I played intermural soccer for a few years as a pre-teen. I can’t remember when or why I stopped— probably around when the depression set in and getting out of bed took all of my energy — there wasn’t any left to go running around a soccer field. My dad liked getting involved with that sort of thing and did some coaching for the team (which I only remember due to how often he asked if I was jealous of his ‘coach’ shirt— I was desperate for a Coach wristlet at the time and not amused). Once he told me: always rush the goal. Even if there’s no chance you’ll make it, even if the opposing team is there waiting, a wall of defense. Always rush the goal. Because you never know when someone will get distracted, an easy block will be missed, and you will be the one there ready to take the shot. That’s how I’m living my life now. Always rush the goal. When I realized there was no way my transcripts would arrive on time for my grad school application. When applying for a competitive new job that I’m not quite qualified for. Always rush the goal. I’m not living my life in fear anymore. Barriers don’t need to terrify me —they’re just the opposing team member who may just get the sun in their eyes at the exact right moment I need to score.
Once I told my mom that if we moved to a nicer house (it was a few blocks away, and for sale), that I would do better, be happier, that everything would be okay. She told me that we couldn’t afford it, and I learned that I was too poor to be happy.
We weren’t poor, but that’s not the point. Why didn’t she tell me that prettier surroundings don’t make you a different person, that wherever you go there you are? I still think about that house sometimes. I don’t know why. I still lose myself in thoughts of who I could have been.
When I think of the future, I am still trying to grasp the things I wanted then, the things I bought would make me good enough. The nice clothes, makeup, house, job, friends, hobbies. I’m still hoping that enough applications of Creme de la Mer will dissolve my skin and transform me so that I don’t have to be myself anymore, so that I can finally be someone better.
When my mother was eighteen years old she watched a friend die next to her. She was in her first semester of college. Having moved from Pittsburgh to Florida and immediately becoming involved in activist work with the Farm Workers Union, she stood on a picket line and felt herself be thrown to the ground as a truck plowed across the picket line, running over and killing the friend picketing with her.
She couldn’t stay in school after that. She took an independent study to travel with the union, but quickly stopped communicating with her advisor and never returned. I have thought often of how this shaped her as an activist, have heard stories about her work with the union and the other movements she became involved with, but I never stopped to think about how this shaped her as a mother. Who might she have been if this had never happened? Would she be consumed by the anxiety and fear I so often blame her for?
I can be the sunshine and still be the darkness. I can be the sunshine without giving up the deep river within me.
She once said to me— “some people are broken, they can never be fixed, and should just be put down.” I bristled, but my cynical side betrayed me by agreeing. I know plenty of people who are unwilling to heal.
It went unsaid that she is the best example of this. Her trauma has turned acidic in her veins. Her anger, her deep pain, informs her every breathe. She builds relationships based on manipulation, bitterness, hatred, a desperate need for control; she is truly toxic.
I wonder if she knows this about herself and that is why her opinion of these ‘broken’ people is so strong. Or perhaps that knowledge is tucked away in that deep, buried place where she hides the darkest part of her history. Not really aware at all, but enough a part of her that it fuels a desperate need to articulate these descriptions in a futile attempt to convince the world, herself, that she is separate. She is not one of them.
My entire life I have poured myself into building a happy life based on what outside voices told me this should look like, all the while ignoring the whispers of my own soul. I have always had someone to impress and something to prove. Earlier this year, I realized that I had only ever sought performative happiness without stopping to consider what actually brought me real joy. Now, I am committed to doing the real work within myself to build a life of authentic joy. I want joy that lights me up every day, that starts in my soul and moves with limitless growth.
For the past few months, I have been slowly remembering piece of myself that I left behind or denied in my commitment to the performance. Perhaps most importantly, I have remembered that I love to write. So I will write, as I continue to come up against internal blocks, as I continue to sit in the discomfort until I work through it instead of abandoning ship for the path of least resistance, as I continue to break down and rebuild myself again and again and again.
This blog is about authenticity and genuine healing. It is about letting myself be seen throughout this process. It is a work in progress that will continue to be developed and redeveloped as I go. I hope that in some small way my quest for real joy will help you to follow your own bliss.