There was a time not too long ago when hurting yourself felt good. Back then though, it was called something different. It wasn’t about inflicting pain, it was about feeling something, anything, that was different than what you already knew. I’m talking here about the newness of things. I’m talking about moments that could shock your entire body and leave you feeling high for days. Baby faces doing grown up things. Little hearts filling themselves up with experiences. There was always a story at the end of it all and it didn’t usually end in tears. That, like everything else, would of course soon change.
It’s hard to discern when the change happened though; it’s hard to tell when you became incapable of shaking things off like you once did, when you stopped believing the promises of a shirtless boy in a dark bedroom, when a fight with a best friend turned into years of a steady and slow dissolve. All you know is that it happened. Don’t know how. Don’t know when. But here you are: hurting yourself for different reasons. Here you are hurting yourself and it actually starting to feel like pain. The lows aren’t so dramatic. There’s no screaming, no yelling, no visible anger. Instead they just creep under your skin and stay there, chipping away at your resolve. The permanence terrifies you. The permanence is proof that you can no longer afford to be silent when it comes to running your life.
You would’ve done anything to go back. Go back to the first boy, the first friend, the first drink. Feel it all around you. Feel it go inside of you. You figured this would make you happier. Because the problem here is the cruelty of time. You’re sure of it. Not a doubt in your mind. You blame moving to different cities, long-term relationships, and busy schedules. They’re the issue. They’re the things that are making you miserable and taking everything and everyone away from you. Right?
Pop quiz! Why doesn’t getting drunk feel the same? Why does having sex make you feel even more alienated? How come you aren’t getting what you want when you did everything that was asked of you?
You’re asking the wrong questions. You know that, right? No? Okay, well why don’t you go further down until you realize it? Why don’t you hurt yourself some more until you realize you actually want to feel good?
Look, I don’t blame you for not wanting to ask the right questions. There’s a certain kind of peace that comes with willful ignorance. There’s a certain kind of thrill you get from rejecting the things that make you happy. Because once you start asking them, once you make that choice to better yourself, being bad will never feel as good. Being bad will just feel like you’re delaying the inevitable.
When did everything change? You wonder this as if knowing the answer will make everything better. It won’t. Growing up is difficult — you have to mourn the newness and accept being old enough to know better — but it’s what you have to do in order to keep living. Because there’s only so long you can keep asking the wrong questions and expect to find a good answer at the end of it. There’s only so long you can check out of your life before it starts to belong to someone else. Something else.