then the next

Every day just passes

then the next.

I can’t believe how lonely

this all gets.

The sunrise on our first morning living together

We told ourselves we wouldn’t care if the world ended. We said we wouldn’t care because we’d be spending our last moments with each other. And it was late, it was so late, but we couldn’t go to sleep yet, we had to be up for the sunrise. We promised ourselves we’d stay up and watch the sunrise together on our first night of living together. And we realized it was a silly idea, but we both took a week off work to get settled in our new apartment- which might’ve also been a silly idea, but we didn’t care.

We stayed up for the sunrise and we fell asleep right before it happened out our back window. We fell asleep on the couch around 5 am and didn’t wake until noon. We laughed about it when we woke up and realized we missed the sunrise. But we didn’t care. Our favorite show was paused on the living room TV while we got up and made breakfast.

You made a joke about missing the sunrise and I said it was a silly idea to begin with. I hadn’t been up that late since college, and you hadn’t since you started your first real job. You made pancakes and I made coffee. It wasn’t anything huge, but I felt closer to you than I ever had that morning. You resumed our favorite show and we spent the day unpacking while it played in the background. We were finally where we were meant to be.

the man who talked like everyone was listening

I met a man once who talked like everyone was listening. He had straight brown hair and big brown eyes. And when he spoke, people listened. And I listened, too, but I didn’t want to. He looked at me one day like he was seeing me for the first time.

From then on, he talked to me like I was always listening. And I still didn’t want to, but how could you not? And I was young, only just eighteen. He was twenty and didn’t once think about his future. He would talk to me and I would listen.

He told me about how he got his license taken away and I ignored the red flag. He lived ten minutes away and I would pick him up in my old, beat-up Saturn. And one night specifically I remember we were out late after work, somewhere between 11 pm and 1 am. And we were at the convenience store down the street from his house and I still didn’t realize he was trouble when he went out of his way to go into a full-blown politics talk with a stranger who stood outside the convenience store the whole time we were there.

I remember overhearing the stranger say to him, “Who’s piece of shit ride is this?” and he said it was his friend’s car. I laughed at the time, but I remember thinking I wish we were more than that. And I can’t believe I ever wanted that.

This twenty-year-old actor who only wanted one thing and he got that from me, and he cared for a week or so, but then ghosted. And this eighteen-year-old unsure of their place in the world let him take whatever he wanted because it was summer and that’s what you do when you’re eighteen in the summer.

And at the time I remember I didn’t think he was taking advantage of me because I wanted it, too. But really, I just wanted to feel like I mattered.

The little, mundane parts of life

I fall in love often. It happens suddenly and I’m all in. And it’s not just with people. I fall in love with the way my coffee tastes, I fall in love with the way the air smells in the springtime, I fall in love with the first snowfall of winter. I fell in love once with the way a boy smelled and from then on when I smelled that same smell, I thought of him. And I thought of love. I didn’t even love him, at least not at the time, but that’s a story for another day. I fell in love with the feeling of love. Of admiration. Of romanticizing little mundane parts of my day. I think that’s partly how I got over my depression. I fell in love with constants in my life, like the way the sunrise woke me up every morning, or how the rain sounded inside a car while music played softly, or even my own quirks. That was when I learned to love myself, when I learned to love my quirks. The things that made me, me.

And being a writer throughout all this, I would write about falling in love and it was never about another person. It was falling in love with learning to love. It was falling in love with these little, mundane parts of my life that I knew would never leave. It was falling in love with being genuinely happy for the first time since I was twelve.

Sure, I’d fallen in love with people before. But it never felt as pure as falling in love with the way sitting under a tree and reading feels in the middle of summer.  It never felt as hopeful as the first warm day of spring. And maybe I’m just saying this now because of what all my exes put me through, but doesn’t that just prove my point?

That my true happiness doesn’t come from another person, it comes from within me. And for so many years, I put all my self-worth into what my boyfriend thought of me and if we were happy and if I was in a relationship at all. And it was miserable. Life is about finding purpose, it’s about finding happiness through all that it throws at us, and I never felt that in a relationship. I always felt like I was drowning, or that I was fighting with some thing that would never see my way and it was miserable.

