New semester, new me — or so I tell myself. I wanted third year to be a clean slate, and that’s what I got. I haven’t even started classes yet, and this academic year has already proved to be a wild card. I thought I had tied up all my loose ends from first and second year, and that I was ready to move on to a new future with new people. A month ago, one of the most transformative and painful narrative arcs of my life tied itself up neatly after a year and a half. The situation had been stagnant for so long that I was no longer attached to the person themself, but merely the need to move forward. So I wrote to them out of the blue, which was practically our tradition at that point. They replied with a single sentence, and it flipped this switch inside my brain and made me realise they weren’t nearly as special as I’d led myself to believe.
Timing has always been a significant nemesis of mine. I blamed timing and distance for things not working out with that person, rather than realising our complete incompatibility. Timing also played a role in closing that chapter of my life.
Two significant storylines from the past year were so expertly intertwined that I never realised their parallels. I focused on storyline number one, carefully juggling the dynamite in my hands, praying it wouldn’t explode. Meanwhile storyline number two blossomed slowly beneath the surface, a steady rock to rely on. There was the occasional threat of a landslide, but I knew it would never blow up in my face.
At the same time storyline number one culminated, storyline number two finally stepped into the spotlight, after patiently waiting its turn. Without storyline number two, I wouldn’t have realised storyline number one needed to end. I don’t always know what’s good for me. I get so caught up in ideas of “meant to be” and I see what I want to see, and ignore the reality. I struggle to see what I deserve. Storyline number one ended because storyline number two showed me that I deserve better, and for the first time in my life, I believed it.
Storyline number one dealt with growth through absence, and the cruelest trick of this year is that storyline number two has mutated to teach me the same lesson. Patience was never my strong point. I am an impulsive person. All I want is to tell people exactly how I feel at the moment I feel it. I don’t know how to be subtle. I am blunt and demanding, and if I want to know something I will ask outright.
In storyline number one, I had to grow through the complete absence of communication. That isn’t an option in storyline number two. Even if it was, I wouldn’t want it to be. Instead, I have to learn how to communicate without being blunt or asking intrusive questions. I can’t lay all my cards out on the table, because as much as I suspect a certain outcome, I don’t know which other hands are being played. I have to soften my edges, to let my heart stay in my chest rather than wearing it on my sleeve. Because I am easily breakable. I am delicate, even though it’s the last thing I want to be.
I know what I want, and perhaps I know how to get it. But, as usual, it’s a matter of biding my time. I’m no longer praying for an impossible outcome. Instead I am looking at something real and tangible, and seeing how the jigsaw pieces fit together, and accepting that just because the circumstances aren’t right at the moment, it doesn’t mean things won’t be different three or four months down the line.
This year feels like a clean slate, in that the things I grew to rely on are gone. There are too many people I miss, too many ghosts haunt the halls of pubs and university buildings. But this time they are not the ghosts of closed chapters, instead they are a reminder that some things are worth holding out for. I have a clean slate, to write a new ending to the story that has played out over and over for the past twenty years. For the past two (or twenty) years, I learnt what it meant to feel unwanted and unworthy. Last month, something changed. For the first time in my life, I believed someone when they called me beautiful. I believed I deserved to be seen and loved and made to feel special. Something changed inside me.
However, it took a month for those lessons to fully sink in. I am the most oblivious person on the planet, so even if someone slapped me across the face with indisputable facts, I would still be blind to reality. It’s easy to curse myself for taking so long to figure out the true significance of particular storylines in my life. If I hadn’t been so clueless at the time, I wouldn’t be stuck in limbo right now. But maybe limbo is what I need. Time brings clarity, and time heals. I have a lot of healing left to do, perhaps I underestimated just how much. There are times when people I deeply love remind me too much of people who hurt me. It shouldn’t be that way, I should be able to distinguish between people who are good for me and people who’ll destroy me. I’m learning to trust my intuition about people, but that too takes time.
Even when I think I follow my intuition entirely, I am often ignoring it. There’s been a little voice in the back of my mind since last October, whispering suspicions of the inevitable. I ignored it for trivial reasons, told myself annoying mannerisms were dealbreakers, claimed it wasn’t even an option because I refused to fall into my least favourite trope and embody the cliche I fought so hard to disprove.
My intuition always has the last laugh. Deep down, I know what’s right for me, and I’ve known it for a lot longer than I give myself credit for. Intuition shows itself in different ways: sometimes it’s the peace you feel in someone’s company, or an inexplicable sense of jealousy, or a quiet knowing that you’re exactly where you belong.
I’ll let this year be the clean slate I strove so hard to find. I’ll work to be a better version of myself, someone who is likeable and loveable and infinitely less oblivious than her past self. I will learn to be vulnerable again, without projecting old wounds onto people I know will never hurt me. I’ll be patient, because I refuse to spend another year carving my personality into a shrine to missed opportunities. It’s time to change the narrative. I don’t want to spend my life mourning “could have been”s. A clean slate is only useful if you write on it, and I have held the chalk in my hands all along.