a note on personal history II
i am unsure of how many stories go like this. where the beginning is undefined, the details that make up the body are inconsequential and all that matters is that there was an eventual end.
but this is my story.
i had a family who made the world solid and stable and loving. parents who were present, a father who made it home for dinner every night, a mother who never placed the weight of vanity on my small shoulders. a family who equally valued all traits and shared their love and pride and support lavishly.
no one ever told me that i wasn’t good enough. no one ever called me ugly. no one ever called me fat. no one ever uttered a word or phrase that could have pulled such a deadly trigger. in fact, most observers generously noted the opposite. there were plenty of boys and plenty of friends and plenty of achievements. it all should have been more than enough.
we were born into a world of extreme privilege by chance and stayed nestled in that bubble of good fortune. it was all we knew. everything was beautiful and perfect and happy on the outside. but, as i’ve since learned, the true privilege of it all was that the beauty and perfection and happiness was not a false façade in our home.
so why i was at odds with the very vessel that allowed me to navigate this good world, i don’t know. why i worked so hard to be hungry because what i saw reflected, what i felt inside, what i thought others judged, and what i actually looked like were like pieces to different puzzles strewn about in a pile. it felt like trying to fit them together into one would never solve the bigger picture.
for all those years i thought i was alone in this fruitless battle, it was happening to so many (everyone?) around me. yet i couldn’t see it, i couldn’t hear it, i couldn’t know it. and for everyone who i later realized was carrying this common burden, this disease that blankets us with its one label definition, no single struggle mimicked another.
proof that the reasons are countless. that the behaviors are varied and practically pointless to dissect. all i know is that so many of us just didn’t feel or, worse, didn’t want to feel whole and full.
considering it lasted for over a decade, no one would be surprised to hear it ebbed and flowed as it charted its course. no one day was the same and neither was the pain. good and bad, naturally, but consistently heavy and all consuming. it occupied such an expansive space in my head, i wonder how there was ever room for anything else.
how i went to class and performed and made friends and stayed friends and played sports and excelled and was thought to be strong, able and successful. how I could pass for ‘ok’ when i was permanently teetering on the edge.
i don’t remember ever wanting to be perfect. i still don’t. as my father once prepared me, ‘there will always be someone wealthier, skinnier, smarter, prettier.’ it was never a competition with what surrounded me – which frightens me the most. while it was never to be seen, it was never to be invisible either.
it was, at once, everything and nothing.
there was one particular day when, after managing to forgo food for days, i passed out. waking up on the floor with a headache that signaled a forgotten fall, all i could think was ‘thank god no one found me.’ not ‘thank god i’m ok.’
mostly because, at that time, i didn’t believe i would ever be ok.
when any sadness gripped my heart, i would run. i would run like the pavement beneath me would eventually wear away and reveal answers to every question. when nothing felt better, i would push just how nothing nothing could be. when any pain rattled in my hollowness, i would act desperately to fill up, to satiate that empty echo.
it was as vicious and relentless a cycle as it is so often illustrated.
because of this, it seems cruel to claim that i woke up one morning and felt that it had all been enough. but it’s the truth.
it was fall. the start of a new chapter, my next education. to prepare me for something that i had worked towards from the start. i crawled out of bed, exhausted, concave in some places and swollen in others. looking in the mirror, i knew this was it. the end that i had prayed for and struggled for, not ever knowing what it would look like, had finally arrived, free of any pomp and circumstance.
as i packed a bag with papers and pencils and ink and straightedges, i could feel a (then) lifetime of baggage being emptied to make room for other things, even leaving some areas empty, leaving me with less to carry.
this health, this privilege, this peace, this knowledge, this beauty, this life. it was mine to waste.
that morning, i walked out and closed the door behind me, never looking back.