25

I am now a quarter of a century old. I may have also gotten chastised for not bringing up the fact to a few people.

I’ve never really seen my birthday as a reason for my own celebration. It’s always been something for other people. I never really asked to be born… so what’s the point in keeping track of all the years since it happened? Maybe that’s the nihilist in me taking over, I don’t know. After all, I could very well use my birthday as a means to celebrate another year without dying. Then again, that sort of idea is a hard one to pride myself in when this month is always the hardest for me to cope with.

Still, twenty-five years is something I guess I should be impressed by. As someone who was almost certain I wouldn’t make it to twenty at one point, it’s…something.

Man, fuck this. I want to be able to write again, but I literally have eleven drafts stored up here on WordPress because I keep starting up and stopping blogs. I start up because I want to write, but I stop because everything comes out stilted and forced, like I’m trying to break down a barrier that I’ve lifted up in my head. And it’s because I have. I could wax poetic all I want about birthdays and life and hope, but I don’t feel a damn thing about it. Instead, I’m just impressed that by removing my birthday from Facebook, I have, in fact, proven to myself that that piece of shit social media service does nothing but make you feel obligated to a friends’ list of people you intend to keep in touch with but never really feel compelled to.

I don’t give a shit about birthday wishes. It’s why I removed the damn date to begin with. But seeing how such a select few people sought out my page to say something compared to what used to be upwards of 90 people typing out generic messages of happy wishes reminds me of the very important people I have lost over the years. How I moved out to Austin with a limited support system because so many saw me leaving as nothing more than a romantic escape. No regard for the possibility of it relating to my health, no acknowledgement that I intended to make a career out here.

I don’t care that people don’t remember my birthday. It’s just a little hard to be reminded that few want to keep in touch to begin with. Communication and friendships are a two-way street, and I’ve not held up my end of that road perfectly…but those I did put effort into rarely met me halfway. It’s not worth it to overextend myself for people like that, I know…but it’s still tough to look at.

I am grateful for those who still reach out to me. Those who know how hard it is for me to make the effort of saying hi by saying something first are the ones who I will never let go of. I am very thankful for that. I’m just struggling with the rest at the moment… I’ll stop caring again eventually.

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That Feeling When Your Heart Hurts

You know that feeling when your heart just hurts? Maybe there’s no real reason why, maybe there is, but no matter what you do, each beat feels like a stab to the chest. Breathing doesn’t feel worthwhile, and you start to wonder why you keep your eyes open or move at all.

Today was one of those days. There wasn’t really anything that caused it… or maybe there was.

I haven’t handled December well since I don’t know when. Since my grandfather was alive, maybe? Those are the times I remember enjoying the holidays most. I don’t remember when I really started to hate Christmas. I just remember the last time I truly loved it was with him. And ever since, the upkeep of holiday spirit has always felt like a chore.

I once called it artificial happiness. When I tried to describe it to my therapist years ago. Putting on that Hallmark card smile and playing Christmas music, going through the motions of the idealized holiday experience ala National Lampoon. But the joy I got as a kid during that time of year became tainted with the memory of loss, the reminder of mortality, and the tension and stress of keeping up that charade for the benefit of others when sometimes, I just wanted to lock myself in the closet and cry.

There’s a chance it’s just seasonal affective disorder, sure. It’s possible the wintertime is just when I am most susceptible to my depressive nature. But without that diagnosis, all I do know is that I hate December. I hate this feeling of looking back and recognizing the failures and missteps and the missed opportunities and…everything.

I don’t like to look back. And as I’m sitting here, writing this, I’m remembering that that’s always been the case. Nostalgia makes me nauseous. I can only handle the past in small doses. Looking at old photographs, watching old commercials or cartoons or movies from my childhood, talking about when I was a kid… at a certain point, if I look back enough, I start to find myself anxious and afraid. It’s an experience I’ve not yet heard of anyone else having, and that fact only stands to make me feel more isolated.

And it leaves me with the pounding in my heart that wants nothing more than to stop.

I Wish

I didn’t know who you were. In a small town where so many knew your name, I didn’t know you. Is that why you liked me at first?

You didn’t want me to know. It wasn’t until your regular biopsy trip took you away from school that you had to explain it to me. For a few weeks, you were just a kind stranger who’d befriended a meek little freshman.

