Sometimes it feels like a weighted blanket that is consistent in dispersing an uncomfortable weight across the back of your neck, across your shoulders. A subtle reminder that it is there, and that no one else will ever see or feel it quite like you do. Other times it is like a straitjacket around your body and a sledgehammer to your throat. You cannot move. You cannot do anything at all, because your every movement needs a coherent thought to come to life…and none of your thoughts feel like they are your’s anymore. 

High school was hell. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. To begin with, I was never like my peers. I liked black. I liked music that screamed. I liked people who pushed limits and scared the living shit out of the cheerleaders, the jocks, the absentminded assholes who sneered at me when I chose to work alone on projects. People who used to be my friends started calling me “the emo” in passing in the hall… Because they smiled and laughed I don’t think I fully allowed myself to feel the sting of their words… They seemed amused and happy by it, they didn’t say it with anger, so I didn’t allow myself to realize that I wasn’t okay with it. I remember when the football players would watch me as I sat alone in the library, writing on my laptop. I could feel their stares, see their heads continually move as they whispered, but I kept my headphones in. It was my shield. I listened to the men who got me through high school – at times feeling like my only friends – and I blocked them out. When one of them spoke with a smirk, through giggles ‘Rachel, will you be my valentine?’ followed by a chorus of other giggles, I remember saying no and plugging my headphones back in. And then the wave of heat came over me, traveled to my face and plummeted me into this feeling of confusion. Did he actually like me? Was he mocking me? Why were they so fucking entertained by it?

This isolation encouraged my art. I found peace in the stories I worked on while being mocked by others. I found happiness and release in the vibrations of the bass guitar through the walls of the house. I felt a smile come to me as I played every breakdown with precision and proved to myself, and maybe others too, that I was more like the artistic musicians I idolized, than the shithead popular people who found so much entertainment in keeping me isolated. 

Naturally, I gravitated towards the classes in college that spoke about the mind. Philosophy and psychology were something that I wished I had more exposure to in high school, because they may have alleviated some of the ache that I carried with me every day in the halls. It started as a deep need to understand the chaos that I felt in my mind. I wanted to know why I feel sadness wash over my like a cloud drifting in front of the sunshine. I wanted to know why I couldn’t remember the last time I smiled, and I wanted to know why I started to hate seeing other people smile.

I learned that there was nothing wrong with me. In conversation with others in my classes I learned that most people have a passion for school and maybe one other thing… I learned that there are a few people like me who reach out to writing, music, reading, and then thrive. Those are my people. The creative. The outcasted and misunderstood. As I told others about my passions and hobbies in the icebreaker first-day-of-class activities to meet my fellow psychology students, it quickly became clear that all that people had mocked me for before was a strength now. While others claimed to enjoy school, there were a few (including a guy I dated for a time), who had nothing else outside of school. I watched them stare blankly, honestly troubled by the fact that their lives revolved around school and their 4.0 GPA is where it stopped…. I started to feel pride in my art. I may not get a 4.0 GPA, but I am knowledgeable about what I have a passion for. I may not get an A+ on the textbook exam, but I know how to be compassionate and listen to you, to understand the human being behind the pain on the outside. I may not have the best grades, but I have a depth of other talents to share with the world and I am far from done yet. My music. My fiction. My compassion for others… This is all the start.

I’ve transformed that darkness into something new.



Daily Prompt Response

I am an island.

I remember when he told me I was cold-hearted. A prude. I just want to know what you’re thinking is all. He added “is all”, every time he was about to say something insensitive, every time he was about to be an asshole. As if the ‘is all’ helped lighten the blow.

I wanted to change for him, I really did. I wanted to be the girl that was open. The girl who wore her heart on her sleeve and cried when she was happy – but I wasn’t happy. Being with him was exhausting. It was painful. It was draining. To come away from my natural tendency to isolate, to spend hours alone completely content, to spend most of my free time with him because he was afraid to be alone with his mind… I felt myself dying, and I knew that was not what love was supposed to feel like. Though I know I loved him, I remember that feeling. For a split second I wanted to be with him forever – but not without my island.

I was afraid to take a step from the shore, to merge two lives together forever. That word sent chills down my spine. I didn’t realize it then, when he told me I confused him, when he told me I was cold-hearted. A prude because I wouldn’t have sex with him. But I know it now. Forever with him would have been like water consistently eroding all that I had built for myself. He was abrasive. He wanted more and more time, he wanted me to fill holes that existed in him. As I worked to be that person for him, I felt chunks of my own self falling away. This is not love. Love is not cutting away at yourself to patch up someone else from the very beginning. Love is a mutual feeling of being alive, not feeling like there is a leech on your back.

When I told him I loved him, he told me it was the best day of his life.

When I told him I wanted to end things, because being with him was painful, he said it was the worst day of his life.

I am an island.

I haven’t felt as secure as I do on my island. I know who I am and what I want in this life. I know that I love helping others, and compassion and kindness is what I want to give. I know that I am capable of being warm and open, because I have felt safer with others. I have been able to tell my friends I love them, I have been able to form friendships with people who inspire me. I threw myself into my school work after the break up. I threw, and continue to throw, myself into my art. I signed up to volunteer as a rape crisis victim’s advocate. I’ve seen the Dalai Lama speak. I’ve gotten into psychology honor societies and visited my dream graduate school. And guess what? My island is not so lonely. I am whole. I feel so alive. I have felt rushes of happiness and a freedom that never washed over me in his presence. I am continually told that I am kind, I am compassionate. In the midst of a gossip ridden retail job, I have been told that I am “real”. I am honest, when some around me live with two faces on, I do not.

I am an island.

And I know now that there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t struggle to be warm, I struggle to be warm to the wrong people. I feel like there is someone watching out for me, because there have always been people that I have never been able to open up to, no matter how badly I wanted to open up, my heart would not fully let them in. Always in retrospect, I have seen that I have only ever been right. There are reasons certain people don’t find their ways into my heart, while others do. Those who have joined me on my island, through music and art, writing and the like, have found permanent places in my heart. They have yet to hurt me. They have yet to feel like leeches on my skin. And I love those people. Together, we will always create great music and stories and inspire each other.

I will always keep them close.