2015 was an interesting year for me. I was sort of on this cusp between adolescence and young adulthood. This is the time in your life where crazy, stupid shit just happens, and unfortunately you can’t avoid it. You can’t avoid the drama, you can’t avoid the insecurity, you can’t avoid the heartbreaks. All the emotional blows that come with merely being a young girl in high school are inevitable. They will come for you, I swear. And when they do, you’ll be forced to do what I did. Think. You’ll think about all the bad times, all the mistakes, all the times someone might’ve let you down, and you’ll wonder how you might’ve had a hand in your own downfalls. And then you might come to the conclusion (might I add, an incorrect conclusion) that perhaps the flaw was always you.
On December 31st, the day before the new year, I thought about everything that had ever happened to me. I wondered how I was going to let these things define me in 2016. Slightly intoxicated by the whirl of a wild ladies’ night, I came to this conclusion: In 2016, I will find the part of myself that is entirely free, entirely independent of the past. I know this sounds cliché and superficial, but for me, it’s not! For me, this idea runs deep. And here’s why.
So, there was this boy. Yes, a boy. I’m sure I don’t have to say much about him for you to understand the basic premise of what happened when our paths, in an unpredictable world of twists and turns, somehow managed to cross. This was the first boy who made my heart go boom. (Pardon the cheesiness.) It was always a joke to me, the way people chased each other around. It was a joke that I had presumed I was above when I was in high school. Let’s be real, high school relationships—the only relationships I was ever exposed to at the time—don’t really do love any justice, considering the amount of superficiality I perceived in most of them. For the most part, I never thought I was missing out on anything as a single lady. (I’ll admit, Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” played a part in my sureness!) And I suppose everyone feels this way at some point in their lives, until they meet that one person. This boy, he was my one person. He was the one who danced, charmed, and eased his way into my naïve little heart and pulled me into this weird chase, which was all new to me. I was this dumbstruck girl who quickly became enamored by a boy who swore I meant something to him. Long story short, it ended the way most things do when you’re seventeen and vulnerable—in pieces. (He slept with another girl. Yikes.)
I know the structure of this story isn’t unique, but to me, it felt uniquely painful. As much as I’d like to pretend I was the badass who struts away from these situations with Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” playing in the background, I must say, I took a hit. I was gutted. I’d never had my heat broken before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to do or how to mend. I began to let this heartbreak define the way I looked at the world from then on. Love, or at least anything that resembled it, grew to be more than just a joke. I saw it as a strange, dangerous game that I never wanted to play again. It’s a little embarrassing how much I let this boy define my worth after that. I submerged even further into my introvert shell, and my self confidence was scattered. There was this undying idea resonating in my head that maybe it was me who just wasn’t good enough. And somehow I let this idea, this event from my past, bound me in some kind of way to a situation that I was dying to forget. You can imagine how fucking tiresome it becomes towards the end of 2015 when you’ve been carrying this weight on your half-mended heart for so long.
So, here’s the beautiful thing that happened to me on December 31st, 2015. I just, as they say, “let it all go.” You see, it didn’t occur to me that I should let it go until I was standing outside a high school party with one of my best friends as she banged on the door, demanding that we be let inside. (Kind of cringe worthy, I know, but come on, we were college kids, which basically meant we were a latter above of them in the social food chain.) Something about standing behind a wall separating me from the drunken teenagers who I would’ve identified with one year ago made me feel, I don’t know, over it. Who the hell were these kids anyways? Fuck this, I thought. It was 11:59 p.m. when my friend and I walked away from that damn house party. (Full disclosure, I’m about to get pretty cheesy, pretty sappy, real fast. But this was New Years Eve, can you blame me?)
I clearly remember looking up and seeing all the stars on full display in the night sky. I remember laughing to myself, completely aware of the cliché my friend and I were caught in as we walked barefoot on the suburban asphalt with our bargained heels in hand. (A typical case of “All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go.”) Why not play with this cliché? As we walked towards our car where my other friend was waiting, I did a little spin. (I cannot explain to you how great it feels to twirl underneath the raw moonlight, barefoot on black asphalt.) I did another spin, and another, and another, and soon enough I was dancing. I was dancing in the moonlight. (“Dancing in the Moonlight” by Toploader—it’s a classic for me!) The next thing I knew, my friend was dancing right beside me. And then, all of a sudden it was 2016. A random car full of teenagers had pulled up beside us. All of them got out of the car—some I recognized as having gone to the same high school I attended—and gave us hugs and repeatedly screamed, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” Clearly, they were intoxicated by whatever hard alcohol it is that kids are into these days.
After the blur of random events, I looked back and suddenly noticed the distance I’d made between myself and that high school party. For whatever reason, that large, impressive gap between me and the house full of raging high school kids came to mean something to me. Perhaps that was the gap I could create between myself and my past. Perhaps that house of teenagers was me—me and all the mistakes I’d ever made, all the people I’d ever hurt, all the people who had ever hurt me—and there I was standing several feet away, saying goodbye and letting it all go. Somehow I had symbolically danced my way into the new year while simultaneously leaving behind all the burden I ever carried on the porch of that party. I’ll be honest, it’d been a while since I’d felt that good.
I say all this in hopes that maybe the relief in letting go can be inspirational, maybe even infectious to you. I say this with the idea that you’ll learn, as I did, that a negative past is never an indication that you are flawed. Hopefully you’ll learn to separate any struggles from the person that you are. Easier said than done, I know, but bear with me! Once you, and I, have lived this new year in a life of liberation, perhaps you’ll see the beauty that exists in freedom. And at the end of 2016, you’ll be forced to do what I had done at the end of 2015. Think. You’ll think of all the good times, all the laughter, all the accomplishments, all the new friendships along with the strengthened friendships, and you’ll think about how this newfound splendor may have been because of a promise you made yourself in the beginning of the year. And you might come to the conclusion (rightly so) that perhaps the beauty was always you.
Feature image courtesy of kurtbubna.com