Let’s Get Personal

Sometimes you have words worth writing down every day for months at a time. Sometimes you can’t even open a word document for a month and a half. Sometimes you tell yourself you’re doing fine and you’re getting by despite every little task feeling like trying to push a boulder up a mountain. Sometimes you tell yourself and your friends that you’re happy and you are actually better off without him, like, you can’t even believe how dumb you were being. Thank GOD it only lasted five months. To the day- did I mention that? It happened on the fifth. Oh, I did mention it? Sorry, it gets hard to remember what I said sometimes. Yeah, no I’ve been getting sleep. I mean, maybe not enough, but I’m getting everything done. Haven’t called out of work yet. They’re actually really happy with how I’m fitting in there. Yeah. It’s exciting.

Sometimes you stop to think about how you’re doing. Like, how you’re really, truly doing. And it scares you so much you start listing the accomplishments you’ve made recently. You realize how easy it is to convince people you’re Happy and you’re Doing So Good, like You Should Write A Book On How You Got Over Your Depression. If Everyone Did What You’re Doing, I Think We’d All Be So Much Happier.

And sometimes you are doing good. Comparably, you’re doing a million times better. Side-by-side to your younger self? Unrecognizable. And you take pride in that. But sometimes your mood dips and a twinge of guilt takes up residence in your chest. You worry the worst isn’t actually over yet and this was just one long moment of clarity.

And as the years go on, you realize that might just be a part of depression. All the coping skills in the world and all the reworking thoughts can’t take it away. There will still be bad days and you might not get out of bed until 5 sometimes. And that’s okay. Because you’ve been through this before and you know the routine: feel bad until you don’t anymore and try not to ruin your whole life in the process. And you’ve gotten so good at not ruining everything.

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?

Five Years Later

Being 23 is nothing like what the movies make it seem like. At least not for me. Movie-23-year-olds are at their dream job, engaged to the love of their life, and have life figured out. I think watching movies like that did not prepare me for what being 23 is actually like.

Being 23 means you’re either still in school or you’re freshly graduated, and you’re so overwhelmed with what the rest of your life will look like that you don’t want to plan it out. You just want to nap. Or have a drink. But it’s only 4 in the afternoon and if you do either of those right now, it’ll ruin any plans you had for the night, so instead you try not to think about it.

I remember at my high school graduation the teachers asked us where we imagined we’d be in five years. Well, it’s been five years and I don’t think I could’ve predicted I’d be where I am. I figured I’d have my degree, I would’ve transferred from my community college to a four-year, then gotten my Bachelor’s in Writing or something of the sort. I didn’t think I would’ve changed my major four times just go to back to where I started. I didn’t think I would’ve switched schools after taking a year off. I definitely didn’t think that I’d still be in school now, barely even a Junior.

I remember when I graduated high school- I remember the feeling I had. I felt so free, I had so much to look forward to, so much ahead of me and it was only just beginning. I imagined that by 23 that feeling would’ve dissipated by now. I still feel like I’m only just beginning and I’m pretty sure it’ll feel like this for a while.

I think I’m at the point where I’m getting an idea of what I want to do with my future. I think the initial excitement of “wait, I can actually do whatever I want with my life???” has died down a bit and I’m thinking more realistically nowadays. There’s still a lot I want to do in my life, and I can’t even imagine where I’ll be in five, ten, fifteen years. I just hope that I’m happy. I just hope I’m going down the path I think is right for me, no matter what job I have, no matter where I live. I just want to be happy. I think that’s what I said when my teachers asked me that at my high school graduation, too. And I think I’m getting there.

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.

at home in the mountains

It rained on the day we went up to the mountains. It rained and we stayed in our car for the most part, eating takeout from a nearby restaurant. We planned to eat it by the waterfall, but our sandwiches would’ve been soggy. We sat parked on a cliff-side, overlooking the mountains, the greens and reds and oranges and yellows of the treetops swaying gently with the breeze. We sat silent for a while as we took in the overwhelming feeling, the largeness of it all. We ate our takeout, but we didn’t feel worthy to be there in all the beauty. This moment was bigger than us. And I remember you said quietly and defiantly, “Someday, this will be home.”

and I knew I’d be alright

It was warm

I felt whole

you smiled at me

and I knew

I’d be alright.

We’d get through winter

and all its cold nights

and we already got through February

and for some reason

it’s warm today

and we’re sitting outside

drinking pink lemonade

like it’s summer already

and you look at me

and you smile

and I smile, too

and we know

we’re exactly where we should be.