Stop telling me what to do.
Telling me what to think.
Telling me who to be.
What to do.
I’m pacing, back and forth across this path that leads to nowhere. The asphalt tingles the soles of my bare feet with each step that I take. My steps have a consistent cadence, seemingly like my cycle of emotions.
The first emotion is curiosity. It appears slowly and seamlessly flows. What if this were to happen? What about that? Do I see myself going straight to medical school? Abandoning that dream and being a journalist? Giving up a family for a career? Or the opposite? Falling in love? Losing love? Taking risks that I’m not sure I’m willing to take? All these questions and more leave me on the precipice of uncertainty with echos of fascinating wonder.
Hope is what follows. Hope is the hydrogen fuel to the stars of my imagination. It is the reason they burn strong, they burn hot, they burn brighter than I could ever believe. The hope of the dreams my imagination crafts is tangible. The colors it paints are poignant and envelope me in the moments that they depict.
I look and reflect at the series of paintings crafted by hope, almost as detailed as photographs. There’s the moment when I finally see the one I miss the most again. There’s the one where my mother and I finally mature and work through our differences. There is the one where I am in a white coat and successful and happy. There’s the one where things fall into place seamlessly. There are countless others lining the halls of the fantastical museum of my mind.
But this hope, the paintings that it has manifested itself in, the ones I wander through, it is more dangerous than anything I’ve encountered. Because the paintings, these beautiful moments, right now, they’re fiction. These paintings aren’t reality. When that realization sets in, so does the fear. The despair.
The shattering of a beautiful glass illusion that once was so mesmerizing.
The fear and despair eat away at me. They cast me away to the darkest part of my mind, the point where I’m afraid to go, the point I worry I won’t return from. The point of doubt. The place of where my worst-case scenarios reside. That now, with each day that goes by, those scenarios are creeping closer from the shadows more than ever. The shadows are growing. The paintings are slowly falling off the walls. The paint is chipping and peeling. Wings of the museum are being closed and replaced with darkness. Darkness that I cannot bring light to.
But amongst all the fear and despair and doubt, there is a tiny spark of a candle that is still there guiding through the darkness. But it needs more oxygen to grow. And right now, it is being smothered and deprived of that.
So here I am. Pacing. In wonder. In confusion. In acceptance. How do I fix this. How do I break the cycle. How do I patch up the hope? How do I keep the spark alive? Where can I find the oxygen? How do I keep on painting?
People have told me what I should do and what I shouldn’t. But my heart doesn’t want to listen. It wants to live and love and feel. I want to do what feels right. Sometimes what feels right is different from what is right. But there is no way to know that. I feel like I’m stuck here pacing, wasting some of the best years of my life. But how am I supposed to repair something that was already so fragile and craft it into something beautiful once again?
The first time my heart was broken I thought it would never heal. The first time I was hospitalized I thought I would never mend. The first time I lost faith in myself I thought I never would regain my strength. But through these first times and the times since, I’ve grown. I’ve learned through this life I’ve lived. I’ve struggled through and taught myself so much. I’ve rebuilt myself a thousand times each one better than the past.
I’ve learned to keep that flame burning even when it grows dim. Even in my darkest moments, when the shadows are drowning me, when it feels like there is nothing left. Nothing to try for. Nothing to live for. It is that spark, keeping it alive, the hope of telling myself there is something to imagine that may become real someday. That is what keeps me going.
As I stand here, with my feet so rooted but my head in the clouds, I pace back and forth. The wind tickles the leaves in the maple trees edging the road and kisses my cheeks as it dances by. I don’t know when things will change. I don’t know what I can do these days except dream of better days. So that is what I’ll do. I’ll stand here and let the sun melt into my skin and envelop me in a golden blanket. I’ll close my eyes and imagine. And for now, when I imagine, no one tells me what to do or who to be. In this moment, as I stand here, pausing time, I am me.
I am me with all my beauty and all my imperfections. Me with all my hopes and aspirations and dreams. Me with all my darkness and fear and doubts. Me with all my curiosity. Me with all of my emotions, me wearing my heart on my sleeve and knowledge keeping me grounded.
Me just standing here, perhaps just a moment, pausing from pacing, to appreciate all that can come with the stillness and calmness in the beauty of this world.