Who was I before?
I have memories of myself sliding across a polished hardwood floor in wooden flats. This was a discovery, because before then I had thought that flat shoes did not slide on floors. How long ago was that? Less than a decade?
I was working at a salon as a receptionist, and I was awful at it. I understood the mechanics of what I was to do and executed them accurately, but I could not find the heart. Between customers I would open a shallow drawer and sneak bits of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Cat’s Cradle. Reading helped close the gap of my confusion surrounding the salon staff and those they labored over, but ultimately left me feeling disoriented and alien. There were many other things going on. I was in a bizarre and ordinary tumultuous relationship with a boy I met in an algebra refresher course at community college. When I thought about him, I thought about all of the people I could be, not because he was extraordinary, but because I was so young. I was unsure of who I wanted to be, but felt the light brush of possibility surrounding me throughout the day when I would least expect it.
He was in a band, and I had never dated a musician. My best friend at the time and I had been going to small venue shows here and there as a way to get out and kill time without spending much money. I had dreams of being an insider and sometimes this boy was heartbreakingly vulnerable. More often (i.e., the vast majority of the time), he was self-absorbed, self-congratulatory, and so unabashedly self-conscious as to be grating. Also, he lied to and about me. Constantly. I let this boy be embarrassed of me until I was embarrassed of me.
This is one of the people I could be, and so this is part of who I was before. But only a very small part.
Each time I move, I look into the same boxes before resealing them and wedging them somewhere out of sight. These boxes hold the memories my head can’t. Photos. Stickers. Notes. Figurines. Kindergarten pottery. Journals. It goes on and on. I can’t bring myself to throw them out. It comforts me to know that they’re there. Just thinking about them brings pain.
The first time I packed the boxes was the first time I moved out. There was more space in them then, and they were less. I newspaper-wrapped and bubble-wrapped and bound note cards in plastic bags. Each time I moved, I gained boxes until I had to consolidate them and then consolidate again. I stopped wrapping anything, stopped fearing mold or water damage or cracks and breaks. Most recently I willed high school/middle school/grammar school papers into the boxes until they looked close to bursting. Before I pushed them into the box and away I looked at some poetry I’d written sophomore year for A.P. English, and I felt so sad. They howled with the confusion of a transracial adoptee. They collapsed under the anger at the powerlessness of a child. They reminded me that:
this aloneness is something I have carried inside of me so long that it finally feels like me and doubles back until it has built up into a companion surprising me with its substantial satisfaction when no one is around. The smiles I smile when there is no one to see are part of me, and I revel in the knowledge that as I get older they will only multiply, becoming a greater part of what makes up me.
This summer, I am: always cooking; always baking; always cleaning; always storing; always folding all of things we have to fold into rectangles so that they are discernable only by the type of fabric from which they are made. I am fraying at the edges. If I were a napkin or a towel I would hold myself up and make a face while I decided if I were still a towel or a napkin or if I had changed into a rag. I transform our things and our apartment with my mind and my hands.
Now that this process is narrowing, now that things in our home have homes, I sense that there is another move waiting to be made. Organizing the apartment, cooking the food, watering the plants has tuned me to some strange frequency that, I think, is my life. I lean in to whatever it is I’m doing throughout the day and I can sense beyond what is going on. I get the feeling more frequently now that there will be an opportunity folded rectangularly into a leap of faith.
Until then I am practicing having faith. Until then I am working to see the strength it takes to transform things as strength. Until then I am realizing that power is also the power necessary to change and manufacture ideas that become real things under enough care and consideration.
Who was I before? contained within who it is I will be