It would not be fair to say that I hated my teenage years; but when I look back at that decade it is shrouded in pain.
I imagine that I’ll have to clear that fog before I arrive at anything true.
Where to start? At the beginning? At the greatest pain? At the simplest?
It occurs to me that I never realized this before. That my years from 10-20 held so much agony.
Once I wrote a piece cataloging my life’s losses, but I never zeroed into this particular decade as being the weight bearer.
At 10, my mother began drinking, and I don’t need to tell you the pain of that trajectory for a child. Shortly after, I lost my best friend, my cat, Licorice, and I went a bit mad, crawling into people’s backyards to find her, bringing home strays with scratched arms. A child from my classroom lost his entire family that year, to a fire, only he and his grandmother survived. He was thrown from the window by his brother who returned to rescue his sisters and his parents. Just the thought of it again and I can’t breathe.
At 11, we left our home and our friends and our life in Colorado for New York. We cried as we drove out of our neighborhood for the last time. I cried outside my best friend’s window that night before, moaning her name. My mother left when we arrived at West Point, taking the youngest two with her. When she returned she was sober and I turned 12. My heart still burns with her absence and the uncertainty of what would unfold.
At 13 and a half, to the day, I got my first period. Alone. In the tiny bathroom off of the kitchen. I stuck toilet paper in my underwear, even at summer camp, even when swimming, because I didn’t know what to do.
At 14, the woman I loved most in the world, who I adored, was killed in a fiery car accident that took her 2 best friends too, just a week before I was to move home, to live near her again. I never trusted life again after that. I turned my back on God. I snuck beer at summer camp. I had no idea how to reach out of my pain. I didn’t cry again for the remainder of my teenage years.
At 15, I fell in love. Or maybe I fell in love with being loved again. But his love was confusing. Consuming. Jealous. Demanding. At times humiliating, and I didn’t know how to find myself within it.
At 16, I was pregnant, twice. Shame spread throughout my cells and took residence there.
At 17, I graduated highschool and left for college and returned home to my family falling part.
By 18, I had an ulcer.
Approaching 19, on the day our family dog was hit by a car, in the summer my parents’ marriage imploded, I began writing.
And perhaps, that, was the greatest gift of an entire decade of loss.