Back then, you covered up your scar. You didn’t like the questions. I know you hated the pity. You didn’t live for those looks. That wasn’t what you had wanted from surviving. You didn’t get those from me at first… Did I ever do that to you? I’m sorry if I did. I wish I hadn’t.

You eventually stopped covering it up. I wish I’d paid more attention to when you did. Because that was such a step for you. I wish I’d noticed more. I wish I’d talked to you more.

But still… there was a time when you got to be you without the heart transplant… without the cancer… without the pity, the sympathy, the sad eyes… I wish I could have made that last. I wish I could have taken it all away from you so that it was your reality from then on… I wish…

I wish you weren’t gone.

I Don’t Know What to Say

Happiness feels wrong. I don’t know if what I’m even feeling can be considered happiness to begin with because I’m not exactly letting myself feel much anymore. Each hour that passes is filled with some distraction. When I start to feel another wave of grief, I anxiously throw myself into something else…even if it’s just a video playing loudly over the other sounds in my head.

I’m functioning. I’m breathing. I’m hunkering down and getting work done, even if it’s half the pace I’ve averaged in the past. But I’m not feeling anything. I’m not letting myself. It’s not healthy. I know it’s not. But I don’t want to let this sink in. I don’t want to believe this is my reality. I’m in denial. I know I am. And it’s wrong. But I don’t know how to do anything else at the moment. I don’t know anything.

The Outsiders

“Do you ever feel like the outsider?” he asked.

“Of course.” As I looked on to the group in front of us, I didn’t even hesitate. As I looked to the ones who were always there, I couldn’t even lie. The ones who had been there through the cancer, the ones through the heart transplant, and then there was me…the one who ran away.

I’d been told once I would never fit in. That I would never know. Because I had never been there. That statement haunted me in the hollow halls of my head then, and it echoes louder now. Because it was right. Because I would never be there like them. Because I ran away.

I abandoned her.

I thought I’d left with the intention to make her proud. To follow all the inspiration she’d lit within me and grasp my opportunities with courage she’d given me. But that fire feels selfish, that gift feels stolen, these decisions feel heartless… because I know she felt like she didn’t matter. That her life wasn’t valuable. That she’d done nothing. I know that every message where I expressed her meaning to me was met with the silence of disbelief. The shade of lonely doubt. I know that she felt like the tiny stone quietly dropped into the vast ocean…

But she couldn’t tell the biggest ripples were the ones furthest away from her.

There’s a dark figure scratching in the back of my head. I catch its eyes when my guard is down and terror paralyzes me as it pierces through the thin barrier between it and myself. Layer by layer, it chips away my defenses and I fight for my sight to turn away, to not look back in its eyes again. But it waits there patiently, scratching against the wall of my skull to occupy the silences I fail to fill. It stands there, its dark nails growing longer, reaching around and closer each moment my back is turned. It stares, eyes only on me, long fingers encasing every corner, waiting for the reality to change and bend to its heavy presence. It’s only a matter of time.

The Social Butterfly Who Changed My Life Forever

Not even ten years ago, I met a girl who changed my life forever. It was art class my freshman year in high school. I was never much of a social butterfly, and with the way my high school worked out, I knew very few people in my classes as it was, being from Capon Bridge. So I kept to myself and did my assignments.

We were to draw and design our own art portfolio for the class that would contain all the assignments for the semester, so I did what came naturally to me- I drew fanart of something I loved. I drew several poses from my Naruto manga of my favorite character, and I engrossed myself in my work when suddenly this chipper voice popped up beside me, telling me that it was really good. That she really liked it and loved the same manga and character I did. That voice was none other than Kyrstin Myers, and after the fact, she took to describing that moment like she’d just witnessed a deer in headlights. She startled me, and seeing how scared I was, she just gave a little laugh and introduced herself. I thanked her for the compliment, and she chit-chatted with me for a bit until she felt like I was getting too uncomfortable and let me get back to work.

But ever since that day, she would pop up towards the end of class and chat with me about a number of things. Eventually, the art teacher suggested she just move her seat so that she didn’t have to sit on the ground to talk to me, and there it was. My first friend in high school. The girl who changed my life.

