an incomprehensive guide to coping

  1. stop scrolling through your phone first thing in the morning. delete all the apps on your phone. (it won’t last, and you know this. do it anyway.)
  2. try to breathe, in and out until it fades to muscle memory. stitch your pieces into order. slowly.
  3. when you stab yourself with the needle, force yourself not to bleed on the fabric. get up, and go to the medicine cabinet. wash the blood off your hands.
  4. take your brain in for repairs, like a shitty computer, constantly needing to be taken in for repairs. you tighten the screws, you reset the hard drive, you bang the dust out of the keyboard, and know you’ll come back here next week.
  5. have a drink of water, ‘cause you can’t drown out this weight in your belly, but you sure can try. (dizzy on the tennis court, sick in the sunrise.)
  6. sometimes, depression feels like drowning slowly. sometimes, there are good days, and you gasp for air and you think you’re all right, until the next wave hits me from behind. but all this time, you’ve been floating in the sea. and there’s no land in sight.
  7. so try not to feel sorry for yourself. even when your life feels like a sob story in a youtube comments section. even when you’re drifting, and you’re screaming out, and no one comes to help you. 
  8. go to sleep. tell yourself you’ll wake up early. save it for another night. ‘cause when you can barely breathe, you’ve got other things on your mind. and yeah, it sucks. but in the big scheme of things, it’ll turn out all right.
  9. call your friend. zone out. stare into blue light. take a bath and iron that twisty feeling out of your stomach. lie on the floor, exhausted and breathing.
  10. fashion a raft out of kelp and driftwood. it’s shitty, and haphazard, and it’ll only last a week. but it’s something.

rom-com protagonist (a short essay)

When I was younger, I loved reading love stories. I was obsessed with them–arguably because I had absolutely no experience with real-life relationships. I think that made it better; like how movies about high school are always more fun to watch if you haven’t been to high school yet.

I thought that was where I wanted to focus with my writing. I was gonna write contemporary teen romances, because that was what I was really into at the time. About complex characters, who had usually been through it, who clicked together like little pieces in a puzzle, who made each other feel like all the stuff they had gone through was worth it. I still love writing those kinds of dynamics; they’re pretty compelling. And love stories were how I learned to write. It’s a little part of my roots, I guess. (Nope, nope, that feels really dumb to say as a fifteen year old, forget I wrote that.)

Anyway–I still love writing love stories. But at some point, I guess I just fell out of love with reading them; somehow it just feels different. Now, when I read these kind of stories, all I feel is sad, because… I just don’t get it anymore. Now I am a big, tough, scary teenager or whatever, whose biggest dreams include being able to afford rent and food without working a job I completely despise. I don’t know when that changed–I guess it’s really true, that thing they say about how growing up just means giving up on your dreams.

It was a lot easier to romanticize the idea of having a high school romance when I was in middle school and never left the house. But when you’ve actually met other teenagers, the idea suddenly becomes a lot less appealing. In romance novels through, it’s not all really about the central relationship–it’s about the characters both finding someone who helps them make their life better. They have friends, and dreams that come true, and challenges that are always faced and not always overcome. I think that’s really why I fell in love with them. I don’t need a fairy tale relationship. But I think everyone needs a family, someone who loves and supports them no matter what, whether that’s a parent or a friend, whatever. Someone who fights for you, against all better judgement.

I don’t think I’ll ever give up though. Not in my heart of hearts. I think I’ve just… gotten really jaded, as a way of protecting myself. Because I’m not where I thought I’d be right now, and I’ve messed up in a thousand different ways, and I tear myself down because I’m scared to be noticed. And also scared I’ll never be noticed. I think it’ll pass.

I think I’ll learn to be soft, some day. I hope I will. I hope even half of the things I used to read come true. I hope I get to fall in love, and someday I don’t spend most of my time worrying about survival. I hope I prove myself wrong, and I stop caring what other people think, I learn to walk through the hard days, and linger in the good.

Because deep down, I still believe in happy endings. Not the perfect Hallmark movie kind, where within an hour and fifteen minutes, our protagonist learns her lesson and lives happily ever after. But the real kind–the kind that you have to really fight for, the kind you choose every day. Joy and love, hewn by tired, dirty fists. I mean, I have to–I’d lose my mind if I didn’t.

best foot forward

been sharpening old pencils from my public school days / reading drawing tutorials online / and carrying a sketchbook with me everywhere i go / even though for years, i told myself all art was stupid / cause i was practical, and smart / i wore button up shirts and dress pants / i had the next five years down on paper / yeah i’ve got generations of folded-up dreams / carefully preserved on the closet / fur coats and blazers / they’re a heavy burden to bear / cause if i can’t make this work, there’s no one who’s gonna live it for me / so i’ve been playing guitar / and singing half-assed covers into my phone / until i make myself cry over gaps in my memory / and cracks in my bones / listening back for things i messed up / and trying to improve / i’ve been taking deep breaths / and doing my best not to take it personally / and laugh off the things that two years ago, would have had me sobbing on the floor / cause i’m a delicate little thing / half-glazed ceramic under heat / been cleaning out my room / and trying not to take myself so seriously / screaming into jars / and using buttercream words like love and darling more frequently / and half the time, it drives me crazy / but with baby steps forward/ i think i’m getting somewhere

2019

I don’t know if I’m alone in this–but I still get surprised when I glance down at the clock on my computer. You know that feeling you get in the new year, when you have to write down the date for the first time, and there are just a couple seconds where you’re like, there’s no way that’s right. It feels so clunky, and futuristic… and then you move on with your life. After a month, you get over it.

