by: Addison Bell
They told you it would be like this. They said it was like a rollercoaster that’s full of peaks and lows. You thought of all of times your family vacationed at amusement parks and how you’d mentally make a list of your favorite rollercoasters. You remembered sitting next to one of your brothers and waiting for the ride to start. There wasn’t fear, just eager anticipation. The train would lurch up the first hill and all you could do was smile for the thing to come. There would be dares and bets as to who could hold their hands up the entire time. You always accepted dares, because you liked to believe that you were invincible. Perhaps this was your first mistake: thinking that only external things could harm you, when, really, you should have feared the thing inside of you.
At the peak, everything was visible, but you remembered the sky clearly and how it seemed like it was waiting for you. You remembered how you just wanted to be apart of it, because it seemed like the ultimate ride. You felt like a bird perched on a very tall tree. You’d pretend your arms were wings. When the train made its first fall, you’d raise them high as if you were flying. You’d hold them for the entire ride and imagine that you were in the clouds. You’d feel giddy and laugh because everything seemed possible. When you were flying, you were free. You were free.
It’s about the peaks and lows. Sometimes at night, your mother will call and depending on how your voice sounds, she will ask, “Has it been mostly lows?” But you always reply, “Oh, you know. It’s a rollercoaster.” On the bad nights before you go to bed, you lie there thinking that tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow will be like you’re on top of a very tall hill and you will stay there—you won’t fall, you won’t come crashing down.
You have accepted that some days are bad days and that sometimes most days are bad. On the bad days, your four alarm clocks go off; you silence them and return to bed. Under the covers, you tell yourself to get up and to shower and to eat breakfast. You try to convince yourself that you will leave your apartment today. But you just lie there and try to stop thinking. The only thing you want is to stay under your covers for the rest of the day.
When you look at people, you wonder if they are able to wake up easily, or if they want to spend days or weeks in bed, if their lives are like rollercoasters too. Sometimes you imagine what it would be like to be someone who makes it look so easy. You wouldn’t need four alarm clocks or to ignore mirrors. You’d be able to shower with the lights on. You wouldn’t always think about terrible things or get stomachaches from anxiety. You wouldn’t have to pretend not to care about what others think of you, or worry if your family knows that you’re going through one of your phases again. It would be easy to undress in front of someone. You think how nice it would be to not have to think of reasons as to why you should love yourself.
But there are moments. Sometimes they are brief, sometimes fleeting, sometimes prolonged. You notice how extraordinary the city looks at night, how buildings look so powerful but destructible. People on the streets hug and hold hands and kiss. They look happy and their faces look perfectly content. You sit by the lake and listen to the waves collide with one another. Someone will bring you flowers. Someone will tell you that you are beautiful. Someone will tell you that he loves you. In these moments, your chest floods with the knowing that everything will be okay. Your eyes take in everything and you understand that these things were made for you, for everyone. You know that you belong here. You believe in the flowers, the compliments, the promise of love. You cling to this feeling and you refuse to let it go.
You look at your hands and your stomach, and accept them as yours because you’re all that you have. You think about your friends and your family, about the people who let you go and the ones you let go. You understand why they love you and what that means. You understand that underneath the bad thing inside of you, you can love and will love. You realize that it’s enough.
You remember what if felt like to fly and to be free, the sky and the clouds. You remember your wings and you realize that you still have them. Remember to spread them when you’re falling.
You remember to love yourself.
You remember, remember, remember.
Addison Bell is a senior at DePaul University where he is studying English Literature. He is the President of Oxfam DePaul and volunteers with Oxfam America, an organization dedicated to ending world hunger, poverty, and social injustice. Follow Addison on Twitter @boy_1904 and on Tumblr: colourmegreenwich.tumblr.com.