There’s a little girl crying in the street outside my bedroom window. It’s a miserable day, rain soaking the ground and wind so fierce our old house creaks as though it’s getting tired of holding itself up. I know how it feels. The little girl’s tears are noisy, big-body wracking sobs of heartbreak, the kind that leave you exhausted and snotty nosed. Part of me wants to race outside to this unfamiliar little girl, scoop her into a hug and use my brightest neon colours until she smiles again. The other wants to lie down and cry with her.
I have this uncomfortable hot and heavy splinter of a feeling lodged in my chest and it won’t go away. I don’t know where it came from or what about today brought it forward but honestly it’s all I can do to keep inhaling shakily around it. Tonight, I’ve just sat with, and then I started writing this. It’s all spilled out. I have this habit of trying to push my feelings away by keeping busy. Manage your mental health by keeping yourself busy. Distract. Think about something else. Work harder. Put more stuff in your calendar. Nap, just so you get breaks from being in your brain and body. Ugh. Sometimes I catch myself looking at the clock on my laptop, wishing time would fall away just so I can sleep again. I think, Is this all there is? Just me waiting until things magically get better. Being exhausted by all the work I’ve done and all the work I still have to go. Pulling myself out of really shitty places just to get to somewhere that’s not even good but just less shitty? I don’t know. I feel like I’m wasting my life. Running out of time.
I hate that. The feeling that I’m not moving fast enough. That I’m missing the BIG window. Maybe it’s cause I grew up watching a generation of Disney Channel kids and popstars who were building empires at 17, so by 22, even though things are steady, it still terrifies me that I missed the shot. I’m working on a book right now and I caught myself thinking the other day, “Oh my god this book will not be out till I’m like 23 or maybe even 24. Oh my god. People will have moved on by then. They won’t want my thoughts. By that age, I should be on Book #2 or #3.
You’d think with everything I’ve achieved over the last year, that it would finally feel like enough. So many wonderful things have happened to me this year. I am making a difference. I get paid to write, which is a dream. I’m working on being the person for other kids that I needed growing up. I’m taking on one of the biggest companies in the world. I’m Things that mean I am starting to build myself a solid foundation. And yet I can’t seem to let myself fully enjoy them. Will I ever be happy? Satisfied? Will it ever be enough? Or am I destined to just keep searching for the next thing that will make me feel better and then being deflated when it doesn’t? The life I’m building is working towards everything I’ve ever wanted, but at the moment instead of being struck by the wonder of it, I. feel wrung out.
I thought finishing uni would feel different. I thought it would just open the gate to this shiny newness. I thought I’d start feeling like I could live, instead of feeling weighed down by an albatross of assignments and exams. And I know it hasn’t even been a month yet, but it doesn’t feel like that. Maybe it’s the loss of structure. The loss of certainty. Maybe it’s just the weather. The exhaustion of two years of living in a world warped by a pandemic.
The beautiful chaos of building Missing Perspectives into a media company, a job I love, and trying to wrap my head around the fact that this is actually working and growing and people want me at their party, so to speak. It turns out decades of not being invited to parties or being people’s first choice leaves you constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. For someone to tap you on the shoulder and say “hahaha we caught you, please leave now.” But that hasn’t happened yet and it doesn’t look like it’s going to and my brain doesn’t know what to do with that. It’s not used to this. How do I get used to this? Hopefully, my therapist has some ideas.
On Wednesday, I get to go to a big party. A fancy party. A party with a lot of brilliant bold changemaking women in the room. I’m nominated for an award. A life-changing award. If I win, I will literally be called the “Woman of the Future”. Do you know how insane that is? Some of my heroes will be in that room. I’ll get the chance to talk to them, give a head-turning speech in front of them. I can’t let myself believe for even a minute that it might be my name they call to come up to the podium. All my fellow nominees are amazing. Whoever wins, I will be ecstatic for them. But it won’t be me. It can’t be. Shit. What do I do if it’s me?
The number one question I’ve had bouncing around in my head since I pressed Submit on that final assignment is ‘What now?’ The truth is, I don’t really know. Create. Write that book. Keep building Missing Perspectives. Get to a place of healthy contentment. Vague things, surrounded by half-formed opportunities and things in the pipeline. I know what I don’t want to do; I don’t want to study any more. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself by working full-time or solely in the disability sector right now. I believe that I can do much better for my community by positioning myself outside of that. Maybe that will change. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe people will read that sentence and decide that’s it. I’m done. I don’t want to not enjoy things. I don’t want to have to fight for my brain to let me feel proud of myself. I don’t want to live my life wondering what would’ve happened if I’d backed myself.
There’s one more thing that keeps me awake at night. Love. Or rather, my lack of experience with it. I’m a hopeless romantic. Fascinated by real-life love stories. Always brought back to a warm smiley place by a good romcom or love song. And yet… nothing. “Who would choose you?”, is what my self-doubt screams at 2am. Who’s looking at everything that is your life with all its complications and going “Yep that’s my forever.” This tiny thing called the pandemic has made it hard to meet people. I’m freaked out by dating apps. And I’m not really very brave in social situations. Again, with those damn coming-of-age films teaching us that if you haven’t had a relationship by 22, you’re destined to be the smelly little old lady with 100 cats that neighbourhood kids are a bit scared of. I don’t want that for myself. I also don’t want it to be assumed that the only people who could ever find me attractive or want to build a life with me are also disabled. That’s gross and ableist and I’m not here for it.
I have no idea what to do with any of these feelings, except write them down. Writing has always helped me process everything. If you’ve read till the end of this, thank you. Maybe leave me a sign that I’m not the only one who feels any of this? Otherwise, this was just a lengthy scream into the void.