by: Addison Bell
I haven’t learned to appreciate the small things. Colors. A kiss. The melting of a sunset. The pause in a song. Stars, how they are everywhere. I can gaze at them and wonder who else is filled with awe, or was. How many others are looking at them while I am. When I was little, my mom redecorated my room. It was a birthday surprise. My lampshade had a yellow moon on it; the comforter was a galaxy print; the ceiling was painted a dark blue, and plastic glow-in-the-dark stars glued to it. At the reveal, my grandpa closed the door and turned off the lights, and my room turned into the night sky. We stood, taking it in, and hearing each other breathe. I haven’t learned how to breathe like I did then.
I haven’t learned that there is such a thing as too much hummus. I haven’t learned about the importance of flossing daily. I haven’t learned that nothing good comes out of tequila. I haven’t learned to count my drinks.
I’ll never be able to whistle like Andrew Bird. Freddy Mercury is dead. Sad songs don’t make me happy. People would rather see the movie than read the book. No one cares if you go to the theatre by yourself. It’s okay to sleep until two afternoon. The Honey Badger doesn’t give a shit.
I haven’t learned that you can’t change the past. There are some memories that you can’t forget, no matter how much you want to erase them. That constantly remembering can lead to regret. Sometimes when I’m home, I drive past my childhood home and I’ll remember the last meal I had with my mom and brother before I left for college; proms and graduations; the time a squirrel came down the chimney and caused my brother and I to barricade ourselves in his room; when my dog died; shaving my head in the bathroom because I was an idiot and got dreadlocks that looked like burnt Cheetos. But when I think about those memories, I’m filled with a bitter longing. The past is tempting, because you want to remember the good things—the good things only—but you cannot have good without bad. For every laugh, there is a cry.
I haven’t learned that home is not a physical place—it’s a state of being.
I’ll drive past my grade school and my high school, which are a block apart from each other, and I’ll wonder what things would have been like if I had been myself, instead of being who I thought everyone wanted me to be. What would have happened if I had not of tried so hard to be perfect. All of the lives I could have lived. I haven’t learned that nothing good comes out of what-ifs.
I haven’t learned to forgive.
I haven’t learned how to stop thinking about things I should not be thinking about. That perfection comes at a very painful price. You shouldn’t be afraid of everyone. People view me very differently than I view myself.
I haven’t learned that the people I’ve lost will not return. No matter how much I miss someone, they won’t come back. That it’s pointless to want nothing more than a lost person to be there with me. But I haven’t learned that some people will stay if you want them too. When you love someone, that feeling never really goes away. The heart never completely heals.
I haven’t learned how to throw away clothes, essays, CDs from my adolescence, movies that I never watch, pictures that remind me of bad things. I haven’t learned how to let people borrow my books without being terrified that they’ll misplace them, or worse, rip the cover or bend a page.
I haven’t learned that it’s okay to be sad. Sometimes sadness has no reason behind it, it’s just there like a freckle or a bruise or a scar. That complete happiness is not to be had in this lifetime. Trying to achieve it is like watching a flower never fully bloom, but there is even beauty to be had in that. You can spend your entire life trying to figure out what it even is that makes you happy when it could be right in front of you. I haven’t learned how not to let sadness push people away. That it’s not me.
I haven’t learned that not everyone sees what I see. Most people are good at heart, but some aren’t even aware that they possess the organ. I haven’t learned what to do with the anger that clouds mine.
I haven’t learned to live without shame.
I haven’t learned who I am, yet.
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.