The Opposite of Loneliness

I’ve been busy lately.  Busy with work, busy with dog sitting, busy working through my driving anxiety, busy searching for a second job, busy preparing for my first proper semester of school since I was sixteen — busy with life.  It’s hard to believe that just a little over a year ago I wasn’t doing any of this, that finding a job seemed impossible and college a concept that somehow didn’t apply to me.  Harder still to believe that until then I had spent another four years almost completely socially isolated, cut off from the world with no hope that things would ever be different, no concept of what that would even look like, and no belief that I deserved better for that matter.

That’s a lot of time to be alone.  A lot of time with nothing but your own thought static for company, to sit with the things you’ve done, to contemplate everything you now have to live with.  Controlled bursts of solitude can be a valuable tool in self-reflection and personal growth (I would know, arguably better than most), but a vacuum is another story.  I could write eulogies of the caverns loneliness has carved out of my body, of the hollows and holes that I’ve grown around.

Things have changed a lot since then though, and so have I.  I’ve faced my fears and pushed my comfort zone and come out triumphant at every turn, not because it was easy or because I was always conventionally successful, but because I’ve finally had the courage to try.  To try to do different, to try to be different, staring down the twin possibilities of loss and failure lurking just around the corner, and choosing to chance it anyway.

Last summer, I first stepped into that abyss when I came to the decision to get tattooed. One step beget others, and not long afterward I made another decision to reconnect with an old friend after a four-year-old time capsule brought us together for the first time since high school, and later to temp as a receptionist at my mother’s law firm — the most high-key setting I’d been in since leaving school as a sixteen-year-old.  These three things have propelled my progress up to this point, and by now I’ve passed the anniversaries of all but the last of them.  I remember how scared I was back then.  How terrified of change, of vulnerability, of giving something my all only to come away empty-handed and more aware of my own shortcomings than ever.

Just last Saturday, at the theater I now work at, one of my managers pulled me aside to tell me that she was leaving the company, but that I was one of her favorite employees and the hardest worker she’d encountered in years.  She then proceeded to give me her number and tell me that she’d be happy to write me a letter of recommendation if I ever needed one.  Seven months ago I couldn’t have dreamed up this scenario.  It’s so hard to think of myself as likable, or capable, and it’s been stunning to work this job and to be continuously presented with evidence to the contrary.  It’s given me a confidence in my abilities that I didn’t have before, and it’s starting to spread into other areas of my life. Slowly, I’ve found that I’m starting to think of myself as someone with something to offer the world, whose skills and contributions are marketable — even though that self-assurance is still mostly confined to my work ethic.

In a couple of days I’ll be riding in a car for six hours to spend the weekend biking and hiking.  My family has made the trip to this particular location several times in the last seven years, though I’ve abstained since I was fifteen for reasons related to hiding my self-harm/scars.  I can honestly say that I look forward to returning to a place that I cherish so dearly as an adult, as someone who has since healed and who is making different choices.  It’ll be a nice slice of time to spend with the people I love, communing with nature and myself as I contemplate how I want to move forward in life.

And my scars will be staying out in the open, of course.  Most of the time, anyway.  The past few months of baring my skin has made me less fixated on its defects, and it follows that doing so in more public settings will generate the same result, but I’m hesitant.  Changing a seven-year-old habit is hard.  Teaching myself that I’m not doing anything reprehensible by putting on a pair of shorts is…hard.  But I’d rather face that shame than continue to run from it.  It is what it is: My body is scarred, and it always will be, and it’s time I got around to accepting that instead of allowing it to limit me in life.  I’m not sure how long that will take.  Years, maybe.  But there’s no more avoiding it.  The only way out of this labyrinth is through.

I’ll be going swimming while I’m up there, too.  I haven’t swam since I was fifteen either, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let my scars or the opinions of strangers stop me from enjoying myself.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll be able to come back to this blog next week with some positive experiences and pretty pictures under my belt.  If nothing else, this will be a nice getaway to recenter myself and enjoy time with friends and family.

Oh, and I scheduled my next tattoo appointment for September.  So there’s that.