I wrote this letter the day after you drunk messaged me. It just really hit me, what you said about how weird it is to not know how someone who used to be your best friend is, what a normal day in their life now looks like, what their favourite song now is. This letter is my answer.
I wrote this, mostly for me, but also for you. At this point I’m not really sure if I’m actually gonna send it. But whether or not this ends up in your hands or shoved into the back of my journal [disclaimer: the latter happened] I want you to know that there’s no obligation for you to read or respond to this.
I guess a part of me also wrote it because I know you’re a sentimental person. I know you’ve got shoeboxes of memories stored at the top of your wardrobe, and walls covered with snapshotted moments. So maybe this could be one more memory of me. The me that I became after we stopped talking, but the me who still cares about you as much as she did when you were “—-” with a million heart emoji’s in her contacts.
Like I said when you messaged me, it’s no doubt that we’ve both changed into new people. But no matter what, we can never change the past we had together.
I don’t know how to begin to explain to you what’s happened since we stopped talking. I feel like I’ve grown into and shed so many different versions of myself. I don’t know if you’ll think I’ve changed a lot. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been so in my own head that any minor shift feels like mountains moving.
I was still anxious and depressed when you left. In a way, it was a blessing and a curse. It was so so difficult to try and grapple with all the confusion and sadness that followed. But I also went through so much growth that I never thought I’d be able to handle on my own.
I don’t know how to explain how things got better. It moved slowly, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t there. I remember the exact moment I realised I wasn’t depressed anymore. It was during the break before HSC. I was driving to Woolies, probably to buy an avocado. Pink & White was playing by Frank Ocean. The song opened with the lines
“That’s the way every day goes
Every time we have no control
If the sky is pink and white
If the ground is black and yellow”
All of a sudden I was smiling out the window and I just realised…the absence of sadness. It wasn’t necessarily some sort of overwhelming joy or happiness. But it felt like someone had lifted a dead weight out the pit of my stomach. The world looks different when you’re depressed and I guess I just realised it didn’t look that way anymore. I definitely wasn’t 100% fine and dandy from that point on. But from that moment I knew I could make it on my own. I was no longer just moving one foot in front of the other, feeling like I was walking in circles.
It sounds ridiculous, but the HSC was actually one of the happiest points in my life. I felt renewed, free, and in my element. I was eating healthy (and finally eating enough!), I was running 5kms a day, meditating, journaling. I was processing all of the emotions I had kept locked deep inside of me. I had my last psychologist appointment the week before exams started.
After that I was off to New York and Hawaii. I’m sure you saw all the aesthetic snapchats and instagram posts of me eating bagels and living in art galleries. What you didn’t see was me crying. A lot. I don’t know why I felt so whack in New York. Maybe it’s because I felt so chill during the exams, the stress hit me after. I was also really concerned about my health (I found some lumps in my breast right before the formal – they ended up being benign tumours and the Doctor told me not to worry but Jesus Christ I was still scared).
Things were coming to the surface. My schedule, which I still heavily relied on for stability, was thrown out the window. I went vegetarian, which was really difficult at first because Dad didn’t really support it. Also, ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-.
I’ve probably made this trip sound like a nightmare, but it wasn’t. I guess I’m just trying to draw attention to how I used to (and still do) portray my life online as some perfect, aesthetic ideal, even when I feel pretty shitty inside. That’s why I deleted my old instagram. I did it in the middle of Central Park, because I got so frustrated with how ‘image obsessed’ I’d become. I wanted it to look good from the outside, but I’d stop paying attention to how it felt on the inside. Things got better after that, but there were definitely still some ups and downs.
One of my favourite days ever (getting lost in the Subway on the way to the Guggenheim Museum, meeting a lovely stranger who helped us get there and showed us pictures of his daughter’s halloween costume, and then seeing my favourite painting) was followed by one of the worst (reading an article about pancreatic cancer in a Starbucks and then crying in an Adidas store because I thought I was dying). It’s kinda funny to look back on that now…kinda. I was still learning how to not hate myself for feeling a little sad after feeling good for such a long time.
