selective focus photography of woman wearing blue dress standing in road

What 19 Taught Me About Living For Myself

Nineteen, surprisingly, was not my worst year.

I did not cry the hardest at 19. For when my eyes welled with frustration and heartbreak, they also remembered the way they crease with smiles and squint in the Hawai’i sun, and they batted shut and allowed my lungs to do the work.

My beautiful, working lungs. Nineteen was the year that I quit smoking. I guess that’s a lie. I smoke when I’m stressed or when I’m drinking. I don’t do much of either anymore, though—19 isn’t a good year for those things.

At 19, I started writing again. I hate to say it like I stopped, but when you find someone to live for, your pen can collect some rose-tinted dust bunnies. I learned to not live for anybody at 19.

I spent a lot of 19 indoors. I’m not sure whether 2020 is to blame or I have my anxiety to thank for that one is debatable, but I spent most of that time tidying my apartment. At 19, I realized I have an eye for retro decor and faux foliage.

He left me at 19. I didn’t lose myself this time, though. My heart aches, but the anticipation of renewal keeps it beating. They always say to take it day by day, and I do. It’s easy to do that when you’re 19.

My routine consists of making my bed, plucking my eyebrows, washing my hair once a week (it has its benefits!), and going to work. Scrubbing my skin with homemade body scrub and forgetting my vitamins. I come home and tend to my bunnies—what a wonderful thing it is to care for something else. I water my plants—God, I am bad at that—and sleepily load the dishwasher. Somehow struggle to get to sleep that same night. Irony runs rampant when you’re 19.

My back hurts more, my heart hurts less. I am navigating the world and connecting to my inner child at the same time, and sometimes it is more than I can handle, but most times it is just enough to lay in bed for hours on end (on my days off, of course) and allow the moment to engulf me until I am sea glass in a roaring ocean and I am spat out more refined, more aware, and slightly more treasurable than my former self. Something about the grace period between 18 and 20 grants you wisdom and innocence, and they compliment each other wonderfully.

I am multiple different versions of myself at 19. Flowing skirts and feathered hair one day fades into platform shoes and glitter eyeshadow the next. I am unafraid to be myself now, and it shows in my shaggy hair and uneven fingernails. I am open to learning what 18-year-old me thought she knew best, silly girl, because there is always more to be welcomed in and always less to be afraid of. There is comfort in finding yourself, and I am so full of love it is hard to contain it in one girl.

Nineteen, surprisingly, was not my worst year. That, however, does not mean I did not face hardships. It doesn’t mean I didn’t sob so hard I shook, or that misfortune evaded me entirely. Nineteen taught me to see the glory in the gore, to take each moment for what it is and to kiss it on the lips and thank the world that you lived long enough to do so. It taught me that I have fallen too hard to not know how to get up, wipe the blood from my knees, and continue on. Leave the blade in to minimize the blood loss, but learn how to knife fight as well.

About the author
I have a bad tattoo of a chameleon. Follow Shay on Instagram or read more articles from Shay on Thought Catalog.

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