It started by graduating high school (2010), when I thought I had everything planned out. Undergrad, then medical school–I was going to be a doctor. I would write poetry on the side, like William Carlos Williams.
Then I discovered I didn’t want that. I’d kept in touch with exactly two friends from high school. One of them is now a scientist. He laughed when I said I wanted to be a writer. I haven’t spoken to him since. I hope he’s doing okay.
I finished my first book my junior year of college. TALENTED, the book that changed everything for me. I’d loved writing it more than I’d enjoyed going to any of my pre-med classes. When I told my advisor I wanted to change majors, he didn’t laugh. He smiled, because he knew me. I still remember his name. I should thank him someday.
My closest cousin died from Angiosarcoma. I miss her everyday. Toward the end, she didn’t know who I was. At the end, she didn’t remember her own name. It’s a different kind of grief to just watch someone waste away. She was only a year older than me.
I graduated college (2015. English Lit; Poetry Writing) and fell in love with the person who helped me get over my cousin’s death. We got engaged. He cheated on me. Manipulated me. Abused me. I left him–what I’d felt wasn’t love.
My dearest friend was found dead in Southside on the train tracks. We still don’t have answers. Last I heard, it was being investigated as a homicide. I found out he died by seeing a news article as I scrolled Facebook. His girlfriend was my roommate. I was the one who had to tell her. He was only a year older than me.
No one should have to find out someone they loved died by reading it in the news.
I stopped reading. I stopped writing. I just kind of tucked myself away somewhere after that. I still don’t know where that girl is. I hope she’s okay.
I met someone new. I had a baby, even though I never wanted kids. I was terrified of being a mother. I still am. I quit my job to stay home with her.
I pulled that old manuscript out and read it. I still loved it. And even though I no longer knew where to find the girl who wrote it, I wanted to remember her. So I had it edited. I published it. And I dedicated it to her dearest friend.
I started reading again.
I wrote another book, I just couldn’t stop writing. It’s dedicated to my closest cousin. HER cousin. I’ll publish it in February. I’m currently writing a third book.
Maybe I’ll dedicate it to me.
And the thing is, I still don’t know where my younger self is. She’s tucked away somewhere with my cousin and my friend. That’s the funny thing about grief–it doesn’t really get better. You just get better at hiding it. At pushing through it. At pushing it away. If I found her, I probably wouldn’t recognize her. I hope she’s proud of me.
In the next decade, there will be more grief. More reading, and more writing. The bright expanse of a cloudless sky, the promise of better memories. Who knows, maybe I’ll be someone new then. I’ll write her a book to remember me by.
Here’s to brighter futures. Happy New Year, everyone. 🥂