And I never felt peace like that.
It was safety as I’d never known.
Oh, I knew nothing. I was sick.
And I don’t blame a thing that you did.
It doesn’t have to hurt anymore… // “The End is Beautiful” by Jimmy Eat World
I didn’t ring in the new year at a wild party or at a house full of friends. I was home, as usual, alone, surrounded by junk food, wine, and obscure foreign pop music.
That’s okay. As the clock struck midnight, I was content.
Maybe it’s silly, to be happy about one literal minute switching to the next. What difference is there between December 31st and January 1st, and any other two days of the year?
“2016 was a dumpster fire year” has become a meme. I guess it’s hated for different reasons. Celebrities died. A spray tan trash can won the presidential election. Me, I feel like I lost everything.
I blame myself for most of it. If I had chosen to stay in Charleston after I lost my SSI appeals, maybe things would have turned out differently. Maybe I would have stayed in a homeless shelter for a few weeks, but where would I be now?
A family friend opened her house to me, with the idea that we were going to spend the summer weekends doing vendor shows across the Minnesota lake country. I bought tickets to an international food festival that I had been dying to go to for literally seven years. I was looking forward to visiting old friends.
There were no vendor shows. Instead, I spent my hours off work spending money, rather than making it, compulsively ordering clothes online, half of which never made it back here. There was nothing else to do. The people I had come to consider family over the last eight years were rarely home, and when they were, I was constantly finding myself in arguments about politics, and even sillier things like “You don’t think guys who wear cowboy hats are cute? This is why YOU ARE WRONG.”
I left a fourth of July party after a man who was an uncle figure to me said he’d murder anyone who desecrated an American flag. He told he would bring a confederate flag to a prayer vigil for the victims of the Charleston church shooting. Why? “Because gay people can fly their flags wherever they want. Maybe I don’t want to see their parades stomping through my backyard.”
The boy who was my best friend in high school would tell me I was a vain hipster who only cared about fashion and impressing people because I bought name brand clothes at thrift stores. We no longer had anything in common because video games had become his only hobby. Did I change in my years away, or did they? Either way, I no longer felt like I had a place to belong, physically or emotionally. Aside from the friends I met on the internet, I was alone.
They saved me, those lines of virtual text, and yet made me hate myself. I met three friends from three different countries on Reddit, and the bond I felt for all of them was more instant than anything I had felt with anyone I’ve met in real life. Though they were all foreigners, they each had plans to visit the US, and I began to imagine all the adventures we could have. I developed quite a crush on the girl, which made me question my identity. I’ve finally come to terms with being bisexual, but it took awhile.
The friendship with two of them dissolved when they realized I was never willing to have sex with them. “That’s what you get for talking to strangers on the internet.” Yeah, I’ve heard that countless times. It still hurts.
This summer, I was diagnosed with vaginismus after an ovarian ultrasound at the hospital. Without mental and physical therapy, I will probably never be able to sleep with anyone. Even if I wanted to. It’d be too excruciatingly painful. How many more friends are going to disappear when they find out? It worries me, since most people that I’m close to are male, and “you know what guys want.”
The third friend got into my head in a more harmful way. He could be the sweetest person ever, comforting me when I woke up at 3 AM with a nightmare. (A benefit of knowing someone seven time zones away.) But then he would play with my anxiety… Telling me how he was better off killing himself, saying that if he died, I would never know, so each time we talked, it could be the last. Then he’d disappear, only to pop up a day or two later like everything was fine, and like I hadn’t been frantic, thinking I’d lose the only person who seemed to care about me.
That food festival I mentioned? The above mentioned person planned for us to facetime so I could show him all the different booths, and I was really looking forward to it. Then he disappeared. I don’t know why it affected me so deeply, but I spent the entire festival in panicked tears thinking my friend was dead. He said he had just slept all day because of something to do with a World of Warcraft raid. I doubt I’ll befriend anyone who plays that game ever again. Neither will I visit the Festival of Nations again because when I think of it, I remember how bad I felt.
2016 was lonely, and so many things no longer exist… My Christmas home, my reliable income, my small art following, people that I thought would be in my life for years, all gone.
I am more fragile now, and harder, somehow. I have learned to be satisfied, surrounded by a brick wall. My hobbies are all solo these days. Music, art, books, they can’t leave. People can.
The freeing thing about all this… I have never been more unashamedly myself. Despite what my housemate told me, I don’t care about impressing people because I have no one to impress.
This year will be one lived for myself. I’ve never felt more driven to chase after what I want. I want to help others, to see more of the world, to create more things and be acknowledged for it, to make new friends who aren’t toxic people, and most of all, to find peace.