peace (a personal narrative)

When I was young, I used to love to listen to the radio, and imagine what it would be like for someone to be so interested in me and my work, that they’d ask me all these carefully selected questions, and listen with rapture, and thank me profusely for my time afterwards. It was always my favourite thing to do on long car rides home.


I come from a family of people who almost made it; a long line of close brushes and has-beens. Sometimes, I imagine all my ancestors’ dreams, hovering over my shoulders, and ducking under my skin.

When I was young, I thought that someday, the whole world was gonna scream my name. I thought I’d do whatever I’d took–I’d push all my friends away, I’d leave my family in the dust, I’d accept any deal I was given. Any chance to make my mark. To make the world a better place, I hope. Because those two things aren’t always the same.

It’s hard, not to romanticize the tragedy of it all. The tortured celebrity, who has everything in the world, who’s loved by so many people, and still hates themselves. Drowning in all that glory, and attention, and money. Honestly, it’s hard not to romanticize having, period. Not having to worry about rent and food and electricity. Knowing whatever you want, you have enough money to pay for it. And whenever someone needs help, you’ll be able to help them without a second thought. It’s a good problem to have.

I spent my entire childhood holding the weight of generations worth of dreams on my shoulders. I have grown up hungry, for something, anything more than an average life. But where that used to inspire me… now it just feels heavy, and impossible. Like I’ve already failed before I’ve even started.

I want to be happy. I want to be reasonable. I want to do everything right, I want to show the world how good I can play the game. How strong I am, how wrong they were. I want, and I want, and I want, a thousand different things, most of which I can’t afford.

I want to make art. It’s the thing that makes the world spin around, that snaps me out of my darkest moments. I love it, more than anything else. But I don’t want to be a tortured artist. I don’t want to suffer for a dream. I want to be known and adored, to have the entire world sing my praises–but the idea of people criticizing me makes me feel like I’m collapsing inward like a dying star. I feel so young–soft, and small, and vulnerable, like a baby deer at the edge of the highway just begging not to get hit.

And… shit. I think I might have spent the past three years writing about how all I ever wanted was to be at peace. Not… to give up everything, for this massive career, and more money than I know what to do with. Not to change the entire world, not to be unforgettable, at the cost of my own sanity.

Just to be happy. To have a good job, a good life, and nice things. Success that didn’t come at the cost of my happiness. Maybe that doesn’t sound like the most revolutionary idea, but trust me. It is.

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.

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

The progress bar

All my homeschool courses come with this little handy-dandy feature–a progress bar. Every time I submit an assignment, the bar turns yellow; and when it’s marked it turns green, and gives me another two or three percent of progress–and calculates the assignment’s impact on my total grade.

I actually love that feature–I can’t imagine how my public school friends survive without being able to keep track of their work like that.

But sometimes, maybe I take it too far.

***

I went into my sophomore year of high school feeling strong, and sturdy, and good. But something has changed since September.

I don’t get as scared as I used to, not to the same degree. Because instead, I just… I don’t care. I have to force myself in the doors, log onto a computer, and make a bar chart about, I don’t know, the logging industry or whatever. Because I’m just so tired, and I don’t know how to believe in things right now. I feel so jaded, and cynical, and cold–and sometimes at the end of the day, I’m so tired, I can barely stand up.

So I plot out my week in my planner. I cross things off as I go. I bite off more than I can chew. But I keep going.

Until I can’t do it anymore. Until I’ve gone two weeks without a proper night of sleep. Until I’m so tired I have to drag myself kicking and screaming into doing schoolwork. Until I don’t put out enough blog posts, until there’s not enough time… and suddenly, I can’t even fit my own rubric of success.

Let alone someone else’s.

The thing is, I thrive off working. I always have. I go insane without something to direct all this crazy anxious energy in my head towards–the same way a little kid goes crazy when they’re stuck inside for too long with nothing left to do. If you don’t get them occupied, pretty soon they’ll be taking a crayon to the walls. Without something to do, I slide into depression. I fixate on meaningless things, I stay up too late… it’s a recipe for disaster.

But at the same time, I can’t just overstimulate my problems away forever. Can’t just overwork myself in an effort to outrun my mental illness, only to eventually burn out and end up in the exact same situation I was so afraid of.

***

Depression, and anxiety; they can’t be battled the same way I handle my school courses, or my weekly tasks. You can’t just power your way through based on sheer determination and logical reasoning. You can’t measure recovery in neat little green and yellow boxes. You can’t suck up to them, you can’t bargain or plea… because they don’t care.

And maybe it’s time to admit, to myself–and to you–that I’m scared. I’m scared of my mind, scared of the place I go when it gets bad; because I don’t know how to fight it–only how to ignore it until it goes away.

I know what my old therapist would say. She’d tell me about taking charge; about showing my brain who’s boss. And I’d try to, for a while. And then I’d stop. Because I’m busy, because life is hard, because those are the excuses I make to get out of everything I don’t want to do, and I really should get better at seeing through myself.

I started a new medication. I don’t know if it’ll work or not, but I’m willing to give it a try. Because I’m desperate. Because I’m scared. Because I don’t know what to do, but I do know that I want to live. I know that deep down, I am not a cold-hearted, cynical person. I cry, and I get ridiculously attached to my plants, and I spend ten minutes psyching myself up to ask the lady at the grocery store where the canned olives are. And I hope. And I care. I care even though it hurts sometimes, even though there are days, or months, or years when all I want to do is quit.

Because I refuse to die. I refuse to back down, in a world that feels… like it doesn’t want me here at all, sometimes. Because that’s who I am.

A fighter.

And maybe today, my small revolution is just… making my bed. Finishing another essay; even if I do get a bad grade on it. Letting go, for just a moment, of that stupid progress bar in my had. Even if that’s futile. Even if tomorrow, I’ll be back on my bullshit again.

But it matters. I have to believe that it matters–that it’s worth it.