Some days I feel empty. Emotionless. Cut off from the rest of the world. Unwilling to look at my phone because I know that if I turn on the screen, my wallpaper is going to stare me down, devoid of any notifications. It’s taunting and shameful. It made me get in the habit of shoving my phone in my bedside table drawer during the day so I wouldn’t be tempted to see if someone wanted my attention, but stowing it away in the dark didn’t change the fact that some people just don’t reach out. The part that I hated most about this was that my happiness was dependent upon the attention of people who I knew wouldn’t reach out but I told myself, “maybe they will today”.
I often reflect back on what it felt like feel full of life everyday and wake up and feel like I belonged. Where I could walk out the door and have someone to look forward to seeing every day without wondering whether they would be equally as overjoyed to see me as well. I think the year where my emotions blossomed the most was four years ago in my freshman year of high school. It was like my freshman year of college, just more pure and innocent.
I think this sheltered and naive mentality shaped my perception of how this year went because I didn’t read into people’s intentions, but nevertheless my happiness during this time created memories that I wish I could step into again.
I was a different person. I was so emotionally intact with everyone around me that I could almost physically feel myself stepping into someone else’s shoes as I evaluated how they would feel in a situation before I acted. That’s how acute my every day thinking was. This awareness created many friendships that lasted the entire year without any doubt.
One of my favorite memories is with two guys, one of which was a sophomore and the other was a senior. I was taking Spanish with the sophomore and he was taking a physics class with the senior, but we were all involved in the music community. I played the cello and sometimes sang as the sophomore played the piano gorgeously and the senior commanded the violin. Every Thursday we would meet in a practice room after school and just hang out and play any music that we would find. The power between all three of us was equal, and Thursdays quickly became my favorite day of the week. I would always direct all of my energy and excitement towards that one hour throughout the seven days, and having that peak moment to look forward to engaged a form of happiness that I am still trying to rediscover.
Unfortunately, the senior went to college and I lost contact with the sophomore. Our trio never reconnected. I often think about the fun we had on Skype calls and group chats and how that was the one small friend group that I’ve ever had where I felt valued. I tell myself now that I don’t need a friend group in order to be happy, but reflecting on those moments in freshman year sometimes makes me reevaluate my stance.
Another aspect of my freshman year that made the memories sharply stand out was my very first crush on a boy. The details of the individual himself are unimportant, but I had never dealt with feelings so in-depth before. I know that when I look back and read this post in a few years or even months I’m going to cringe and delete it, but might as well put this up while I am still motivated.
I recently cleaned my room and encountered a little box under my bed with artifacts that I am too emotionally attached to let go of. A few items in there were a red notebook where I tracked journal entries detailing my feelings and thoughts, a felted whale, and a paper raspberry-filled chocolate wrapper from Ghirardelli.
I still don’t know what I saw in this boy, to be completely honest. I think it was the dynamic of our friendship that got me mildly interested, and the more that we texted the more I fell. I still don’t know exactly what love is and the thought that love has an actual, standard definition makes me gag. And this wasn’t love. No, no, no. This was a silly freshman year crush where I didn’t know how to handle my own feelings and let them spiral slightly out of control. Despite this, I know that whatever it was, it made my life so much brighter. Just thinking about not the actual moments, but the emotions uplifts me in the present moment towards where I want to be again.
If I had to choose colors to paint those memories, it would be a soft pink, a baby blue, a pale orange, and the gentlest touch of yellow. The shades that color the black space when you close your eyes and make you sigh and sink deeper into your bed.
Those aforementioned artifacts were the items that I gave to the boy on his last day at our high school before he moved away. I wrapped it beautifully in a box and slid it under his chair for him to find during our first class and walked with him to our second and last class together.
I cried a lot that week. And to be completely honest again, I don’t remember anything that clearly for the rest of that freshman year.
Having people and moments to live for make your life so much clearer. Our memories and their clarity are shaped by the strength of what we are feeling the moment, and I believe that the magnitude of how much I cared for other people amplified my emotions so much that I strongly associate one of the peaks of my happiness with the first half of freshman year.
I try caring a lot for people now in the hopes that I can return to that elevated state when I was 14 years old. However, being 18 now and thrown into a society where criticism is the norm, putting other people first constantly has been met with labels of being “fake” and a “people-pleaser”. Trying to be in touch with other people’s emotions pushes them away and it turns into a cycle of constantly wanting to be wanted, giving them my all, and scaring them off.
I want to close my eyes now and see the soft pinks, blues, oranges, and yellows that warm where my heart is instead of the actual darkness that is present when you shut your eyelids. I want to cry from the intensity of life itself instead of crying from the feeling that I am not engaging enough with life.
I guess these mini-stories was a whole roundabout way of telling you and myself to stay connected to the people who mean the most to you. I don’t know what to do or say if the people who mean the most to you do not reciprocate, but it isn’t worth letting the people who make you the most happy pass you by. I know it’s a generic saying that life is short, but life is short and should be looked back on with fondness and not stagnancy or regret.
Fill your future moments with things that make you so aware that you have vitality flowing through you so that you can carry that momentum through your other endeavors and relationships.
If you are in a small void right now and feel like the life inside of you has fallen short, I’m not going to tell you that everything is going to get better. That doesn’t help you in the present moment. It’s okay to dwell on the sadness a little bit too because that is also going to color your personal narrative. I see it more as that the gray area that you’re living in currently will only cleanse the slate to allow for brighter colors to come in later on and push you forward.
I personally hope that I will get to feel the intensity of what I felt when I was younger and despite the societal impositions and expectations that have come to shape my mental state, I aspire to stay emotionally young and free and continue to care for others in hopes that it will develop my own respect for myself along the way.