I didn’t know it was four years ago but, looking back, I realise now that it was. I see the point at which ‘it’ was woken from its not-entirely-harmless slumber. ‘It’ being a deeply toxic pain-in-the-ass sludge from a childhood of being told I wasn’t good enough. That’s bound to fester – and it did. A decade and a half of festering later, the tipping point came from being beaten underneath a car and fetched in an ambulance. Having your best friend and boyfriend come to your rescue is not a great end to a fun night out.
A week or so later, I went to an interview at a new agency. They loved me and I was offered the job. Several months into the role, I saw that the milk could sometimes be sour and the honey may come with the odd bee sting; I realised the man I respected was the same man I feared. After some psychological counseling (I know, so American of me, right?), it came to light that he represented the bullies I had faced for all those years back at school. So? I could leave in a blaze of drama or stay in that environment. Like a psychological cilice, I stayed…
Things have improved – and then some – but not without the scars. We have been on one hell of a journey. I alone have been on one hell of a journey. A journey that was seldom along a straight line because a) I’m not straight, and b) I was almost always drunk. Okay not that often, but whenever I wasn’t sober, I was very definitely drunk.
Then I had a car accident, got arrested and got dumped – in that order. Another night that didn’t end well at all but still, life went on. Boyfriend had bailed. Work rallied. Strong bonds were obliterated and what may have appeared to be tenuous ones were proven stronger than I had originally thought. I then spent some time investing in my soul with other souls like mine: learning, listening, recognising, admitting, feeling, hating and loving again.
Not one to get too snug in the smug – and in the grey of that transition – I bought two brand new things: a car and a puppy.
One of them changed my life.
Six months later, I was walking Finn on the grassy knolls of a place we happen to be big fans of. I stopped and looked around me. I thought about how many years I had stared at pictures of international cities with beautiful parks and people to match, and how I had imagined the lifestyles of those people and the beauty of the lives that they were living there. I wanted for it so badly. To live in a pretty city like that. To be a successful writer in a pretty city like that. And to walk my puppy in a park that belonged to a pretty city like that. In a good-minute, I felt God drench me with an ice cold slushy. She then threw her head back and laughed at me, mumbled ‘moron’ and traipsed off to take care of some really important stuff. Not being particularly religious, I wasn’t sure what to make of it all, until I was.
I was already living the life I was trying so hard to convince myself I could have, one day, someday. Silly, isn’t it? All that time, wasted. All that energy misspent. All that self loathing, all those temporary arrangements, all those castles in the sky, all those super hard-on-myself days. Ridiculous. Never mind how nasty we can be to others, no one teaches us about being kinder to ourselves. And if they did, I must have been absent on that day.
So here I am. And I like it.
© Dylan Balkind