The gel from my ink pen smears across the page. I don’t remember who I was before. I don’t know who I will be after I finish bleeding on the pages of my journal. All I know is that this hurts more than it should.

I wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror. I’m sporting the same frizzy curls and dark crescent moons under my eyes as when I first sat down to write. But something is different.

There’s a sense of freedom that comes with writing down my thoughts about sad experiences. A sense of accomplishment. Of dread. Of fear—because what if I’m never happy again?

For a moment I remember the long nights when all I could see was the outline of a ceiling fan through tears. My emotional capacity emaciated, my strength depleted, my hope lost. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t good enough or how I could be good enough. I was anxious about future encounters and how they might elevate or chip away at my fragile confidence.

Now I go to bed, and I look at my ceiling fan clearly this time. No tears blur the view, and I think about the past version of me. The one who doesn’t exist anymore. The one who would give up after the slightest inconvenience and shove away hardship. The one who thought everyone had to like her because she demanded so. The one who thought that everyone was her friend, and no one would hurt her. And then it hits me. I miss her.

“‘Was everything my fault?’ Of course, not all of it was your fault . . . and don’t you dare try sleeping to escape your emotions because they invade every aspect of life.”

There’s a void where those negative, overwhelming emotions used to be. These emotions stay pent up inside of me, only ebbing out of my heart when provoked by an overwhelming urgency to get the feelings out on paper.  Unfortunately, most of my writing occurs when the feeling leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, acidity burning my esophagus as I swallow the hardest pill of all: people change, and life moves on.

“What do you do when Niagara Falls longs to pour out of your tear ducts, but all you can manage is a light mist?”

This time the pencil etches memories and complaints onto paper, and my heart breaks a little more. High school sweethearts, poems about friends, and celebrating God’s goodness, all bound together by a cheap plastic cover. No one can predict what will come next—not even me. One minute my writing indicates that I’m at the top of Mount Everest emotionally, but then when you turn the page the scattered syntax should leave me banished to a grippy sock hotel.  

“I’ve only been privileged to see a snapshot of your life,
but you’ve been there through thick and thin, the giggles and the strife.”

The words form an autobiography of a growth spurt of character, though. One life-altering event after another. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. The world I’d spent so much time piecing together and dreaming about, shattered before my eyes, documented in a teenage girl’s notebook. And here I am sweeping up the remnants almost four years later, my heart aching for what young me still must go through. But I’m reading the poems and complaints with a different view this time. Yes, the words and experiences still sting. Yes, I miss the times when I felt that way, but familiarity breeds contempt. No, I didn’t necessarily enjoy the nights when I cried until I couldn’t anymore. I didn’t particularly revel in the fact that the tiniest things set me off. But I miss her—her naive self. Present me grieves the loss of a younger me. A me who was just beginning to learn the complexities and heartaches of life.

“I remember the fights stemming from my anxiety . . .”

You see, there is sadness in leaving familiar things behind, and to be quite honest, I’ve never really cared for change. For me, familiarity was disguised by tears, fights, and exhaustion. Leaving those things behind scares me.

Now, I wake up in the morning, and I see those same frizzy curls and dark eye circles. But I don’t despise them as much anymore. I am thriving—okay, maybe only sometimes—but I am becoming a better version of myself.

“Fifteen-year-old me would be so proud of how far I’ve come.”

I look in the mirror again. Same curls. Same tired eyes. But the girl looking back at me is stronger. Stronger than she ever thought she could be. The newer, growing version of myself will weep over the carcass left in her memory but rejoice over her newfound worth.