Last year at this time, I was a wreck. I lived in a state of numb depression, feeling as though nothing I did had an impact on my life. When I think back on that part of my life, it’s shadowed with an overtone of grey.
I can look at the pictures on Instagram, where each of my selfies is my unsmiling, dead-eyed and lifeless. Even the colors prevalent in them are muted, shades of black and grey. When I try to insert color or joy into a shot, I look at that picture and all I can remember is the sadness involved in that post. I found myself in almost nothing in my life at that point.
I was living in a series of routines that I thought encompassed my life. Routine was all I had. It kept me sane and gave me slight handholds to try and grasp my way back to reality.
Even that Christmas was tired and listless, shadowed with my emotional problems. Added to that, I was working nights at that point, and the idea of being up with my exuberant siblings at the crack of dawn was dreadful.
In actuality, it was worse.
This year, I am myself again. I was happy as a child, but almost every child is happy. I retained that happiness for a long time, but real life has come around and beaten me down a couple of times, leaving me sad and broken in its wake. I sincerely enjoy being happy, and it’s a relief to have it back.
This year has held some of the most significant life changes so far. Everything from my mindset and attitude to my job and relationship status, along with my living situation.
(Somehow, that change is a familiar-feeling one.)
Another change is that I spent most of last year in close companionship with someone that ended up being very toxic to me. It taught me a lot about my life and myself, and it showed me a lot about the people to whom I choose to give my time. I used to call her my best friend, and last year, she sat with us on Christmas day. We had intentions to get a place together and decorate it according to various themes, and I was sure that we were good together. I defended her to my friends and family, convinced of my choice.
As time went on, I became sure of other things; first that I was at least good for her, and eventually, that nothing good was present in this relationship.
I needed to escape.
We no longer speak.
All of my siblings still adore her and spend time with her, so there are gifts for everyone under the tree with her name on them.
There is no gift for me.
I like it that way.
It’s hard for me to know what my future holds, especially looking back at things I used to assume were a guarantee. My life at 20 is so different from what I expected it to be that I cannot begin to fathom what may come.
When I was 17, I thought I would join the air force, and the way it looked was that doing so would pave my life for me. I thought the promise of free college could make my life infinitely better, even though I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Figure it out on the way, right?
That decision was made for me by a phone call that never came. So I moved on.
I recently had a lengthy conversation with my mother where we tossed around the logistics of my future. I have goals for my academic career, and I have a field of study into which I plan to pour my time and energy. My life will need to focus on that, and a good amount of my money right now is going to college payments. It’s nigh on impossible for me to look ahead and see a point in my life where I don’t label myself as struggling financially with a noble intention to do better for myself in the future. I have to believe I won’t always be in my situation and struggle to get by.
But that is then. I can’t even know what will happen next week.
So it is that I end this year with a question mark. I’ve always said that the birthdays of 17, 19, and 20 are very pointless. 16 is momentous, and 18 is groundbreaking. No one really cares about the in-between years.
I must amend my statements. They may not have any achievement tags on them, but in the years between 17 and now 20, I have learned more in my life than I have since I was a toddler and discovered walking was a thing. I am grateful.