Gather all the years of your life, the bright and the bruised.
– Patricia Lynn Reilly, Imagine a Woman in Love with Herself
Year One. My first birthday. I am in a white dress at a block party celebrating my first year of life. Mother tells me to this day that everyone came to the party. I don’t remember it, but it nevertheless holds a special place in my heart.
Year Three. I don’t know why, but memories of going to see airplanes with my aunt and uncle resonates with this year. So does my other aunt driving me around in the backseat of her car and getting me McDonald’s.
Year Five. I remember being in kindergarten this year. I loved my teacher. I had a boyfriend whose name started with a Z, and we kissed after school in the empty classroom.
Year Nine. I was in fourth grade. For some reason, the world felt unstoppable. I remember the British teacher whom I hated, but even she couldn’t tarnish the memory of this year. I believe I had a journal, and I began to write.
Year Fourteen. I went to a high school where, for the first time, I finally felt like I belonged. Or at least that I had a sense of identity. I nursed the remnants of a middle school crush, expanding my inner world and living in my imagination in the process.
Year Fifteen. My sense of belonging increased as I made good friends with whom I spent a lot of time. I had sleepovers, went to concerts, went to festivals. I was part of a community.
Year Twenty. I consider this my year. The year during which my age matched the date of my birth. Not only did I finally get to make a childhood dream come true by going to Japan, I also discovered a lot about myself and who I wanted to be. I started to go out and explore aspects of myself I hadn’t known existed. I got my own internship and started my own social life that summer. I studied abroad, I drank for the first time (the legal age for drinking is 20 in Japan – and boy did we take advantage of that), I got my own internship, I got a second paid internship, I drove myself around to get out and meet people and make new friends, I went through a slew of relationships, and I adopted a new identity onto my overall persona. I felt a sense of purpose, contentment and independence that I haven’t felt since.
Year Five. Recent memory suggests I may have been terribly taken advantage of by someone I should have trusted at this age. I cannot remember for sure, but perhaps it is not yet time for me to know the truth. I may not be able to accept the magnitude of the situation, should it prove to be so.
Year Seven. The horrible incident that happened this year, however, I remain keenly aware of, and continue to suffer at the hands of the imprint it’s left upon my psyche. To this day it is causing problems with TM and I – when I fear that he wants me only for my body, for if a grown ass man can look at a seven year old child and see what my fiance sees when he looks at me, then what use have I ever been but as a vessel of sexual pleasure for those who wish to take advantage of me?
Year Eleven. The first of a long reign of disillusionment. I went back to an environment in which I used to be loved, let alone comfortable, and found it completely cold and hostile to my return. Friends turned literal enemies and I was viciously bullied (albeit emotionally) to the point where I had to call my grandfather to school to put an end to things. I got in a fight with another girl and had my mother called to school. To this day I can hear her words: “I am just appalled at her behavior.” To this day I think the bitch deserved it. But hey, we’re all assholes when we’re young, are we not? I sure was when I threw that fork at her.
Year Twelve. A mere continuation of the last. Transition to a new school brought more outcast feelings. I began to read Harry Potter, retreating ever deeper into the world of fantasy escapism. I lost out on a crush by going after his friend, and ended up losing the friendships of both. I have no friends from this school and no happy memories of being here.
Year Thirteen. This may have been more positive than I let on, but even though I found a good, solid group of friends, I still felt this sense of unease. I spent most of the year chasing after a fruitless crush, and spent the summer after feeling just as listless following a rejection. I maybe should have moved this year to the other list, however, as it was where my crush imparted upon me the impulse to continue writing. Still, the entire year remains a hazy fog, so I will keep it in this category as it was not particularly delightful at first thought.
Year Sixteen. The abuser makes his debut. The one who would control part of my life even so recently as this year. He seemed innocent enough at the time, but I was too young and naive to realize just how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Year Seventeen. A continual descent into darkness, him pulling me down by the tips of his claws. Never before had I been so inward-focused as I was that year, and to this day I can think of only one other instance like it, brightened as it were by the existence of my love, TM.
Year Twenty-One. A darkness that rivaled that of the previous year. Beginning with a mad frenzy to check something off my list, to prove that I was, indeed, adequate; that I could, in fact, be loved. This led to some of the most devastating decisions I’ve ever made, ones that carried shockwaves far into my current relationship. Ending with a horrible slip into depression and madness, a life of listless, prideless despair, in which the only out seemed to be the bag of painkillers I stashed in my purse on my way to my crap job, popping one every now and the on the way until I was crying in my then-boyfriend-now-fiance’s car, out in the parking lot, just before my shift, wishing it would all end. Culminating in my great escape, almost 7,000 miles and thirteen-to-fourteen hours away, depending on the time of year, a decision that I am still debating whether or not to regret.
Will it be bright, or might it be bruised?
As I am still living it, and too close to the events to be objective, I cannot say for sure just yet.
I’ll think about it again, maybe this time next year.
After all, only time will tell.