Lately, I get anxiety about 3 o’clock, and about driving in cars, I get anxiety about falling apart, when all I want to do is stay together. These days, my emotions don’t make sounds, not like they used to with their sirens and flashing lights, begging to be seen. No, they just throw themselves at things, then fall to the ground, lazily, desperately, and sit stationary at my feet. And all along I’m just hoping they’ll come across as better than they are, happier, more put together at least. Good god, at least more put together.

These days I’ve been trying to figure out what put together means. I’ve been sorting through my past like a shoebox full of ripped pictures and butterfly stickers, in fact I’ve been sorting through those too. I’ve been trying to pinpoint my “put together” –drawing maps to the roads that I took to get there and the exits I missed to stay. I’ve been trying to figure out how I became the person I am.

You see, my parents are good people. My dad tells bad jokes and tips everyone who does anything for him. My mom has kind eyes and her face grows a new freckle everyday, I swear. They’ve never fallen out of love, not even anywhere close. They still hold hands in the grocery store, and in the car. And when my dad can’t remember where he put his wallet, or the remote, or his glasses, or the car keys, my mom knows exactly where they are. They laugh, a lot. And the laugh lines strung across their faces like Christmas lights brighten every time they see each other, or me, our cats too. They’re just simple people, they don’t feel the need to do too much or have too much, they just need a glass of wine, a can of beer and an entire evening of terrible jokes. I never had a curfew, they did this thing where they trusted me immediately when I was able to make decisions of my own, so I didn’t give them a reason not to. I’ve introduced them to my friends, but mostly, they’ve become mine. They’ve never pushed me too hard, they’ve only pushed me in the directions they’ve seen me leaning and pulled me back to my feet when they saw that I was falling. But they’ve let me fall too, they’ve taught me that in order to find yourself you’ve got to fall into a whole lot of things. But every time, you’ll find your way out. Through them I’ve learned to never dull down your weird to make other people feel more comfortable and to smile at everyone. They’ve worked their asses off to get to where they are and they give me the world. I don’t deserve their generosity.

And lately, I’ve been asking myself if I still smile at everyone and if I let my weird out full force.

I’ve always had good friends, not always a lot of them, but always good. I had a cinematic childhood, one that you would see in the movies (the happy ones). My memories of it are distinctly of the smell of fresh cut grass, never ending blue skies, sidewalk chalk and made up games, climbing trees and falling off bikes all day long until not even the street lights were bright enough to match our spark. They were always good times, I don’t have one bad memory from being a kid. How lucky is that. I feel lucky.

High school was shitty. I was quiet and everyone else was inherently loud, making it difficult to find my voice. I observed the first couple years, scribbling poems in my chemistry notebook as I watched people find themselves in front of an audience and I found myself through the tip of my pen. Being shy, painfully shy, reaped its rewards- the people that I actually spoke to fit perfectly into my awkward, shapeshifting life. I gained tons of friends, from every school but my own, which was okay with me. It allowed me to continue my life as a shy poet at school, while simultaneously be an up and coming socialite everywhere else. I put good circles of people around me, making the not so good ones sort of just disappear into the background. If people didn’t like me, I found better things to care about, I wrote poems about them and figured they had a couple rocks in their shoe- they’d be nicer tomorrow. This has gotten me through life.

It hasn’t always been that easy though, forgetting about people who don’t like me. I have a fragile heart and the thought of someone thinking badly of me jostles me a bit. Or a lot a bit. It’s like I know that I shouldn’t let it bother me, but then I still rack my brain over what I should change. I’ve learned though, that it takes more effort to worry about it than it does to just treat them better than they treated you. And that’s what you’ve got to remind yourself of everyday–when you’re having a really, really lousy go of things, treat the world better than it treats you.

Once I hit college I knew my world was about to explode and all I was hoping was that it was in a good way. It was. College and I became fast friends and I wore it like my favorite t-shirt. I never wanted to take it off, I wanted to show everyone how good it looked. I still feel this way. I’ve met the greatest people I’ll ever know, the kind of people I didn’t even know existed. The kind that smile at strangers and GENUINELY want to hear about your day (they do exist). And then I fell in love, and that’s the kind of thing that makes a person a happier, lighter version of themselves (crazier too). I’d like to think I’ll always be searching for myself, picking up new pieces along the way, but in the mean time, this is the closest I’ve ever been to knowing who I am. It’s like this constant epiphany, discovering new things that fuel me. It is trial and error, though. For every time I’m ecstatic about life, there’s a time when even walking out the front door seems like a chore. I’m figuring it out. I’m figuring me out.

BUT, that answers my question, there’s no such thing as put together. There is not one single person in this world that’s put together. We’re all just figuring it out. And that’s better than put together will ever be. Because like my parents always say, you’ve gotta fall into a whole lot of things in order to find yourself. The beauty of it is that I’ve got the power over what I fall into and how long I stay there.

Remember that you always have the power.

And remember to remember how you got to where you are, it makes it easier to pick yourself up.

Thanks for listening while I remembered.