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Letting Go of Past Expectations



I’ve been watching a lot of home videos recently. My older brother’s been digitizing them (a project I once agreed to work on as an attempt to distract me from a bad breakup but gave up an hour in). I sat at home the other afternoon, alone, in the family room watching these on the big screen. Footage of my brothers and me with our family friends all running around in a small condo in Ocean City before being discovered the following morning, passed out and strewn about the room like forgotten dolls.

My dad panned the camera around the room- Tyler was tossed across a couch like he’d fallen from the ceiling, Nick was tucked away under his blanket somewhere, my friend Emily was stretched out across the little raft her parents had brought, and I was lying on my back burrito-ed in a sheet on the floor. I paused it there, to look at my little sleeping self. Mouth slightly agape, bangs tousled and frizzy, my little cheeks rosy from my escalating body temperature affected by the stuffy summer air. I wanted to understand something- but what that thing is, I’m not sure. Maybe I wanted to understand the connection. That little girl on the screen in front of me seemed so foreign. When watching old videos of myself, I always expect to feel a sense of longing… no that’s not quite right… a sense of nostalgia? No not that either… I expect her to feel like a recurring dream. And yet she always feels so far off, like something I can’t identify with, like I’m watching someone else’s dream play out in front of me.


I said something in a past post that I think applies here- it seems like the world didn’t realize I existed yet. I had avoided possible traumas I faced a decade later. I was able to dodge the perils of a terrible childhood. I had incredibly loving parents who properly provided for my brothers and me both emotionally and fiscally. And when they couldn’t manage to, they kept this knowledge from us. I’ve always felt apathetic about parenthood, but seeing them in their early adulthood goofing around and flirting with each other and watching our family grow makes me excited for that stage in my life.


It’s bizarre, watching myself shift through these phases I always imagined would be the end-all-be-all. For a large portion of my life I thought I was going to pursue either art or acting. But after two very sobering breakdowns I’m beginning to take the pressures I’ve put on myself a little less seriously. It’s okay if things change, and it’s okay if I change.


I’ve decided I want to take a break from theatre and acting- for reasons I don’t care to explain here. I’ve decided I’d like to pursue and investigate a few other veins of interest in my life, a few other things that also make me feel like I’m doing something with purpose. I’ve separated myself from toxic friendships and relationships. I’ve gotten closer to my family and my parents- something I’d been neglecting to do for the past five years. Things feel like they’re finally just starting to fall into place.


So I don’t feel like I know that little girl in the home videos I’m watching. I don’t know how to connect her to who I feel I am now and who I’m moving towards being. And I don’t necessarily feel bad about that. People are always saying that cliche thing about being the same person no matter what, deep down. And yeah, I still like to dance like an idiot, I still love Anastasia and Baby Spice, and I still fantasize about drawing all over big blank walls, but I think I got to the point in my life I always looked forward to as a little girl. I had the long blonde hair and the fit Ken-doll boyfriend, I had the people whispering about me in the halls, I had the popular pretty friend in college, people started to take my artwork seriously, and I was landing roles in performances and short films. I eventually realized none of that was for me, and I think that’s really when the little girl slipped off. I set these low bars and superficial and vain expectations for myself. Once I met them, I felt like there was nowhere else to go when they didn’t bring me happiness.


I’ve been recently meeting with old friends and catching up and the initial question is always “How’ve you been?” I want to respond out of impulse “Okay I guess,” alluding to struggles and boredom and apathy. But just the other night in the local bar I actually stopped to think about my answer to this question. “I’ve been rough,” and their face immediately shifted to that oh-god-now-I-have-to-talk-to-them-about-their-problems face. But I continued, “But I’m doing really really well.” A sigh of relief. I’m good. I’m happy with my life right now. It’s by no means extraordinary, but it’s by no means dreadful. I’ve never been happier with the people in my life- good family, good friends, good coworkers. A lot of genuine love. And I feel like the professional work I’ve been doing has kind of just been falling into place as I discover and pursue these other passions. Not to say that I haven’t been putting in a ton of effort, but I don’t feel like I’m fighting against a current. I’m building sails and rudders to put up to help me follow that current.


I’m happy with my life. And I want to cry and laugh and scream and dance while writing that sentence. It’s taken me a while to feel at peace with the trajectory of my life so this is a new sensation for me. I’m exhausted from the positive work I’ve been putting in, but for once I feel that it’s simultaneously rejuvenating me. I know it’s going to change, my life will get difficult, I’ll have to play tug-of-war with my depression again, but right now I’m soaking up as much sun as I can while it’s out.


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