Most of us live for cheap thrills. Whether it’s diving into a plate of nachos or watching an action movie with our friends, it’s easy to get sucked into the allure of fun that doesn’t really matter to our lives in the long run. But at some point, cheap thrills fade away and we need to start thinking about the bigger picture.
You can’t make up for lost time or replace what is lost. Whether it be a relationship, an ambition, a skill, an opportunity or a moment in time, you’ll never get it back. The highs don’t stay high for long and the lows don’t stay low forever. The circus ropes of my childhood became the ties that bind me to my past, and the ties that would never let me go.
Many people’s idea of a good time involves getting a high without the responsibility. But, when those cheap thrills fade away, they have nothing to fall back on. They have no sense of self-worth, and they’re left with no drive or desire to do anything other than what’s easy. This is why it’s so important to set goals for yourself, and pursue them with vigor. Otherwise, you find yourself chasing down the same wanton desires endlessly without actually achieving anything in life.
I had an abusive father who dreamed of having a son. I was the only child, and he wanted a son to carry on his legacy. He wanted a son that would be tough enough to handle anything, and could take care of the family if anything were to happen. He wanted a son who loved him unconditionally and would always be there for him no matter what. But, he knew it deep down inside I would never be most of these things; although, under great trials and with many close calls, I did prove tough enough to survive. In my teenage years I started to resent him for not being my father in any way that mattered—I couldn’t call him dad because it felt wrong saying that word with someone who never loved me like one should love their own child.
Ever since I was a little girl, I saw the world symbolically and metaphorically. My dad used to always say that the good times never stay, and the cheap thrills only fade away. But was it that he was old and feared the pain of death, or was it simply that he had failed to fully appreciate the joys of life? It was likely some combination of the two, but more likely it was the latter that ate away at him most.
I had a collection of childhood diaries, now all lost or thrown away. I remember writing my first diary entry when I was 10 years old and I was so excited to finally have my own diary. I wrote about everything that happened that day and what I wanted to do in the future. I think it’s safe to say that the entries became less detailed over time as my life got busier, but they were still a huge part of me.
My diaries were filled with the typical dreams of an adolescent girl. I dreamed of meeting a beautiful princess and living happily ever after with her. I dreamed of being a famous ballerina, or a glamorous fashion designer, or the inventor of something really cool. But when it came down to it, all my girly aspirations boiled down to one simple goal: I simply wanted to be happy.
My diaries had pictures of fairies, unicorns, dolphins, and mermaids in the margins. Inside, I’d write about my crushes on girls in my school classes, or the weekend adventures I had. In my mind, I created picture-perfect maps of how my life and love would be. On paper, I was a lost girl in a lost world, who only documented and cataloged her pain, sorrows, and abuse.
On occasion, I would daydream and write about things I was fascinated by; a pattern emerged when I was around sixteen years old and decided that my true calling in life was to become a writer. I wrote of fabulous places, creating an oasis in my mind where I could stand up as who I was and at the same time, feel completely safe. My dreams were metaphysical and rooted in fantasy, and often involved a curious combination of castles and queens, dolphins, and trains.
Dolphins are a symbol of freedom, strength, and power. They represent being able to overcome any obstacle in life and finding the strength needed to keep going. I had dolphin figurines in my bedroom when I was younger, but they were much more than just something cute to put on display. I wanted them there so they could be the first thing I saw when I woke up every morning and remind me that anything is possible. Dolphins symbolize following your dreams no matter what–as long as I believed in myself and never give up, I knew that I could accomplish anything!
Freight trains represent sheer power and determination on an industrial scale. They’re big, they’re powerful, and they’re always on time. There’s a sense of immediacy about their arrival, something almost primal. You can feel it in the air as the train rumbles into town, hear it in the clatter of its wheels against the track as it slows to make its stop at the station. It is this strength that compels so many of us to maintain a lifelong interest in this mode of transportation.
The ocean is a constant source of life. It moves, it breathes, it gives and takes with the changing of the tides. Yet the ocean in my dreams, half awake, though half asleep, blessed me with its seemingly limitless bounty of ideas.
In my head, I can see the waves of thoughts crashing into me as if I were a ship at sea. I feel like a woman caught in the middle of a storm, but with no way to get out. There are thoughts of failure, death, past memories that torment me, and more. It’s as if all of my worries about the future came to life and engulfed me in their madness.
In some strange way, I wished for the ocean to cover over me, to wash away this incessant ache and make me feel clean again. I wished it could bury me in the sand and let me rest. I could pretend that I was finally at peace, my body free from the heavy weight of my head and heart. But all I did was curl up tighter and sob more heavily, letting the tears flow freely down my cheeks. There were no easy solutions for the hole inside of me, no salve for these wounds that would never heal.
