Then: I dreamed. Of the wide skies of something great, I dreamed and longed to run free without weariness. Of the simple rain drops, I dreamed, counting them as they fell upon the car window panes, pretending to imagine life into them. For my entire life, I’ve thrived on the imaginary. When I was young, I filled homemade paper books full of it. At night, my brother and I mapped out stories for hours. During the day, books and movies and music fed the hunger tearing me apart, aching to take the world around me and then create.
I began to live my own story, too. I grew to make friends; even those whom I no longer recognize became apart of me. When I was seven years old, my mother started homeschooling my brother and I, which would change our life tremendously and for the better. All along, I would feel a connection with my body and mind: finding freedom in dance when I was making peace with myself and when I grew anxious, pulling my own hair as if I was to blame for the feelings that trapped me. And when my body changed and I grew to hate it, I burned my confidence and began living in the ashes of self-loathing. Those were dark days, and thankfully, not long-lasting. For there was a beautiful day in its time when I was set free. At the age of thirteen, I learned grace and it was graciously showered on me. I was finally running free, with no constraints.
Oh, and the days that followed. I made friends, so many different faces and stories that would blend with my own. The sum of the experiences my parents allowed me to live would form the magic in which I now view the world. I would learn my passion for photography, a journey that would transform me both as an artist and as a human. Books would fill my spare time and my days would be spent reading about lives from long ago, lives painted by people such as I, the world around me, that beautiful force that drives us all, love stories tragic and tragically happy, and the issues that unite us and divide us. Sorrows would come into my life; I’d lose my Grandma in an unexpected blow of Autumn, forever touched by our days together and missing the way she loved life as simple as seashells on the shore. Never said goodbyes would haunt me and the heartbreak of ones I love more than myself would come slowly and surely. The city would fill my heart, pull me under its spell, and knit my desires to be swallowed whole by its wonders. And all along as I grew, I dreamed.
Now: I am eighteen years old. Today, I woke up and everything was golden. I got in the car to go to a new city, thinking to myself on how fine it all is.
I was afraid to turn eighteen. It seemed old and unfamiliar. Yet then, I thought of the city I so love, and how it is beautiful because it is worn, wasted, built by those who bypass and those who make a home there, tattooed by street art, and full of unfamiliar things coming every second. The city writes that orchestra every day, and I know it well for that song is my own. Now I know eighteen is another chapter to live and learn and be worn, wasted, and built.
The other day, one of my best friends and I were sitting in her car in the pouring rain, eating ice cream and talking about the future. We got distracted by the song that was playing in the background and one particular lyric: “from the day I started crawling, I was on my way to find you”. Isn’t it amazing, I thought, how there are asleep stories and people I have always been destined to find? My entire life has been a pathway to those exact stories: the people I will meet in college in the Autumn, all the people I will love and laugh with, all the people that will break my heart, and all the people that will cause me to think thoughts I can’t imagine now. They are living right now, walking their paths and I am on my way to find them in perfect time. We have such wonderful things waiting for us, don’t we?
One far-off day: I will be worn. Tiredness will overwhelm me, and time will have numbed me into a deep steadiness. I will rise and see the cracks in the windows where light is pouring in. There will be few treasures in that house, apart from the ones received from the true treasures: drawings from children, tidbits from travels, my own photographs mounting the walls. I will wash white plain dishes and let the light from the window be golden bright to my eyes and remember a time when I was so young and so full of wonder I could explode. I pray I think fondly of my past, yet thankful I know all that I will know, for I found that which was waiting for me. Nothing in my story was safe: it was blurry, cracked, oozing. It was uncertain, chapters spent on the edge of life. But beautiful things grew, died, and grew back. After it all, I hope I still have the wonder. And in that day, still I will dream.
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up” – Louise Erdrich