I’ve lived in the same three-story house, on the same street, in the same bustling city since I was one year old. Even before I moved I attended a family daycare, where I met the best people I have ever laid eyes on. Today, one of the four is still my best friend, and the other two are pretty great too. I loved to read and laugh. I hated television, and I always made my wishes on dandelions. Back then, I loved to torture my parents by becoming friends with the kids who lived the furthest away. We clocked many long hours in the car to and from these inevitable play dates. I guess I still have a knack for choosing the furthest ones, even today.
Seven years and five months after we moved into our house, then adorned with brown and white chipping paint with a perfectly matched Halloween, orange porch, I became a big sister. That’s right, eight and a half years of being an only child, and then one day, I wasn’t. Some days, that was hard, but my beautiful baby brother made up for that.
I remember how great elementary school was by the number of days of school I missed: slim to none. Even if my mom had given me cake for breakfast, and said we could fly to Disney World, I would have opted for school instead. Although, I guess since I’ve never been to Disney I wouldn’t have known what I was missing out on.
In middle school, my relationship with my parents was steadily declining. Yeah, adolescence and all that, I guess that’s what you could call it, but I think it’s something bigger than that. Right around eighth grade the parent relationship meter took a sudden dive from a seventy-five percent to about a negative eight hundred and six. My personal “OK” level hit what I can only hope was rock bottom as well. There was something about what happened that year that never really went away. There was no major event, but all the little things became something big, something overwhelming and at times, crushing. In the years to come, I don’t think I ever returned to the person I once was, and I don’t think I ever got past that feeling that had sunk in. In fact, to this day that is a battle I’m still fighting.
I’m not quite sure when the pain really started to set in, but one day, I stopped seeing the world as this beautiful place and I started seeing it for all the horrible things it harbored. There were moments that broke through this; a new inside joke with a close friend, a genuine moment with my brother, a new accomplishment at the sport that I loved. And then, there were moments that brought back the grief; painful fights with my parents, injury, or even random waves of emptiness. Somewhere along the way these moments became stretches of time that so overshadowed the good moments I forgot to remember they were ever even there. Nobody wants that girl. The one who is sad all the time, even though she has a perfectly good life. Nobody wants to know what’s wrong with her, nobody wants to help her, and most importantly, nobody wants to be her friend. So, I put on a mask and faced everyday with a brave new face. Sure, sometimes I faltered, I broke down, I cried, but every time I got up. I wiped away my tears and I said, “I’m fine.” I figured if I said it enough times surely I could convince someone, maybe even myself.
I guess I’m still trying to understand how sadness isn’t measured by what you have, even if that’s a loving family, awesome friends and a surplus of other things. Sadness is a feeling. It’s uncontrollable. Sometimes, it lacks reason or understanding. You could have all the things in the world, and sadness might still be your most frequent customer. If I’ve realized one thing along the way it’s that it won’t go away because you’re pretending it’s not there. You can have a great day and a few good laughs, but if you’re really truly sad, the kind that turns your heart to stone and penetrates the pit of your soul, then no mask, not even a really pretty one, is going to drive that feeling away.
Somewhere along the line, someone told me to take off my mask. They told me to find my voice, the one that I had buried long ago. They told me that it mattered. So, here I am trying, struggling to find that voice, to find the girl that I really am. Yesterday I was sad, today I’m okay, and I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But, I do know this; there will be good days, and there will be not so good days, and there will probably even be some really awful days, but if I don’t try, if I don’t strip down all these layers and try to get to the raw and real and honest me, then I might never have one of those really, truly incredible days.