyone asked me to do, no matter who or what it was for. I was stretching myself to limits beyond my own comprehension and when I snapped, I broke hard – I fell hard. Too hard.

2 I never realized how much I could hurt someone. I’ve always thought I’ve been through enough to justify the way I think. I was wrong. Deadly. Consequences came knocking on my door for how recklessly I’ve treated people. I let them down. I broke their hearts. I played with fire that burned out of control and didn’t bother to put it out until it grew close to my home.

3 I thought I always had to be okay. Everything used to be so much of a competition that if you showed a single shred of uncertainty or weakness in your decisions and actions, you’re out of the game. The environment I grew up in did not permit weakness. You could make mistakes, yes, but you weren’t allowed to express grief over them. For the longest time, I kept everything bottled up inside of me, believing that everyone had their own battles to fight and I shouldn’t go to them with my problems. I thought I always had to be okay but it wasn’t for me – it was for everyone else.

When you forcefully be okay for too long, things happen. Your mind breaks. Your body collapses. You fall out of touch. It all creeps on you so discretely, yet you feel the impact almost immediately as it manifests.

I’ve had three mental breakdowns this year, all over three different incidents. Today, I say that without shame. I say that triumphantly. Here’s why: For all three times I’ve wallowed in rock bottom, I turned, and someone was there for me. There had been so many times when people saw me and asked if I was okay. I’ve never had anyone ask me that before this year, perhaps because I’ve never been as vulnerable as I am.

The first time I broke down like a faulted car on the side of a highway, it took days before somebody noticed. He (anonymity!) pulled me aside and asked if I was okay. I wasn’t. I lost something I wanted terribly. I put in so much effort and preparation to strive for that goal that I only had success in vision. When I failed, I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t understand. But he helped me see that nobody can win all the time. “People have to fail before they make it in this world, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t do their best.” After talking about it, I realized that I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to learn how to ask for help. If it weren’t for him, I’d still be having pent up feelings.

Each time, it grew easier to ask for help and to ask someone to listen. Some told me that I’m not alone. Now, it might not sound like much, but knowing that someone else has been in your shoes is one of the greatest comforts a person can get. Solace, knowing that if they got through it, you will too. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to listen. Perhaps I’m surprised because I don’t listen that much.

4 I don’t listen enough. I like drawing a conversation. I like telling people I’ve been somewhere too, I’ve heard that song too, I’ve seen that film too. It’s not that I don’t try to listen, I do. The problem lies in the fact that I don’t do it enough. When we don’t listen, problems take root and those roots latch on.

I’ve been trying to cope with who I am a lot this year. At the same time, I’m spending more time with those I deeply care about. I love the idea of making yourself available for other people, but I’ve come to understand why it isn’t at all so feasible.

5 I found love in so many people (and threw it away in some). It’s a whole shocking package when someone who has been whining at the feet of love for years discards it when it comes around. I’ve written so much about it as if I had all the knowledge in the universe about love. This ‘strongest force in the world’, however, was held carelessly in my palms and I let it slip a thousand times. I had a running list of reasons and excuses to not leave the house, to not reply to a text, to not talk to someone. In the end, I’d ask myself why no one was talking to me instead. It was a vicious cycle I couldn’t get out of.

I think I’ve never really opened my heart to fully let someone into my life. Someone helped me realize this and while I denied it at first, I found it to be true. It’s something I have to work on, this responsibility of commitment. It helps explain why I am the way I am, never truly finishing a story being the simplest example. A part of me doesn’t want to be chained down, while the other half needs a sort of permanence in this chaotic, ever-changing society.

I failed to find a balance between myself and everyone else. Trigger one. Then, I realized I failed. Trigger two. Then, I was told that I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve too often. Trigger three. At that point, all the waves of emotions that I’ve been hoarding behind the dam just flooded my entire life. The ‘me’ I didn’t want to be had turned out to be victorious.

I thought that was the end of it all, that I wasn’t going to get any better. I could visibly feel myself isolating from my friends and family, spending my days and nights in my room, locked away with my own head, crying myself to sleep with terribly upsetting songs, watching my life spiral down before me.

It took some time, but somewhere between my mild self-loathing and some of the spectacular words from people around me, I was pulled out of rock bottom –

– which was when it hit me.

I think when we allow ourselves to hurt freely and fully is when we finally grow. Perhaps that is the greatest lesson I’ve been taught this year. We cannot choose happiness; that awfully overused Tumblr quote doesn’t exist. If it were that simple, everyone would just choose to be happy with all sunshine and rainbows. You can’t know what happiness is until you’ve been at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Of course, you can’t just grow from plain pain; it’s also about finding a small piece of yourself in everyone and everything around you. We interact with everyone and everything that we do because we see ourselves inside of them, most of the time unconsciously. I end the decade finding happiness in the unlikeliest things around me: a simple hug, a long lost face, a call to supper, a familiar view.

That’s how I grew into the end of a decade, into the big ONE-EIGHT. It was more than driving for the first time and scratching the car or trying to cook in the kitchen and watch as I burnt my own food. It was lying to myself about the little things, sitting in a speeding car all the way to the other end of town, staying out late just to talk to people about – well – life, hanging out in smoke (both physically and metaphorically), getting into accidents (both in my mind and in real life), sitting under a table flushed and warning everyone about a drunken earthquake, winning at something no one really cared about, losing at something everyone cared about, singing under the rain, giving and receiving love, chipping away at every inch of my insecurities, building and tearing my walls over and over again, writing more than ever to realize that I had so much left unsaid, and I still do.

So, thank you, twenty-nineteen. It’s only onwards from here.