I got my first tattoo—a dolphin on my left ankle, the summer after I graduated from high school. I still remember the feeling of sitting in that tattoo artist’s chair, and looking down at my ankle while she was working. It was such an exhilarating experience to know that this marked me as being different than other people who didn’t have any tattoos. But I also felt a sense of accomplishment when it was finished because now I had something special that only belonged to me—one more way to show off my personality through an image or pattern which is indelibly etched into my skin forever. I had found myself and knew exactly what type of person I wanted to be. And not just for others, but for myself as well.
As time went on, I marked my time around work, ignoring dates, holidays, fate or wisdom. I clocked in and out, keeping my head down and my feet moving. I foolishly believed that if I worked hard enough, they would always need me, and would want to keep me around. And if that didn’t work, there was always a new door waiting for me to open, and make my way through. There were never any guarantees beyond the day that lay ahead of me. Eventually, my troubles caught up to me, and I realized this wasn’t the life I wanted anymore. Only through the good karma of my tireless efforts helping others did I finally save up enough to buy a house flat out in Vermont and meet my wife Amelia almost completely out of nowhere.
I wrote When Is It Time To Let Go in 2016, and it’s time to revisit the topic again. Letting go is one of the hardest things we can do in life, but it’s also one of the most necessary parts of growing up.
When we’re kids, our parents are all-powerful and we are taught to believe that they know everything. As adults, we begin to realize that there are many things that they truly don’t know and cannot control—some of which have a very definite impact on our lives. We learn how to take care of ourselves, making decisions and figuring out who we want to be without their help. It’s natural for us to still want them around when we’re making these changes, but it becomes easier with time as you find yourself becoming more independent than before.
An old friend recently called me and tried to tell me how I should feel. I don’t know what they expected, exactly. Was it simply their intent for nothing more than, to hear that these past few years, I had been living in blissful joy? I told them that that the good times never stay. Sometimes our experiences make us better people; other times, it makes us difficult.
I told this person that I had been rejected by the group and wouldn’t return. It was true. When you do everything for others and expect nothing in return, you’re essentially pouring the essence of your being into a void. You may be able to maintain the illusion for a while, but eventually that energy will dissipate. You need to let go of any expectations of reciprocity, and just do things for the sake of doing them. When you do this there’s no expectation for anything in return and it becomes much easier to give without feeling depleted or disappointed. It’s not about what you get back; it’s about what you put out there.
I’ve learned a lot from my experiences, but sometimes people fail to learn from the experiences they live through themselves. Some people need someone else’s account of pain and struggle, or hardship to feel like their own is worth something, almost as if they are seeking external validation from a third party.
I’ve learned by mistake that the memories one make can’t be undone. Sometimes, people aren’t whom you once believed or hoped them to be. You get what you want when it’s not yours to keep, and in return, you’re left with nothing but empty promises. Everything I wanted when I was younger ended up driving me away, and for a long time in my life, I was lost.
I came back, only to feel left out, like two ships that pass in the night.
I came back, to see what it was like to be an outsider again. To see if it would hurt any less this time around.
I came back, to feel the ache of pseudo-inclusion that I never felt fulfilled, and to try and find the root of why I always felt incomplete.
I came back because these people who claimed to be my friends when they asked me to give them another chance.
The last time I returned, they said I needed to come so that they could get to know me again, as they knew themselves now. To see if there was still something worth salvaging, I returned, if only for a day. It’s a bittersweet feeling when you come back; one moment I was the new kid on the block looking for somewhere where I could fit in, and then suddenly realizing that not much has changed at all, and that I had changed far too much.
It seems that I had grown up since last time I was there, more confident and successful than before, as things had finally started coming together for me. Yet, I still can’t help but look at those old friendships with longing: wishing that maybe it would all just go back to how it used to be; before everyone got older and wiser and moved on from each other without so much as a goodbye.
The images used in this piece were taken of me around age eight. The first was taken when I was at Disney Land in California, the last was taken of me at Bleecker Playground in New York City.
When Is It Time To Let Go | The Art Of Saying Goodbye | Star Gazing | The Story Of My Life, And Other Ramblings | Chasing Cars | A Little Ghost For The Offering | What Writing Has Taught Me About Life | I Have So Many Thoughts, But Have Lost My Breath To Say The Words I Need To Speak | Only The Moon Understands The Beauty Of Love | Summer Camp And The Rites Of Passage | Nearly 4 AM | I Chose To Walk Barefoot Through The Settled Stardust | Reading Maps