Approaching 20: Things I’ve Learned And Things I’m Learning

The heart will protect itself, putting up walls to repel emotion and sincerity. But time will pass and the dam will weaken and when the water breaks through, the heart may not recognize certain emotions anymore. Learning to retrain veins to let familiarity step down from reign feels like learning a new tongue, humming in languages long since forgotten. Re-introductions with affection, admiration, and aspiration. Redefining sanctuary, security, and softness. Emotional monolingualism is paralyzingly comfortable–let yourself learn to speak again.

There’s a large difference between knowing something and learning from something.

There is a certain strength in fragility. In full openness and vulnerability, there is no fear of walls to be broken; there is only skin bared to open air. Fragility allows light to be let in, allows the sun and autumn air to soften summer’s roughed edges of wounded bones. There is no healing without fragility, and therefore no movement, no progression, no life.

It’s okay to look in the mirror and stare. Stare harder. Each time I look back in, I don’t recognize a new fraction. Our bodies are continuously changing and shifting faster than we can learn to digest them, so consume quickly. Consume fully. Taste your fading freckles and chew your newly visible veins. Memorize the taste of your tongue because the next bite you take will taste anew.

I don’t have to love every inch of myself. I can hate my hips and love the way the skin wrapped around them feels like satin. I hold the odd grey-green of my eyes with genuine  appreciation but their asymmetry flips my stomach in on itself. I don’t think self love has to be holistic to be valid and real; it comes in bite sized fractions, easier to digest than a daunting 5-course extravagance. To preach that self love’s validity rests only in holistic acceptance is to do an emotionally criminal injustice to yourself.

I am worth more than half-love and “sometimes”.

But, if “sometimes” is all I can handle, that’s okay.

While time heals, it also numbs. There are things for which I’ve never gotten closure that I am now not fazed by, despite the fact I should be crippled by the thought thereof. Maybe that comes with the chaos of things, with new thoughts continuously demanding fullhearted attention and energy. I only have so much heart to give and I choose to give it forward–what use is it in the past?

It’s naive to say I ‘know myself’–the second I do so, I shift. I think I live in a constant state of unknowing myself, half of the validity of who I am resting in my lack of self awareness.

A person is the sum of the five people they spend most of their time with, whether consciously or not. I find fractions of the people I love dearly in my speech, my posture, my patterns. These people feel like sunshine after years of shadows. I am incredibly lucky to be a part of their lives and honored they want to be a part of mine.

There are people meant to stay in your life for a moment and people meant to stay for several. Though the line is often blurred and lenses fogged, it’s never been malleable. You can try and try and try until your voice is weary and hands bleeding, but you can’t force someone to stay when they’re permanently walking further–with each step of theirs, your voice grows softer and more distant in their ears, only ringing and rattling yours dry. Your screams for the lost will only encourage those who’ve stayed to leave, too. Cherish those around you while you have them.

Learn the love languages of those you love.

It’s fine to ask for advice and go in the opposite direction–it seems that’s actually all I do. I hold great value in the opinions and perspectives of those around me but I ultimately know what I want, what I need. Though it’s (quite often) not what’s best for me in the moment, it shows necessary for the long run. Better to set the bone than to leave it healing crooked.

My heart needs healing, needs closure, needs stitches in open wounds. It needs answers, apologies, acceptance. My cardiac wounds won’t heal themselves until I first expand and disinfect, and I’m learning to understand that. I’m learning the line between self care and self exploitation, between my best interest and doing more for others than they deserve. I speak a language of soft heartedness and and there is brave strength in that.

Growing never stops. I’ll still be learning and rearranging myself at 92, finding new self habits and internal rhythms. There will never be a point where I’ve peaked, where I’ve reached the epitome of humanness. We shift in time with breath and air, so to assume time is willing to stop for us is nothing but arrogant naivety. Embrace the growth and bloom in seasons.

There is strength in knowing my own truth and accepting I am the only one who will ever know it’s entirety. I can rearrange the same 26 letters again and again but no combination thereof will ever come close to truth, to inexplicable accuracy in the depiction thereof. While there is value and honor in communication and the art of it, interpretation will never rest the same as intention.

I turn 20 tomorrow, but I feel simultaneously 13 and 32. The fact that I’m as far distanced from being 30 as I am from being 10 is wild.

Also, I really love coconut, frozen grapes, and chickpeas.




Photo taken by Johanna Ayala

instagram: @johanna_ayala__ 

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