By Alin Suarez
Discussed: death of parent & mental illness
This piece is dedicated to the past me who struggled so hard to find her place.
When I was four, my father died. I don’t remember much but I remember feeling lost because I was too young to sympathize with everyone. The only thing I did cry over was the cookie my brother ate that was meant for me to feel better about not having a dad anymore. And even after some time had passed and everyone had finally gotten over my dad dying, I knew there was no shaking the feeling of being lost.
When I was eight, my friends decided to join a dance program. Out of spite and to make myself feel better, I joined their dance program and a gymnastics program. I just wanted to be able to say, “I am better than you.” I thought it would make me feel a little less bad, but it left me feeling the same. A few years later, I joined the soccer team with them while also swimming and playing tennis. I did everything I could to be the best, and I was still left feeling empty. Because it was all just something I did to thrive off the sadness of others, and to forget about the fact that I was sorry for myself for feeling so devoid of joy.
When I was 13, my friend told me she was depressed. All I could think to say was, “Oh, wow.” I don’t think I could have been less interested in her struggles because I was obsessed with the idea that I was the one with real problems. That was the last time we really had a conversation before she threw a Chick-fil-A sandwich at me. She told me straight to my face how crappy I was and how miserable I’d become since I made it my life goal to be better than everyone else. She also thought it was worth noting how great she had been to me despite everything. Even in an argument, she bought me a Chick-fil-A sandwich. The same one she later threw at me.
When I was 15, I had to sit down and ask myself “What is wrong with you? Why must you just push people’s buttons?” It’s true that I loved getting a rise out of people and pretending that I was dripping with confidence. But mostly I just felt so so so bad about myself all the time. Not long after that, I was asked about the first event that changed my idea of normal. I ignored the question, until everything came flooding back to me. All the times I was a jerk to someone I loved, all the terrible jokes about my dad, all the anxiety of having most of my teenhood spent dwelling in my own sadness and boredom and discontent. My normal didn’t change when my dad died but my normal changed when I decided that happiness had to die with him. Happiness doesn’t die when someone dies. Happiness dies when you decide you can’t let the trauma go.
When I was four, my dad died. And from four to 15, I decided that I was dead too. I figured nobody would care, nobody would cry and most importantly, nobody would miss me. That is a shitty contrast to how well my father is remembered. How nice everyone talks about him, the respect they gave him even years after his death, the love everyone carries for the guy. I remember the good times I had with him. The vague memories of laying on a small Dora bed with him while watching Dora. The time he yelled at a nurse for telling him that chickenpox only happen once when there were clearly chickenpox on my body again. And I know he would have loved me regardless of my achievements. I know I am the last thing my mom has of him. I am the living embodiment of the love they once shared and how, to her, everything about me is love. When I was 16, I cut my hair, I dropped out of all those extracurriculars and I let myself breathe. For the first time I had to sit there and endure the agony of figuring out how to enjoy being with myself. The awkwardness and the rage slowly became happiness. I realized that when you decide to leave that cage of trauma and self-pity and arrogance, you can finally see the beauty in everything. You can finally let it go.
Alin Suarez is a class of 2020 Girls Write Now mentee based in Bronx, NY.