I think the biggest thing I’ll take away from New York is the way I felt on the Subway. I don’t know how to encapsulate this feeling in words. I’d just put my earphones in and let Frank Ocean narrate my life. Things felt so personal and Romantic. Like the feeling you get from looking at grainy film photography, but the moment’s happening now.
When we landed in Maui after three weeks in New York, I stepped out of the airport into the warm, still air and heard White Ferrari for the first time. I really can’t explain how important Frank Ocean has been to me. All I know is that my heart stops and I feel like everything’s falling into place whenever I hear
“I’m sure we’re taller in another dimension/
You say we’re small and not worth the mention”
That song always reminds me of you. There’s a line in there about how I’ll always care for you because “that was my part of the deal”. Please listen to it if you haven’t already. Maybe it means something different to you. But for me, it’ll always been the answer to the question “How do you feel about —-“. I don’t know who Frank Ocean wrote it about, but it doesn’t matter.
Maui is the place where I feel most at home. After the emotional turbulence that was New York, there was nothing better than to lounge on the day beds reading M Train by Patti Smith (ironically, a book about NY). I got my HSC results and ATAR there. It was so surreal. And it really meant a lot to me when you messaged me after results were released. I thought you hated me, and I was trying to be okay with that. But things were a little easier knowing that you didn’t.
When I got my ATAR I was sitting on the beach eating shaved ice. I kept refreshing the app and then all of a sudden…99.00. I started crying and then mum started crying and then it started pouring down rain. Everyone told me afterwards they always knew I could do it, but I genuinely never believed I could.
After we got back home, everything was calm. I’d deleted all my social media and was truly just focusing on how to be the best version of myself. I felt a bit lonely sometimes, but I really believed that if I just stayed focused on myself, the right people would gravitate towards me. And sure enough, they did.
Soon enough it was time to start university. The day before O-Week started, I got in a pretty bad argument with Ben and ran down the lake to try and calm my nerves. The black swans had had three baby cygnets. Every time I was overwhelmed or stressed during my first semester, I would run down to the lake, and every single time they’d be there, a little bigger. If I was a better writer I’d think up some deep metaphor, but honestly all I can say is that it felt like we were growing together. Trying to find our place in a world that was new to us.
Semester 1 seems even further away than the HSC at this point. I was a frazzled fresher struggling to juggle the commute, the lectures, the study, part time work – and still take care of myself. Inevitably, the zen lifestyle I’d grown accustomed to post-HSC was shattered, and 5am wake ups, sleeping on the train, and staying up past my bed time (which is now 11:00pm!!!) became the norm. I felt a bit like a robot again; going through the motions, but not really feeling.
Law Camp was a turning point for me. In week 4 SULS (the law society) whisked everyone away to some far away location to mingle and get smashed (mostly the latter). The first night there was intimidating. I hadn’t really met anyone outside the 20 students in my tutorial. The second night, however, I got drunk off two vodka-raspberries (typical) and somehow everything felt right. I’d felt so out of my depth at Sydney law, one of the only South Westies in a cohort of North-Shorers with Supreme Court parents…But seeing a group of some of the smartest kids in the state stumbling around and throwing up in planter boxes was humbling in a weird way. For the first time I felt like I truly deserved to be there. Everything was a bit easier after that, because I always had that feeling of deep, genuine contentment to reflect back on. Even though on the third night the guys in my cabin were snoring so loudly that I literally sat on the steps at 3am and cried…things were okay.