I say this because Kyrstin WAS that social butterfly. She was the most compassionate and uplifting person to everyone she knew. Always seen smiling or laughing or making others smile, Kyrstin knew how to win people over with just a look. And she was a mama hen. If anyone she loved got picked on or teased, she was livid, and she had the most terrifying death glare if you ever crossed her. Kyrstin could schmooze and small talk like a 1940s business man, and it brought joy to everyone around her. And to those like me, who found themselves wrapped up in their own tiny shell too afraid to step out in the world, she carefully chipped away at our defenses until suddenly, we were more confident and more bold. I can honestly say that, without a doubt, I would not be able to be where I am today if it weren’t for the endless support and encouragement that came from her. She’s the one who believed in me in my pursuit of voice acting. She’s the one who personally took me out to my first ever voice over class. She’s the one who teased me and encouraged me to speak to Cody in the first place.

I can’t say I knew her as long as others. I didn’t even know her through some of the hardest parts of her life. But I think that while a lot of her charm did in fact come naturally, another great big part of her strength came from the fact that she had been through so much. Cancer at 5, heart transplant at 15, not expected to live to 18. Yet she did it all. And she took advantage of every single day she was blessed with to making sure everyone else around her loved their lives, even if it was just a small smile in one short, simple moment. Kyrstin inspired all of us, every single person who knew her, to appreciate a good smile or a hearty laugh. And she changed so many of us for the better, myself included.

This year, she was given the news that her heart wasn’t cutting it again. That she needed to have another transplant, but first, the rest of her body had to get sorted out. This year was a series of painful, anxiety-ridden trips to the hospital for her and all of our loved ones back home with her. What started out as her drudging routine turned into a nightmare, and unfortunately, it was one that couldn’t be woken up from. Kyrstin passed away this morning, peacefully thank God, due to her body fighting against the very human nature to live.

I’ve been at a loss for words through all of this. I’ve felt like an absolute failure as a friend for not telling her how much I loved her enough, for not trying hard enough to keep in touch. But I know she wouldn’t want me feeling like this, and that probably hurts more because I know I’m failing her. Because I know that she loved me and everyone else regardless of the times we said it. Because she truly was the most beautiful soul in this world taken far too early in the most unfair way she could possibly be stolen. Because her love was unconditional and relentless and comforting. The world is so much darker without her smile, without her laugh.

I’m writing this here because the one thing I know Kyrstin would have needed, would have wanted, and would have never asked for herself is the help that her family needs in covering this loss. Her mother, Cathy Lynn Crone, was a rock through all of this, and no one is more devastated by this loss than her and her sons right now. So if you have the time to share or donate, please go to this GoFundMe made by a friend that’s looking to raise what it can to help ease the pain to this wonderful family’s loss today.

https://www.gofundme.com/yk4gwhzs

And to that social butterfly who changed my life forever, I hope you never forgot for a moment that this skittish little dragonfly became stronger because of you. I hope you know that you were always one of the most important people in my life, regardless of the distance. Kyrstin, I will always love you. I miss you so much. I always have.

Closure

Life isn’t a novel. The chapters you start don’t get neat little endings with all the knots properly tied. The i’s don’t always get dotted, and the t’s are pretty much never crossed. People will walk into your life and make the biggest impact before disappearing on the next page. Sure, you can chase after them, spend several chapters searching for them and trying to get them back into your life, but at a certain point, you have to cut your losses. At a certain point, you’ll have to remember that your story isn’t about them, and you have to move on.

I’m dealing with that fact right now. I spent several years grieving for a relationship that never got the closure I thought I needed. I’m still grieving losses I was too young to process but just old enough that I knew I had to process them. And I can’t keep doing this to myself. I can’t keep trying to grasp at this fragmented, ethereal concept of closure and expect it to make everything better. Because the closure I want for myself doesn’t exist.

There are people who will hurt you and leave none the wiser. Some will think what they’re doing is right, unaware of anything but what their perspective and selfishness provides them to believe. Some won’t even think anything at all. Some can’t help it. Some are any combination of the three. And there is nothing you can do to make it any better for yourself. Having the last word doesn’t provide you with any satisfaction because you’ll never stop thinking of it, self-criticizing and analyzing and adding on to what could have been or should have been. What will feel right in the moment will never last since memories change each time they’re recalled. Wasting years of your life pining and grieving and longing and mourning will make you look back with more remorse over the lost years than it will the closure you never got.

