A collage in progress (or, my life right now)

Have you ever thought of something you ate, and felt the flavors grow and almost float off your tongue, like a mist? Hmm, a baby mango dipped in shrimp paste… Trenchant, crunchy, eye-twitchingly tangy.

Do you ever get that same sensation, when you think of a period of your life?

I categorize my life into collages.

For example, I h610cb7284b9c476ef01010a1e886c005ave a mental photo album called From College Student to Working Professional.

When I recall this time, there are emotions I feel that create a collage in my head. A collage of anxiety, blind panic, and financial stress – not the most appetizing flavors of life I want to experience. I recall grappling with learning how to drive a stick shift trying to get to work, or feeling my gut crunch up every month paying off student loans. My car and my bills – the two most common images that come to mind from that phase.

In distinct contrast, when I think of the island I grew up on, it is a completely different congregation of memories. Days of equator sunshine, eating coconuts that I opened myself, and short drives to the marina to acquire freshly caught fish. Entire hours of sand underneath my bare feet and roaming the beaches like a lioness in her savannah. Clown fish and coconut trees. This album is called Childhood.

• • •

For my life right now, there is no assemblage of photos yet. I’m still snapping my camera left and right, trying to figure out which pictures to piece together to make this collage. Do I take a picture of my new bedroom, with its sheer white curtains and full closet? Do I take a picture of my mother’s I-told-you-so face as I tell her that I’m moving out of my boyfriend’s place – yet again? Do I take a picture of his face as his world comes crashing down around him?

These are the ramblings of someone caught in the present. Perhaps even the past. Whenever I think back to phases of my life that caused me stress, I have a constant verb that I always want to tell my younger and less wise self in her moments of fracas: chill

So I, the older, more hardened self looking back at these phases, will do myself a favor and document these words of experience for that time that I, the currently young and less wise self, will need them:

  • You are not expected to fix everything in one hour, one day, or even one week. Life’s most important struggles take much longer to fix.
  • You are responsible for no one else’s happiness but your own.
  • You will cry and want to do something to fix it at the same time. Never do that. Cry, cry, cry – THEN wait for these moments of anguish to pass. THEN do something.
  • NEVER tell your mother anything unless you’re sure you won’t regret it.

Of course, these are lessons learned from mistakes I’ve made. On the other hand, I want to end on the positive:

  • In a relationship where I was powerless and emotionally manipulated, I turned the tables and realized he needed me more than I needed him – and that’s powerful. That gave me back my dignity and independence, and that is worth more than all the convenient excuses I accumulated to rationalize staying with him.
  • I DID cry, cry, cry. And at the bottom of that well of tears, I found the truth.
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