You will choose self-preservation over self-destruction. Over and over and over again.
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You will have your heart hammer-smashed into a million little pieces.
You will feel as if you’ve had a rib removed.
You will miss your old life so deeply you will feel it in your teeth.
You will get so lonely you’ll be convinced you’re going to die from the loneliness.
You will survive.
You will cry so hard your face will change. It will swell like the feet of a pregnant woman. One evening you’ll trudge into your favorite bar on Christopher Street and a well-meaning (but clueless) acquaintance will marvel at your transformation, her voice an old-school Brooklyn squawk: “WOW, Zara! Your face looks so much fuller.” You’ll find yourself thanking her not because you mean it—but because you’re in a very strange place in your life. On the taxi ride home at two a.m. you’ll find yourself seething: “Let’s see how full your face gets after you get your heart ripped out of your chest. Bitch.”
You’ll sleep on the couch because the bed feels too empty.
You’ll come to realize that so many things you were convinced belonged to you—were never really yours, to begin with. This epiphany will sting. Then it will pierce. Then it will stab. The stabbing sensation will make you so mad steam will billow out of your ears like cigarette smoke. The anger will feel wrong. At first. But she’ll be so insistent on hanging around your front porch, that at some point you’ll give in and invite her inside. You’ll open up a bottle of sauvignon blanc. Pour two glasses. The two of you will cozy up on the couch together, drinking and talking shit for hours and hours and hours. (Turns out you both hate the same exact people).
The next morning she (Anger) won’t feel wrong in the slightest.
She’ll feel oh so right. She’s on my side, you’ll realize.
Anger will serve as the fuel that drives you back home to yourself.
You'll become privy to the life-changing magic of unadulterated rage.
You’ll be invited to an industry event. It will be your first industry event you’re set to attend alone for the first time in almost a decade. You won’t want to go. But you’ll go anyway. It will royally suck. You’ll swish back a bathtub of champagne hoping to quell the hellacious pain of twisting your lips around menial small talk while bombs crash into your heart. The champagne glass will shatter inside of your mouth. Tiny shards of glass will get caught inside of your throat. They will be made up of all the things you’ve swallowed over the years.
You’ll tip-toe into the bathroom and listen to the girl in the next stall sniff discreet little bumps of toxic white powder. We’re all trying our best, you’ll think, spitting into the sink. The sniffing will subside and you’ll hear the sound of heels clinking against cracked tile. The door will swing open and then swiftly slam shut. You’ll be all alone with your thoughts again.
You’ll leave the party without saying goodbye. You’ll take a very expensive taxi ride back to Brooklyn where you’ll gaze through hand-smeared windows at your city flying past your eyes, faster than the speed of sound. Each neighborhood; a blurry photograph unearthed from the soil of your past. You’ll realize how deep these roots are. You’ll crack open the window. Gracelessly stick your hand outside of it. You will try very hard to clasp onto the scenes you miss the most. You won’t move fast enough, your life will slip through your fingers.
You’ll go home empty-handed but completely free.
The freedom will be similar to frozen yogurt—in that it won’t taste as good you’d imagined it would taste. It will taste sweet, in an artificial way. The kind of way that only makes you hungrier for what your body actually craves: love.
Later that night you’ll realize that you’ve been accepted in most of the spaces you’ve moved through. But rarely have you ever belonged. You’ll long to belong. The wanting will be so heavy you’ll fear you’ll be crushed like a bug beneath the colossal weight of desire. You will not get crushed like a bug; you will just ache like a woman.
You’ll be tempted to press the rewind button. But somehow you’ll manage to not crawl back to the places in which you don’t belong—even if they seduce you from a distance with their social acceptance and safe familiarity.
Staying away from these rooms—these rooms that accepted you but refused to know you—will be uncomfortable. But discomfort doesn’t kill you, no matter how excruciating she feels. But *that* you already knew.
In one swoop two blond superstars will leave Planet Earth.
You’ll feel neglected by the glitter girls and their screaming indifference.
Panic will rise like bile in your throat. Your spit will get as thick as molasses.
You’ll question yourself and your ability to stuff the hurt down.
You’ll spiral into a rabbit hole of self-doubt.
Have I lost my f*cking sparkle? You’ll wonder aloud to your dog. He will look at you blankly. You will take this personally because—as I mentioned before—you’re in a bizarre season of your thirties.
You will hurl up the hurt. It will stain the carpet. It will be such a violent retching of hurt, you’ll suspect you’ll hurt yourself.
You won’t hurt yourself.
You’ll call your mom.
You’ll choose self-preservation over self-destruction. Over and over and over again.
It will be harder than you think. But hard things can’t kill us. And with enough repetition and daily practice, the hard things will get easier.
“What am I doing here?” You’ll ask yourself on a particularly bad night. You’ll listen closely, anxious for an answer. The answer won’t come. The anxiety will stay.
You’ll do what you do best: you’ll book a flight to Florida.
The shame of moving back home with your parents won’t be as consuming as you’d expected. It will look and feel a lot like waves crashing against the shore; big deadly swells that quickly transform into bubbles of seafoam; dissolving into briny nothingness against stretches of sand. You’ll start to understand what mother nature has known all along: everything is temporary. Especially feelings. Especially shame.
