Where 2019 Finds Me

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Over Christmas, I rebought a book that I had read at the top of the year. On my bookshelf sits my first copy — the jacket collects dust, the margins are full of notes that offer peaks into a girl with a freshly broken heart. I could have easily opened those pages and read the essays again, but I liked the thought of leaving it be and finding new, empty space to write in. 

I wanted to reread the essays, but not relive the memories that I attached to them with every dog eared corner or highlighted exclamation point. I’d lived the moments, I knew the stories the dog eared pages spoke to, I didn’t need a book to remind me. One day, my own words would fill other pages and expand on those stories, but that day wasn’t today. Today, I just wanted to notice the changes without comparing them to the past.

I got the idea to buy a new copy of the book the weekend before Christmas. I was at the movies with my family watching Mary Poppins Returns. The corner seat was comfy and allowed me to stretch out and cuddle up against the armrest without interrupting anyone else’s movie watching experience. As the opening credits rolled and Mary Poppins’ shadow appeared on the screen I remembered a line my therapist told me to hold on to almost two years ago — “I make it a habit to not explain myself.”

It was from the original Mary Poppins, which I had never watched. The words translated into a big fuck you, which I had never thought myself capable of bearing witness to.

I watched the entirety of Mary Poppins Returns through the lens of an early twenty-something, wide-eyed girl who had intentionally become me. 

Along the way, through months of therapy and days of heartbreak (both feeling like minutes that lasted years on the hardest days), I’d turned into someone who had made it a habit to not explain herself. Because, fun fact, those who feel they are owed explanations don’t actually want an explanation — they want an apology. They want you to apologize for your behavior, for the wants you express, for the ways you meet your needs, and if there was one habit I worked to break over the last year, it was apologizing for existing.

On our best days we work to become bigger, better, brighter versions of ourselves only to make it to a milestone we can be proud of and to simultaneously decide to tear ourselves down in its wake. You need to decide that shame won’t steal your thunder or it will, time and time again. 

Operating like you didn’t fight this hard to get here is a lie and a disservice for all those who are coming up behind you and all of those who are paving the road before you.

I understand that the points of inflection are hard to own because they speak to befores and afters that bring us back to versions of us we wish had done better, but they did the best with what they had. Now you have more and squandering it can’t be a viable option. It took me a long time to be comfortable writing about a heartbreak that rested on love that was still present. It’ll take me even longer to write about the path that led us there and the one we chose to continue walking. I don’t owe anyone that story, or an explanation, but for a long time I felt like I did. 

You aren’t indebted to your past or to the people on the sidelines of your story. You owe yourself the space to thrive in the bigger, better, brighter version that all the past yous afforded you. I’ve spent a year simultaneously learning how to not explain myself to others and apologizing to myself for the times I have or still trip up and do.

I struggle with accepting that there was a time I didn’t give myself my best shot and, like ice that melts slowly, it puddles up into fear that I can one day do it again. 

So I bought this new book because I wanted to fill the margins with reminders of the person I am right now. It was anyone’s guess that the split behind my broken heart would be standing over me offering to buy me the second copy of a book that got me through days without him. It was my intention when I picked up the book the first time that I would know how to pick myself up and where to anchor my self-worth every time I stumbled. I learned to define the starts of forgiveness in that book and with every month that passed I attributed my foundation to the days I found someone else’s words as a mirror to the words I couldn’t get out of my own head. 

When you’re in the process of striving for bigger and better, you’ll find yourself on the ground more than once, but the tools you acquire along the way are the ones that will help lift you. I wanted new margins to notice the ways that I learned to prioritize my own well-being and to understand that I had a choice of who I invited into my life. I wanted to underline passages on boundaries and point to examples in my own life where I’ve managed to speak them loudly into existence in my relationships. 

Mumbling doesn’t cut it anymore once you step into your power. You can’t play it small when you know what it feels like to not subdue yourself for other’s sake or comfort. The feeling of taking up space is addictive and it should be. It’s built over time and with a lot of effort. There have been times last year when I stood in awe of the person I’d become and the ways I navigate circumstances now. I’d always been better at owning my space when it came to my career, I worked to get better at owning it in my life. It’s where I am now.