Looking back now, life seems to have passed in phases. Each phase feels like that wave of nostalgia you get whenever you hear a song that was your favourite once upon a time. Semester 1 feels like
– Be Yourself by Frank Ocean
– Lets Go by Khalid
– Yellow by Kevin Abstract
– Cranes in the Sky by Solange
– Broken Clocks by SZA
It was a mix of stress and happiness and confusion and calm and every single other emotion under the sun. I grappled with a lot of self doubt that I thought I’d left behind at high school. I’ve only since realised that these things never really get ‘resolved’. You have to continually work towards them. Things get built up, they’re whole for a while, and then they come crashing down and you just start the process all over again, growing stronger and wiser. It’s all death and rebirth.
Eventually I started to get into the flow of things. Then I got thrown a curveball. It’s hard to write about this without sounding dramatic. ———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–. I almost called you that night. But I didn’t because I thought it would be unfair of me to only call you when something went wrong. I mean, you had a whole new life that I didn’t know about, and I didn’t want to insert myself back into it in this way.
—————————————————————————————————————————————————————-. Things have been a bit weird since, though. I tried to make an appointment with my psychologist again, but she’d moved to Queensland. I didn’t cry for a while. And then I’d cry for days on end. this was all around exam time too, which only added to the stress. Somehow though, I made it out of Semester 1 alive.
You could put the me who started uni next to the me who finished the first semester, and I guarantee you they’d be almost unrecognisable as the same person. I started uni as outwardly quite confident and inwardly insecure, and ended with a bridge that sat somewhere in between the two. I think you’d be surprised (or maybe not) to see how confident uni has forced me to become. I always used to wonder how you could talk to people so effortlessly without morphing into a stranger to yourself. But I’ve now started to get better at being me around people that aren’t just…me.
After Semester 1 we were off to Forster, of course. I’ve never told anyone this before, but since I can remember I used to use the four hour drive to Forster to dissociate out of my mind (I’ve recently discovered ———————————————————————————————————————–). This meant that when we arrived at Forster I’d always feel weird and detached. But this year I didn’t do it. I don’t think I can overstate how big a thing this was for me. If feels like at times, dissociation controls my life. I tune out of my body and lose connection with reality, and it’s really difficult to come back from it. But this year I stared out the car window and focused on the trees as hard as I could. And I stayed in my body.
Forster was bitter sweet this year, because it’s probably the last year we’ll all go. Kate and I are now 18, Ben and Luke start Year 12 next week. So Kate and I spent as much time on the beach as possible and watched the sun set over the water every night.
When I reflect back on my life, I tend to use how I felt at Forster as a gauge. 2013 was painfully awkward. 2016 was stressed and spaced out. 2017 was oddly calm and quietly confident, despite the chaos that seemingly pervaded my life. I hope I get to go back there one day with Kate.
The last week of my break was full of tea and reading. I finished what is probably my favourite book in the world – The Waves by Virginia Woolf. It follows a group of friends as they grow from kids to adults. But the writing is so illuminating in a way I don’t think I could ever capture. You know how sometimes you’ll do something incredibly routine or mundane, but it almost feels like the answer to the universe is contained within it? It’s like that. It’s like when I wake up in the morning and the sun is reflecting off the walls and tinting everything golden amber and for a few moments everything feels whole. My favourite line in the book is
“I am continually made and remade”
After the break, Semester 2 began. My schedule was a mess – I had uni 5 days a week with 9am starts and 5pm finishes. I was also tutoring 9 students, trying to go to the gym every other day and stay on top of law readings. I was also dealing with a lot of physical problems. I injured my knee and couldn’t run anymore. I developed tinnitus (constant ringing in my ears) which made it difficult for me to meditate and sleep. I was getting migraines almost everyday that meant I practically went straight from uni to bed. I was also really lethargic from not taking my iron tablets (I guess some things never really change…). All of my support mechanisms collapsed.
