There are two kinds of memories: One you quickly forget, and the other lives in your head forever. The forever memories are the ones that transport you to the past. For better or worse, these memories are eternal. Nearly five years ago, I walked into my parents' house after a day of teaching kids, attending graduate school classes and completing group projects. Carrying what felt like 100 pounds on my shoulders was nothing compared to my daily responsibilities, the stresses of commuting an hour each day, and even the weight of my eyelids; and I couldn't wait to collapse in bed just to do it all over again the next day. That wouldn't be the case that idle night in July, and so it goes that he who rejects change is the architect of decay.
My mom said, "I'm moving out," in the same casual voice I use to order my 7am coffee. I must have blacked out because the only thing I remember from that night is slamming a door and suddenly I'm 15 again: frustrated, emotional and dramatic.
From my perspective, the next two years didn't make sense. My dad started dating someone that looked like my mom, broke it off, and eventually remarried my now stepmother. My mom started dating a vagabond, eventually finding a genuinely good person. I. Couldn't. Handle. It. I couldn't process the fact that my nuclear family was flipped upside down. To top it off, my brother didn't seem bothered by any of it, and neither did my extended family. My friends were incredibly supportive and did their best, but I often felt misunderstood. There was no way for me to convey how I felt, and even with their best advice, pep-talk texts and sobbing over wine, I couldn't work through it. Little did I know that my parents' divorce was also the catalyst of a personal divorce from my outdated behaviors and thought patterns.
I went into emotional hibernation for three years. While in my cave of healing I learned how to forgive everything. I also learned how to let go of my fear of being alone. For the first time in my life, I was very alone -- emotionally. I had no choice but to heal myself from within, starting one callous layer at a time until I was raw all of the time and eventually healed with faint scars on thicker skin. Along the way I damaged some friendships, dated a criminal, almost moved abroad, and neglected my work and life responsibilities -- including my health. But I really needed this. It was cleansing and freeing to just be alone with my problems.
Eventually, I came out of hiding. I was cautious but open. I was timid but willing. Everything in my life completely turned around. My friendships became solid and ones made of sand faded away. I started dating regular people and eventually my boyfriend who I share a home with in Hoboken. I started making rational decisions rather than being impulsive. I basically cleaned up my act.
About a month ago, I was alone again for the first time in quite a while. I was exhausted from the workweek and needed a night by myself to recharge. As I was preparing for bed, I stopped to notice the pictures framed in our bookshelf. Pictures of friends and family take up most of our wall space. In that moment, I cried. I cried because I had accumulated such wonderful people in my life. I finally realized I was never really alone at all.