So, I took a step back and I thought about what makes me happy. Forests make me happy and the ocean and the way the early morning sun looks illuminating the grass in backyards. And I fell in love with all these little things, these constants that would never hurt me. And I realized I was terrified of being hurt and I thought to myself, “That’s a part of life and I know I’ll have to deal with it, but why? Why can’t I just be happy? Why do we have to feel pain, too?” but I knew the answer, I always knew the answer. It was because I had been hurt so many times that I could understand what it was like to truly be happy. It was because I had felt such brutal heartbreak that I could learn to love these little, mundane parts of life.

And then I fell in love with that fact, too.

The Mountains and All They Can Cure

I left the house in a rush. In one burst of manic energy, I packed for a couple days. I was at the point where I couldn’t think about anything but getting away. Anywhere was better than here. In a perfect world, I would’ve thought for months about this trip, but the fact that I didn’t have a plan made it more exciting.

It felt like everything that happened these last few months, all the pain and exhaustion, it was all leading up to my break anyway. This was bound to happen. I wouldn’t consider it a break, but my best friend called it that when I showed up at her door with a text, “Hey. You’re coming with me. We’re going to the mountains.”

“You’re crazy,” was her answer. I wouldn’t have expected any less. She packed her bags and was down in fifteen. From the driveway, she looked insane. More insane than I was. Her black hair was put into a messy ponytail with flyaways illuminated by the midday sun. She wore a gray sweatshirt and black leggings. Her backpack, stuffed full of clothes and camping equipment, was a forest green and held her sleeping bag atop it.

“I need this more than you do.”

She told me that as she threw her backpack in the backseat of my SUV.

“Hold on, do you have a tent?”

I hadn’t thought of that.

“Uh, no. Don’t you?” I replied.

“My brother is using it this weekend.” She groaned. I rolled my eyes.

I wasn’t sure when it was that it set in that I was an insane, spontaneous person, but by the fourth hour of our road trip, it had crossed my mind a few times.  Emma loved me for it. She could always count on me for a last-minute mania induced trip in which we find ourselves, only to lose ourselves when we come back to work the following Monday.

We laughed. We laughed a lot. The entire drive was filled up with conversation, never a dull moment. Never a moment to think about just getting stood up or not getting that promotion I really could’ve used to fuel these trips. I didn’t think about the date I was supposed to go on until Emma had fallen asleep and as I laid on the hard ground, the only way to distract myself from the pain my back felt was by thinking about the pain my now-ex caused.

I realized a while ago that I shouldn’t let myself get wrapped up in someone like him, someone still obviously going through his partying college days even though he dropped out two years ago. I knew he was bad news, Emma tried to tell me, but I didn’t care. I liked the way he looked at me when I told a story, and I liked the way he laughed too long when I told a bad joke. I liked how his hair looked in the morning before he showered, and I liked how he’d cook breakfast for me.

I knew the mountains wouldn’t have an answer, and I didn’t care. It was a distraction at least and at most it would be another story to tell: two way-too-stressed 20-something’s go on another spontaneous trip in attempt to find themselves, only to find themselves with smaller bank accounts and bags under their eyes.

Seasons

And I don’t think anyone could make me feel as free as when I’m walking down the suburb streets I know so well, mid-summer, the wind at my back, headphones in playing my favorite song.

I don’t think anyone could make me feel the relief of the sudden chill in the air after months of overheating, finally wearing my favorite jacket, going for a walk and seeing mushrooms after it rained.

I don’t think anyone could make me feel as safe as looking out my window in the morning after the first snowfall of winter, the warmth from my blankets contrasting with the cold of the windowsill.

I don’t think anyone could make me feel as hopeful as the first day in spring when it starts to warm up, after months of bundled up, freezing temperatures and I can sit outside and work on this or that.

And I don’t mind. Because the seasons could never remember my favorite color or the way I like my coffee. The seasons couldn’t hold my hand or give me their jacket when I get cold. I fell in love with the seasons, and they come and go and I fall in love with each change, but they could never make me feel as wanted as a text saying, “this made me think of you.”