Things were okay for a while. And then they weren’t. On the Thursday of the second week of Semester I couldn’t stop crying on the train. It felt like something had clicked inside of me, and things looked different again. I was so so scared because it almost felt like when things were really bad. When I got home I went to yoga, thinking it would help me snap out of hit. It didn’t. I ended up crying on my yoga mat. That line sounds so incredibly pretentious and so incredibly Emily Morgan…
I later realised I’d been suppressing my emotions for months without even realising it. At that point, I was so convinced I was going to suspend my studies for a year; work for six months and then travel Europe for six months. I felt like I was trapped on a high speed train that was moving in a direction where I didn’t know the destination. I wanted to do something dramatic to try and take control of my life. To prove myself that I was in control of my life.
When I look back at it now, it’s really clear that I was trying to run away from my emotions (cue ‘Cranes in the Sky’ by Solange..). I should’ve learnt from the trip to New York that shitty, unresolved feelings will follow you, no matter how far you go. I still feel the need to drop everything and run away sometimes. Lately I’ve been wanting to move out of home. But again, I think it’s just because I feel like sadness grows roots and tethers you to the floor. I feel like if I leave a certain place I can leave the sadness behind. But I know in my heart that’s not true.
A lot of difficult conversations with mum and dad, friends, strangers, professors and psychologists later, I ended up ditching the plan to run away to Paris (as romantic as it sounded). Instead, I dropped to part time in uni. I also dropped my major in political science and changed it to philosophy.
In ways, this is helped. I now have the time to look after myself. I think all the problems I had with my health was just my body trying to tell me to slow down. To breathe.
I don’t really know what else to tell you at this point. I’m not sure if we’ll ever catch up. I think I’d be fine either way. Even though I still care about you (and always will) I’ve learnt how to live without you. I sincerely hope you’re at a place where you have too.
For the longest time I almost wanted to rub in your face how well I was doing without you – ‘look I’m happy’ ‘look I’m studying at Usyd law’ ‘look I made other friends’. Looking back now it’s clear that at that point I clearly wasn’t over you, no matter how much I told myself I was. But I think the fact that I can sit here and be truthfully, painstakingly honest about the ups and downs of my life since you left, shows that I’m at peace with what happened. I’m no longer trying to convince you (or myself) that I’m something I’m not.
Since we’ve stopped talking I’ve felt the most intense joys, but I’ve also cried countless times on the shower floor. I definitely don’t have everything figured out, but I’m not pretending to. I think sometimes people get this image of me in their heads as the ‘has-it-all-together’ girl, and it’s really difficult to be vulnerable with people who think you’re infallible. Heck, sometimes I’m the person believing I’m infallible. But no matter what, every single time I come back down to earth. Like Bernard in The Waves, sometimes I get so caught up thinking I’m this or that, I forget that I just am. I don’t need to search for anything, because it is always within me.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the time we’ve been apart, it’s that the universe only gives you what you can handle. Years ago I never could’ve pictured life without you by my side. I don’t know why things happened the way the did. But here I am. More than a year since we stopped being friends, and I’m okay.
Right now my mantra in life is
“It ends or it doesn’t”
It sounds really simple, but it’s what I tell myself when I’m dealing with difficult emotions and situations. Either this shitty thing will end, and there’s no point worrying about it because it’s ephemeral. Or it won’t end, and you can’t do anything about it so you have to find a way to live with it.
It works for good things too. Either the good thing will end, so you should savour it while it lasts. Or it doesn’t end.
I’ve found that most things end. That’s how it went for us. Our connection ended. But the hurt and confusion and loneliness that followed also ended. So either way we grew and we adapted and we came out stronger because of it all.
So after all of this, I just wanted to say thank you, truly, from the bottom of my heart. Because although it ended, it was damn good while it lasted. There is always gonna be a version of me in which you are my best friend, even if you’re not the person I call when things go wrong anymore. But for the times you were that person – thank you. Thank you for being authentically and imperfectly ——- in a way that no one else ever could. There’s only one girl in this universe that got to call you her twinsie. And I am so fucking glad it got to be me.
Love, forever and always,