Many people like to think that at a certain point in life, they “peak.” This is usually thought to occur during your early to mid-20’s, or perhaps if you’re a late bloomer, your early 30’s. But me? Always the overachiever, I peaked at 13. In the thicket of puberty, pimply and hormonal, somehow I stumbled upon the best year of my life. I was surrounded by loving friends who treated me with kindness and respect, and I felt self-assured and confident in my own abilities. But most of all, for the first time, I had found a group of people who loved me and accepted me exactly as I was. Nonetheless, eventually, as most good things do, it had to come to an end. And with my decision to go to a different high school than the rest of my friends, it was only inevitable that we’d begin to drift apart. This, I expected. What I didn’t expect was never being able to find another group of people like that again. What I didn’t expect was never feeling like I’d be able to rekindle that kind of happiness. I had felt so full of life, so hopeful, so confident in myself and my abilities. So where did it all go wrong?
Three years later, I still feel like I’m stuck in limbo. New friendships drift in and out of my life, fulfilling and sweet, but by the time that I’ve come to rely on them, they’ve already begun to disintegrate. And in these past winter months of frozen fingers and trying my hardest not to slip on ice as I walk down the street, I’d found myself trying not to slip into something else: depression. But as time progressed, with such a delicate sense of self-worth, all that it took was the loss of an important friendship for me to dive headfirst into that rabbit hole of anguish. The very last scraps of self-worth that I had were scraped away and I felt simultaneously bare and hollow to the world.
Fortunately, I had my mom to hold my hand and walk me through what felt like some of the hardest moments of my life. (And to her credit, because I didn’t make it very easy for her.) But she stuck around. Even when I told her I didn’t want to talk about it. Even when I let my sadness curdle into anger. Even when I directed that anger towards her, because as backwards as it sounds, she seemed like the one person who really cared about how I felt. To be fair, it took me a while to recognize that she could be there for me in that capacity. Feeling like I had no one and no resources, I had constructed walls to keep myself from getting hurt, but rather than protect me, they kept me from getting the care that I deserved. I wasn’t truly alone, even though I had convinced myself that I was.
Now that those painful feelings have somewhat eased, it feels like the worst is over. But more often than I’d like to admit, I still feel my self-worth falter. And in those moments, hours or days, it can be hard to imagine that things can get good again, even when they have in the past. It can be especially hard to imagine finding another community of people who will love me and lift me up like my friends did in eighth grade. It can be easy to feel like my peak came and went without me even realizing it until it was gone. But once I began to think about it, I realized that things aren’t always as black and white as they seem. And at the ripe old age of 17, I came to the wise understanding that life could never be as linear as one big peak and then a decent. Life is rather, a continuing series of peaks and valleys. And though I might not be at the top of a peak right now, that can only mean one thing – I’m on the way up. And when I have those days, when nothing feels like it will ever get good again, I like to channel happier times. Because if I was that happy once, who’s to say that I can’t feel that way again?
Channeling happier times can mean a lot of different things, whether it’s re-reading a favorite book, looking at childhood pictures, or reconnecting with old friends. For me, it means remembering what it looked like when I was at my happiest and realizing that if it happened once, it can happen again. And for anyone reading this, I hope you can realize that just because things are hard, it doesn’t mean that they will stay that way forever. You are deserving of happiness and whether or not you feel like you’ve reached a peak, there is always more happiness in store.
PS. How do you channel happier times? Let me know in the comments below!