Would 7-year-old me be proud of who I’ve become?

Sometimes it feels like I’m not myself anymore. But I am, I’m just growing. And changing. I’m finding my way in the world as an adult. Not that that’s new, it’s been a good few years now, but when I was first 18, I didn’t feel like an adult. Even when I turned 21 and I went out and bought a six pack even though I don’t drink, I felt like I was faking it.

But now it’s been a few years, I know my favorite brand of beer and I’ve voted five times. I’ve felt what it’s like to fall in love and I know all too well the hopelessness of heartbreak. I still live at home and I’m still trucking along in college, but both of those are nearing the end of their lifespan. I can’t help but wonder where I’ll be in five years. That feels like a more daunting question now than it ever has. Will I still be living five minutes from the beach? Will I still be friends with these people who’ve lived down the street from me our whole lives? Will I have started my career? Will I be happy?

Sometimes I wish I could go back to being 7, laying in the grass in the backyard of my childhood home, listening to the same song on repeat until I learned all the lyrics. Or until it got dark out. That song was eight minutes and four seconds long. It was a song from before I was born and I still remember most of the lyrics. I wanted to learn the words so bad for virtually no reason other than just wanting to. I would write on a piece of paper for weeks, all the lyrics to this song from my parents’ childhood. And eventually, I learned all the words. I never showed it off to anyone, I never sang it for anyone. I did that purely because I wanted to see if I could.

At the time, that was something that brought me the greatest dopamine rush. Nothing made me happier than to be able to swing on the swing-set, listening on my $30 off-brand mp3-player in the crisp spring air, and quietly singing all the words. It was my project and no one else’s. Nothing could’ve made me happier.

Maybe the key to feeling that freeness again is to pick up that habit again. I should do things for me, to make me proud, not anyone else. I’ve always been a firm believer in thinking: if 7-year-old me knew what I was up to, would they be proud of me?

Forgiveness

When I was debating you

and debating moving states

and cutting my hair

but I stayed stagnant

for the hollow feeling

of thinking I was wanted

I should’ve left

I should’ve been spontaneous

and I should’ve taken it as a hint

all the songs I cherished

about running away

maybe I should’ve, too.

It’s not new that I should’ve left sooner

but if I listened to the hurt inside me

just for a moment

I could’ve avoided the whole thing.

I could be better.

I get so stuck on the what-ifs

and the ways I could’ve been better

I forget that I did my best with what was handed to me

if I’d done everything perfectly

if I hadn’t stayed

if I hadn’t debated college

if I knew the outcome

and the way to get there without getting hurt at all

I wouldn’t be better off

I’d be bored

Completed | #poem

I know what love is

because I feel it

when the sun shines

and when the breeze

blew you into my life

and I know I love you

because I want to try

again.

I was so lost

I got out of bed out of spite,

now I do it so I can see your smile

and on days you’re not around

I do it because I want to.

Love is more than us

but it’s so strong with us

that I feel it even after you’ve gone

and I’ve always loved

I’ve loved the fall

and I’ve loved singing in the car

but they don’t complete me

like you do.

Uncertainty

Am I where I should be?

Is this what I want?

Does anyone know what they want?

Or are they just blindly chasing a feeling?

People put on a reassuring smile

and say they’re happy,

they’re doing what they want

and “don’t worry, you will be, too.”

Sure, maybe they’re right

and I know I’m still young

but that doesn’t make this

uncertain feeling in my chest

go away.

.

Days all blend together

and I wonder if they’ll ever stop doing that.

An ever-changing world

I want to grow

I want to bloom

I want to look back on this time

and think of how much I’ve changed

for the better

and be proud of myself

I’ve always been growing

I’ll always be changing

I’ll always be looking back on the past

with a hint of nostalgia

and a wave of pride

because I’m always growing

and I’m always changing

and I used to think I would stop changing 

when I reach a certain age

but I don’t think that’s how it goes.

You learn new things

you find new hobbies

you find new things to talk about 

with strangers and with close friends.

I think it’s beautiful

how the world is always changing around us

and we’re changing, too.

if ever there comes a day

where I stop growing, stop changing

I hope it is my last

because if I can’t change with the world

then I can’t change the world.

.. Lauren Hayden ..

Needs

I’ve been at my worst

I’ve been at my best

I’ve stood face to face with anger

and I’ve given in and I’ve given up

but I’m done stewing.

Now when I come face to face

with anger or despair

I’ll ask if it needs a cup of tea

or maybe more sleep tonight.

I want to believe

that these bad thoughts aren’t real

but they are,

they’re just poorly communicated needs

I just have to ask them what they are.

I’m sorry I disappear from time to time

it’s nothing against you

I’m just bad at remembering to talk.

It’s something that’s been a constant since I was a child

and I’m not sure it’ll ever go away.

I get in these moods

they’re not necessarily depressions

though maybe they once were;

they’re like riding the subway late at night

when you’re the only one on the train

and you don’t feel lonely,

you’re just there

and you’re sort of tired,

but you still have enough energy to make yourself dinner when you get home-

at least something filling, if not a full meal.

It’s not a cry for help

and I’m certainly not lonely

but I want you to know I’m still here

I’m just less

I guess

to an old friend: a letter I’ll never send

I remember getting mad at you for things you couldn’t control. I was so naive back then and so were you. I remember when you told me you couldn’t be there for me and I took it personal. I realized later that it wasn’t personal, but the way you treated me made it feel like it was. I was an afterthought in your day, and you could never care for me the way I needed. The way anyone needed. I was an inconvenience to you, and you taught me to keep my feelings to myself. Yet another thing I’m unlearning.

You were never an inconvenience to me, and that’s what made me bitter for a while. I cared for you, I cared for our friends. I was bad at showing it, sure, but you couldn’t deny the love was there. Or maybe you could, you always had this picture of me in your head. But it wasn’t me, it was someone else. Someone that looked like me but acted on their rage. Like I was out to get you. And maybe that wasn’t my fault, maybe that was your own inner demons telling you I was bad for you. Either way, we parted ways and I know it was for the best, but I can’t deny I miss it.

I don’t miss much, but I miss it. I don’t miss the arguments, I don’t miss the gaslighting, I don’t miss pushing the blame. But I miss the jokes, I miss the closeness. I’ve been alone so long; I can’t remember what it feels like to know someone else cares. I imagine it feels warm. I imagine it feels like a blanket that just came out of the dryer. I imagine it feels like the sun against my skin in the summer, and the wind against my face as I’m driving.

This isn’t a love letter; I don’t want you back. I don’t want any of our old friends back. I just want you to know I’m not angry anymore.