Stories from the 22

It will be my birthday by the time you read this, and I know that on the day, time will be spent on other things, and for a while afterward. Now is a good time because I’ve just read something. Instead of working on that short story (due 9 days after the 29th), I’m here where it feels more natural. Reflection is like a birthright to me, so here it is.

I said last year- a weird enough time, that this year would be my first real year living and breathing fully. There were plans to come into my own during 22, in spite of 2020 – a gap in time, hazy and falsified in many areas, cloudy, few harsh shapes and lines, nonsensical, but unfortunately not too much like a dreamworld. But I was confident that I would make it something, and whatever I made of it would ripple into a later and far more credible time. I did make something of it. I’m trying to determine whether what I did do has impressed me. And whatever I have become during the year of 22, I’m trying to evaluate whether it’s the most me I’ve ever felt. It would be if I stood it up against how life works- how we’re all the most ‘us’ we’re ever going to be at our most current. But I think in order for me to know if I’ve delivered on my own personal definitions, I’d have to know whether I felt freedom, at last. Impossible I know, physically. Mentally, only upon reflection, I’d say I delivered. But. Not in the way I was expecting. Not in a fun way. Not with the spaciousness I was itching for. I think that will come later. Freedom seems to have many tiers (sorry). 22 was me ploughing through the first one. I had to plot it out though, like all journeys, I started doing that towards the end half of 21, and foolishly I thought I was done.

At the turn of every age I thought I was clued all the way in. I was ignorant and the last person to think of myself that way. Now on the brink of 23, It’s not wildly different, aside from the fact that I am now embarrassed to consider myself an oracle when I still so often do. This year was embarrassing and I could barely live with myself amidst all of the steep learning curves. The freedom was in the knowledge alone, in being retaught and in the realising things- an unfortunate era in anyone’s life while it’s actually happening. I know more now than I ever have but I’m still embarrassed, to have ever been such a wally, to have ever been something else.

For one, I forced myself to stare down the fact that I’d never really been comfortable a day in my life. I hadn’t realised how jittery my life had been. It had been me all along. It had been my fault for fighting myself every second of every minute, and for judging the parts of myself I didn’t make horrendously. The things about me that needed hashing out were not the parts I’d always thought. When I first realised that I was sitting in the kitchen, suddenly soaked in adrenaline, then embarrassment.

I forced myself to do many things. Like unguard myself for one. It only became some official thing to me when I heard someone else describe it. Jay Z once said that he too was chewing on the idea that a guarded person is a false one. Living fully unfortunately means recognising myself as a human, not an entity, an idea or an android, and then accepting that I wouldn’t die if people knew the slightest thing about me.

Then it was to ease up on cracking the whip on myself. There’s a harshness I can throw over myself that I can enjoy in its necessity right before it reaches a draconian level. I was like an excessive dad, I couldn’t stop taking the belt out on myself. And my expectations (though this particular realisation is still kind of newborn) could’ve killed a man, in all honesty. Balance I’m sure is something 23 must know about.

Relinquishing control was like prising mashed up food from the chubby fist of a toddler, I was having none of it. I still don’t want it, the free falling. Knowing that placing myself as captain and fracturing every tiny spinal bone to execute the role would still get me half hearted results is something that I’ve been unable to turn my back on. During remarkably shitty times (like the one I find myself in entering my 23rd year), it’s not lost on me like it was in the folds of life before, sadly. I cannot sort things out for myself anymore in peace. This particular growing pain is agony. It always forces me into standby, into a washed out state of wanting. Nothing I can do on my own will ever be good enough anymore, even when there seems no other way. I’m no longer steering, but the freedom in that is layers down still.

I’m an adult, have been for a while but especially now. I’ve taken responsibility and I am more me now than I’ve ever been. I know all of the things. I even sound like one, without all of the edgy whinging. It’s all unchartered, and yet I feel more me than I ever have running through these unknown fields. Yet I’m hardly recognisable. And I think 23 will suit me, it just seems expected, for me to answer speculation about my age with “23.” I think things will go well.

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