The reality is that closure will never come. Even when your book ends, you fail to give closure to someone else’s chapter, and the cycle goes on and on and on and on…

I Feel Broken

I know it’s just because of a bad day, but I feel like it’s been a long time coming. Projects stave off the feeling, but after a long period of ignoring it, exhausting myself to the point where I slow down enough to feel it, it returns. That broken gear in my head that stops all the parts of me so that everything inside feels broken and worthless. It doesn’t matter where I am, how thing are going, who’s there to help me through it… I just feel like a rusted cog that’s better off being replaced.

I wish I could fix it. I’m tired of a body and a mind that works against me, no matter how much I change in my way of living. No matter how much work I put into having a more positive outlook, I always break under the pressure. Even if it’s okay for me to feel that way. Even if it’s not that big of a deal. I’m just so tired of feeling like this. It won’t ever go away. It’s something I’ll live with for the rest of my life. There are always going to be relapses and rebounds. Breakdowns and celebrations. Small victories and big losses. Leaps forward and steps back. It’s a part of my life, a part of me. And while there’s something to be said for admitting it and accepting it, there’s also a lot to be said about how much it fucking hurts.

I desperately want to stop measuring my value by my abilities. I want to stop measuring my value altogether. It gets me nowhere and makes me feel worse…and yet I do it anyway. “This would be better if you were able to do this… If you were able to do that… If you were this person… If you were that type of person… If you weren’t you… You’re not really worth this. You’re not worth any of this.” The mantra I’d come up with years ago of being a “no good, good for nothing” echoes in these measurements, and I just wish I could go back in time and punch the shit out of that fucking child that I was then so that maybe she wouldn’t be so loud in these moments…

I just want to replace what’s broken…

Confidence

It’s weird having confidence in something while also being entirely insecure in the sharing of what you’re confident in.

Ever since I started writing back in elementary, I’ve always been praised for my ability to form thoughts into stories, to paint pictures with my words, to get across ideas that few could express. I’ve always known that I also had the ability to get better, but for as long as I can remember, I do know that it is the one thing I’ve never truly considered myself to be bad at. When my other abilities failed me or when I floundered to speak my mind out loud, I could always take to a pen and paper and put to words what I couldn’t say.

Yet, despite this, when it comes to sharing what I’ve written, I am much less secure. It seems strange to think that I’m proud of my abilities and of the products of them and yet I’m afraid to share the very thing I am proud of with others.

I’m sure there are a number of factors. For one, the reception to my take on a Persona 4 abridged series was met with rather loud aggression. For another, my writing often comes from a very personal and protected part of myself. Exposing it leaves me vulnerable. But in the end, for me, it always seems to go back to the fears I’ve had for the majority of my life of letting my confidence go to my head.

I was always told to never brag or boast, that pride was a sin. I was told that I was never to think of myself as “better” than someone else. This was never meant to strip me of my self-esteem. It was seen as a precaution of my parents to temper the possibility of an inflated ego from my heightened maturity and intelligence compared to my peers. When they were told I was considered “gifted” at a young age, they feared that I would become the type of child that would put myself above others, so in an attempt to prevent that possibility, I was told these things to try and understand the equivalent value of individuals. However, it had the opposite effect, and I suffer from rather severe low self-esteem, for several years believing that it was because I was of less value than others.

It’s a constant process of actively working against that psychology that makes up the majority of my days. It’s why I blog about things so openly and why I intend to start vlogging about it in the future, too. It’s not because I think what I have to say is any more or less important than what anyone else has to say. I just need to take the time to believe that there is value in my own words and experiences where I used to believe there was none.

But I want to believe that there is value in my writing, as well. I want to stop being afraid of showing the people I love, like Cody, my own stories and creations because I don’t see them as worth anything. I want to stop feeling like I have anything to prove to anyone else when the real obstacle is myself. I want to have confidence not just in my abilities but in the product that I gave a voice to speak for itself. I know it’s not going to happen suddenly without work, but I hope it happens sooner rather than later.