Speaking of the shame game: You’ll listen to the same Nine Inch Nails album in the same bedroom that housed you as a teen girl. The same bedroom where you lost your virginity to a pillhead with baby blonde hair and a vacant opioid stare. The same bedroom where you dreamt of being an actress. The same bedroom where you stashed a paperback of lesbian erotica beneath the mattress. It was called “Faster Pussycats” and had a Pepto Bismal colored cover full of swaggy women gazing hungrily into the camera lens, cigarettes cooly dangling out of pursed sex-parched lips, thick needled tattoos displayed on exposed biceps, faded denim slung obscenely low on hipbones so sharp they could kill a man. The same bedroom where you’d wish upon broken glowsticks, displaced after the rave, pretending they were shooting stars blinking through an opaque black sky. The same bedroom where you first learned to lie. Learned to get high. Learned the art of choking down a cry. You’ll stew in the same satin sheets that still after all these years are soiled in sex, pockmarked with angst, alive with dangerous curiosity—and you will remember what it all felt like: The poems; the pain; the harrowing cocaine comedowns; the electricity of new friendships; the tortured passion; the never-ending piles of undone homework; the art; the fashion.
You’ll skinny dip in your parent's pool and remember who the fuck you are. You’ll squint into the holographic moon and sixteen-year-old you will tell you she’s proud you’ve made it this far.
You’ll rethink your whole life. That’s the beauty of having your world flipped upside down. You have the freedom of looking at the big picture from a whole new angle. You’ll question things like the direction of your career and what it means to be a good friend and what it means to be a good partner, a good lover, a good person, a mother.
In the daytime, you’ll teem with so many ideas you’ll be afraid you’ll combust. You won’t. They’ll just spill from the tips of your fingers and land where they’ve always landed: into the static screen. By which I mean—your laptop. By which I really mean—your magic machine. By which I really, really mean—your best friend, your closest confidant, your guardian angel.
In the nighttime, your creativity will be squashed by a monster named Resentment. Resentment will behave like a selfish man-spreader on the subway. Legs stretched open wide, exhausting all the space so that everyone deserving and kind has no room to sit.
You will know Resentment is poisoning you, slowly. You’ll take many stabs at detoxing your body from his wicked venom. You’ll run for miles in the humidity, hoping to sweat him out. You’ll draw him on a blank canvas, hoping the creative expression will cleanse you of his repression. You’ll podcast for hours on end, hoping your voice will be strong enough to beat him into submission. You’ll try so hard to purge yourself of the poison.
After all, you don’t want to die. Not like this.
The monster will remain unphased. You’ll get tired of trying to kick him out of your house. You’ll learn how to live in the presence of Resentment. You will learn that while he’s not necessarily good for you—Resentment will not kill you. You will learn that just because something isn’t good for you—doesn’t mean it will kill you. You will learn how to live unhealthily. This will teach you one of the greatest lessons of all: you’re not nearly as fragile as you think. In fact—you’re a strong-ass bitch. You're a resilient-ass bitch. This epiphany will make you smile.
People will surprise you. For better and for worse. People will come out of the woodwork. For better and for worse. New people will appear out of thin air. But only for the better.
In fact, you’ll somehow, someday, start to feel better. The realization that you are in fact healing, will come in the form of tiny, seemingly in-significant firsts—that first run you took, where you pressed your hand to your cheek—only to find it was bone dry—you’d made it seven whole miles without needing to cry. The first night you slept all the way through and in the morning you woke up without having to fight the bad feeling. The night you drank two glasses of wine instead of three. The weekend you stayed up late and laughed with a stranger and managed to stay completely present—no future tripping—no past dipping—just you hanging with someone new—laughing at the silly stars twinkling and winking in the sky.
In the spring—right as you were learning to trust the dependability of the ground again—you’ll be shaken by a category-five earthquake. You will survive; your home will not. You will cross a body of water with your mom. Together you’ll build a home so solid nothing could ever tear it down. Because it will live inside of both of you. And nothing—not even mother nature—can take down what’s been created by two women fully aware of their own strength. And nothing—not even mother nature—can take down what lives inside of women fully aware of their own strength.
It will be in Santa Monica, of all places, on your birthday of all days, that you’ll come to understand that you are indeed indestructible.
You will smell things you’ve never consciously smelled before; honeysuckle, pacific ocean salt, wildflowers, air. You will deeply inhale hoping to hold these blissful fragrances hostage inside the prison your own nose—store them in the cellar of your body so they can never leave.
But then you’ll remember who you are and what you’ve done and what you're sixteen-year-old self noticed: how far you've come.
You’ll exhale, because now you know, there’s no reason to hold on tightly to anything ever again.
There’s no need to be afraid of losing anything any ever again.
Because you’ve got something valuable. Something impossible to lose. Something no one can take from you. You've got you.
You’ll vow, right then and there, to never ever again make a decision derived from fear.
And that decision will set up you up for your most beautiful and powerful new year.
Because beauty and power are true, like mother nature.