I wish I could pinpoint where this transition began, but it all happened so quickly. I know, for sure, that it was shortly after I had turned twenty, because at the time, throwing a 1960’s hippy party was basically the main concern in my life (yes, I was soulfully superficial and self-centred), and in hindsight, all that really meant was an excuse for us to lose our minds in the midst of fairy lights, optical rainbows and swirls of incense – and that we did. But, then, it’s like I just woke up one day, and everything I had believed in was suddenly shadowed with doubt. I craved knowledge that would reassure me of my existence, of a purpose and a plan that went beyond being in a perfect relationship, getting a degree, smoking weed, partying, praying and constantly comparing my body and being to women who I had never even met. I was working at a nursery, watering plants for five hours straight and memorizing the differences between impatiens, marigolds, and petunias, all the while fantasizing about a life that seemed impossibly distant, yet unbelievably real. I needed answers, genuine answers, ones that were set in stone and gave me peace of mind, tangible and consolidating and true. So, I did what any rational twenty-year-old woman would do; I packed up my things, moved back home with mum and dad, broke up with my boyfriend, unintentionally lost my iPhone, and set out on a journey to self-discovery.
Well, you know what they say: when you make plans – God laughs. My high hopes of becoming an independent woman looked more like a re-enactment of an episode from ‘Girls’. I didn’t know where I was going; it was like painting without a brush. I had a clean canvas, a million bright and beautiful colours, but I had let my hands become a palette for confusion, mixing and merging the numerous ideas of who I wanted to be until they were muddy and irreversibly stained. I should have stopped sooner, before I further ruined my unmade masterpiece, but I didn’t know how; we get so caught up in creating our own future that, sometimes, we actually start to believe we are the ones in control.
Five days ago, Stashy woke me up in the middle of the night, wanting to go outside and explore our new neighbourhood. He was just sitting there across the room, his small face expectant, trusting, and when I stumbled out of bed, half asleep, he gave me one last triumphant meow, rubbing himself against my feet, before jumping up onto the window sill and disappearing into the dark. That was the last time I seen my baby Pistachio.
I’ve shared a lot of arguments over who’s responsible for putting Stash out in the middle of the night – at three a.m. on a winter’s morning, the last thing anybody wants to do is to wake up to a non-stop alarm insisting on being fed or going outside – but, now, I’d give anything to have him interrupt my sleep and drag me out of my warm bed, no hesitations. I keep waiting to hear him meow outside my door, or prance back through the window that’s been open since he left. Last night was the first time I actually went to bed without driving around the block and aimlessly calling his name. I tried not to feel guilty about it, but, you know, the only way to not feel guilty is to not feel anything; and the only way to not feel anything is to not think about it – but I’m scared that if I stop thinking about it, maybe I’ll forget my Pistachio, and how it feels to love unconditionally and have a part of my heart belong to somebody else. It’s just become this vicious cycle of sadness, and I wonder when it’s going to end.
I guess you can never really be certain of anything when it comes to planning the future, only that life is an unpredictable test and will always stubbornly refuse to let you put your selfish needs above others. I thought that turning twenty would give me some sort of reassurance that my life is on track, but that’s proven to be the complete opposite; things have gone from perfectly balanced to frantically chaotic, I remain typically indecisive when it comes to certain commitment, and now, I’ve failed to protect my cat. But I know there are worse things happening in this world, right now, in this very moment – and that I’m considered one of the lucky ones.
So, if there’s any consolation to sharing all of this, it is that you are not alone. Each and every one of us are fighting our own internal or external battles; for me, today, that’s just getting through the day without crying at uni – but for others, it could be dealing with the grief of losing a home, a father or a friend in the Nepal earthquake, or having loved somebody who was killed in the Bali nine execution. We are all suffering, some silently, but we don’t have to do it by ourselves. I want to encourage you to reach out to those surrounding you, just as my Saviour, friends and family have done for me. No matter how small your problem may seem, you don’t have to hurt alone, and there are people in this world who do truly care. I have seen a lot of beautiful things come from painful situations – but, first, you have to overcome your fear of the unknown, and remember that everything happens for a reason. I may only be twenty years old, experiencing my first pre-manic breakdown, and waking up to each day as the same person with a different dream, greater hope, and higher goals, but I refuse to give fear the foothold it demands in order to control my life; just as my life refuses to give me answers that rob me of endless possibilities, new beginnings and ever-growing strength.