What I’ve Learned Before Turning 23 (Spoken Word)

#SpokenWordSaturday

Happy birthday to all my Pisces babies out there!

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I learn about my voice when I am 8,
A boy I have a crush on finds out I’m the one who left him the anonymous love letter.
I am mortified,
Cheeks, tomato red.
Too afraid to face the cafeteria,
my teacher lets me eat lunch with her.
I read her a short story I wrote
and she tells me I am a writer.
I never forget
when Mrs. Moore tells me
I am a writer.

I learn to swim when I am 10.
My mother stands by
ready to explain to anyone who dares to make fun of me,
I had problems with my eardrums,
surgeries to be scheduled,
delayed,
scheduled again.
I am uneasy at pool parties
and I stay in the shallow end.
I still do not like putting my head underwater.

I learn to hate my body when I am 13.
I am called anorexic,
a coat hanger waiting for breasts.

They don’t really come,
not in the way I hope, at least.
I notice girls wearing skirts and shorts because it is hot outside,
I see nothing wrong,
until they are lined up,
told to stand straight like skeletons and measure their fingertips to seam lines.
Ordered to administration,
Instilled with a sense of shame
veiled by the word “appropriate.”
But I do not see the boys sent anywhere.

I learn to kiss someone when I am 16.
He tastes like Monster energy drinks,
and he leaves me burning with energy.
I want to kiss him until the sun explodes.
I think I would have,
but he drives away as I watch from the living room.
The headlight flickers,
and I fall to the ground.
This first time my heart breaks
and I don’t think it ever really hardened.

I learn to love someone from a distance when I’m 19.
We are so close,
closer than I ever thought I was going to be with another boy,
but 3,000 miles puts a damper on things.
So we love in missed phone calls,
Skype,
texts that say, “I miss you”
But the distance has me growing distant,
and I pull away.

I learn to have sex with a man with big hands
and big feet when I am 21.
He plays Rugby,
and says it’s insatiable how much he likes me.
We read poetry to each other in bed,
But I’m nervous because he’s so large,
And I’ve been used to slender boys who fit into my curves perfectly.
And we put a crack in my twin sized bed.
But he doesn’t realize I’m the one that did it.
It was my strength that put it there.
The same strength that picks me up
when he leaves with a girl
one week after telling me he’s fallen for me in the same house my father died in.
So I pick up the pieces alone.
I vow to never again date someone who doesn’t see
I am capable of breaking beds all on my own.

I fall in love with someone who doesn’t love me back when I am 22.
He is a comedian living in Hollywood.
I sleep in his shirt the first night we are together
and think about never giving it back.
It has the same town that my father grew up in.
They are from the same state,
With the same curly brown hair.
I love them both.
My father,
and this stand up comic
who makes me laugh until I cry
and cry when he tells me he will never want me like that.

I am about to be 23.
And I think what I’m learning is that this is the year I’m going to accept all parts of me.
All the memories that I want to erase,
All the memories that I keep on replay,
Getting drunk on nostalgia more than I ever do on any alcoholic beverage.
23 is going to be the year I finally say,
“Hey, this is me. And this is all that’s made me me, and I’m okay with it.”

I’m okay with it.
23 is going to be the year I finally say,
Hey,
I think I’m here.
I think I’m finally, finally here. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


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Ari Eastman

✨ real(ly not) chill. poet. writer. mental health activist. mama shark. ✨

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