I don’t think I ever stopped doing that when 2020 rolled around.

I remember in middle school, I was writing this book series set in 2024, the year I’ll eighteen. I wrote out all my worst fears for what that year would be like as a way to process them. It was a dystopia, but the end of the world was only happening in the protagonists’ peripheral vision, as she built a life with someone she loved. And in theory it would have been awesome. But I could never figure out how to execute it, even after years of trying. I’d grown with that project, and not in a good way; everywhere I looked, all I could see was smudges of old ideas long since outgrown, that I couldn’t extricate from the narrative no matter how I tried. I can’t say I’ll never revisit the premise, ‘cause it was a pretty good one. But giving myself permission to scrap it was a very good decision. Anyway; I couldn’t fathom the idea that I would ever live to see the 2020s. I knew, logically, I’d be in the protagonists’ shoes one day, but that doesn’t mean it ever quite clicked in my brain.

But here we are. It’s 2021, and I feel like I was celebrating New Year’s Eve last week; the memory fresh and bright, and ridiculously optimistic. I know it’s been more than a year since that night, but I don’t even care, because in my mind, I am playing Monopoly with my friends and counting down ’til midnight. I am happy, and scared, and alive, the whole world spread out before me. I wonder, sometimes, what might have happened for me, should the pandemic not have happened. Would I be a happier person in the long term? Would I have been more or less successful? Sometimes, I wonder. Even though that kind of reasoning feels really self-centred and pointless, like my hypothetical success was the real loss here, which it most definitely was not. So then, I do my best to shut down that train of thought.

But every time I see that fucking date on my phone, I can’t help but feel like I should be doing more than I am. I should be some kind of international success by now, I should be preparing to publish my first novel, I should be raking in views by the thousands. At the very least, I should have a concrete plan for my future. But I don’t.

I feel like as soon as lockdown happened, I went into survival mode. I doubt I’m alone in that. Honestly, as it goes, I was really lucky; three months of isolation and that was it. But those three months were some of the worst in my life. It’s been a long time since I’ve plummeted into depression that deep, if ever. It took all my energy not to fall apart–and I went into denial. I told myself things I knew were lies, and drilled them into my head–that this was going to last forever, that my friends were good as dead. I know that sounds counterproductive, but I needed to grieve, and it’s pretty hard to grieve someone who’s technically a twenty minute drive away. I needed to rush through the stages, all the way to acceptance, and go on with my life as best I could. It was the only thing that was holding me together.

I never got closure on that year. There was no end-of-year assembly, no milestone to cross in this new, strange world turned upside down. In my mind, I am fourteen, and about to graduate ninth grade–planning to do another open mic, or maybe put on my own event that summer. I’ve just done WE Day, and I’m so proud of myself. I think everything is going to be better now.

But in reality, I’m going into grade eleven next year, which means I’m pretty close to being done with high school. And I have a job. And everyone is asking me what I want to do with my life, and I don’t know how to answer. And sometimes, I feel like I may as well be a grown-up already. But other days, I feel like I was born yesterday. I have so much to learn, so many different interests and skills to develop, and the idea of being an adult in a couple of years makes me want to hide under the covers and never come out. I’m gonna be learning to drive pretty soon! And then I’m gonna move out, maybe I’ll get a job or start a business (side note: something I’ve been considering a lot of late), and I’ll share an apartment with a friend or something, and… I can’t even fathom past that. Wow.

Ever since the New Year’s Eve of 2020, it feels like time is slipping through my fingers like sand onto the floor, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I feel faded, like a cheap knockoff of who I used to be. Is this just how my life is gonna be now?

Oh god, am I about to become one of those people who peaked in high school? I really hope not. That’s gonna be my goal now, I think. Do not peak in ninth grade. Like, I did some cool shit that year, but oh dear lord, if anyone catches me bragging about that when I’m a fully grown adult, please pull me aside and very lovingly tell me to get a life.

Lots of love,

Lorna

settle

someday, the dust is going to settle

and the scab will form

over the hole you tore through me

the tapestry of hopes you’ve torn to shreds

with your jaded fingernails

and walk away

someday, i’ll brush the dust off my cheeks

and do my hair all pretty

for no one at all

and maybe i won’t need to tear myself to pieces

just to stay awake

amd i’ll know who i am

i’ll walk onto a stage

i’ll speak clear, and loud

and if you’re lucky

you’ll catch me on the radio

wouldn’t that be nice?

and i could put two smiley faces in my email

like a heartless killer

or tell you to shut the fuck up

when you talk about your outdated opinions

as though you expect me to agree

i could live my life like an inspirational quote

and retire to the town i grew up in

with all my best friends, and the charcoal trees to keep us company

and it’d be all right, really

and i know that hope can’t be trusted

but maybe this time, i could let it walk me home

in the dark

hold my hand

and tell shitty patchwork jokes

that make me laugh hysterically

kiss me thick-skinned and old

and leather-jacket-wearing

and blow away like smoke