Grieving For Who I Once Was

Photo by Lyra

By Lyra

Flickering in between life and death throughout my adolescent years, my childhood self has finally passed away. 

My denial state of grief lasted quite a long time while in quarantine isolation. Remarks such as “You have to think about the future” or “I know how you feel” became monotonously nausea-inducing repetitive, yet they never pulled me out of the existential dump I was sinking into. Somehow, in my grieving perception, she was still living. I imagined her playing with her stuffed animals that are now collecting dust in storage. Clumsy elementary pottery projects are still on display for my eyes to wander to. In worn envelopes, her immortalized image still felt warm when I traced my fingers over printed photos. 

Passing through the stacks of photographs, carefully observing each minuscule pixel as if I’d never see the photo again, the differences between us intensified. Yes, from an outsider’s perspective, we were the same person: beauty mark on our right cheeks, widows-peak with stubborn baby hairs, and calluses on our right hands from holding pencils too tightly when writing. Yet, her skin was free from scars of years of a bad habit, chubby face framed in thick-rimmed glasses that now lay untouched in a drawer, her teeth were crooked and goat-like before years of metal mouth (my father’s nickname for us was “baby goat”), and her eyes tunefully displayed each sway of emotion, unlike mine that have muddied into a drab plain brown. 

How could we be the same person? She held memories I long forgot, dreams that have become dust, and questions about the future I have already answered. I fell into a pit of despair of how I’ve betrayed her potential. If only I could be reborn with the knowledge I have now, what would have happened? Maybe I could have grown into a person my parents were more proud of, someone they could brag about to extended family. Could I have shaken off years of bullying instead of becoming a person who mentally torments themselves for every perceived flaw they have? Would I have made such stupid mistakes and instead appreciated the people who truly loved me before they were gone, then ignored those who I knew would only hurt me but still followed anyway? What if I took the time to hone my writing skills earlier, an art that always captivated me, instead of becoming hostage to other’s opinions and my mind’s own downfalls?

Every funeral, even a metaphysical one, has a moment of reflection. It’s the beginning of marking a path to move forward in life on. Truthfully, I don’t know what direction my path should even begin in my adult life. Perhaps my reluctance to let go of my former self is because of my deep yearning for the “normal” world she lived in. I turned 18 in a deadly pandemic and financial recession. Political tensions are high and a world-view shattering event headlines every week. Rather than a romanticized sepia-toned Bildungsroman, the introduction into my adult life feels like the first seconds of a freezing swim. Muscles spazzing, teeth clenching, heart palpitating, wishing for the relief of numbness but it never seems to come. 

In my attempts to climb out of my sinking mental state,  I’ve come to terms with death and rebirth being a part of life’s natural cycle. My childhood innocence and wanderlust had to die and evolve into my young adult state. One day, I too will die and be reborn as I arise from life’s never-ending adversities. Even if there is nothing grand about myself or my life, don’t I deserve to experience what there is beyond this nightmarish, almost-apocalyptic time? 

My resolution may be uninspiring compared to others. No weight loss. No new hobby. No strict budgeting. It is to simply become content with my life. So one day, hopefully, I can enjoy it in its entirety.

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