As I walked around Hollywood today one of my favourite poems couldn’t leave my thoughts.
The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer is the only poem since William Ernest Henley’s Invictus to take hold of me completely. I couldn’t shake the final line as I wandered alone down the intensely hot and busy Hollywood Blvd. “I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”
When I tried to pinpoint what I had on my mind I went blank.
Other than trying to pass time until a free concert begins in a few hours I had nothing on my mind but that line.
I have been out in America for a little over two months. My time here, I had hoped, would clear my mind of the clutter it handled daily while in England; ‘what am I doing with my life/what makes me happy/where am I going/what do I want for my future/am I ok?’ It seems my mission is accomplished however I am still unsure of any answers to those questions I battled.
Yesterday I met a nineteen year old girl on a train back to LA from my weekend visiting a friend in San Luis Obispo. This nineteen year old had every answer possible for how she wanted her life to work out. I had thought initially that this girl was incredible. She had every scenario for what life could throw at her mapped out; three possible husbands if, god forbid, she wasn’t married by the time she was twenty-eight, two children including an adopted child planned, joining the Peace Corps for two years because her bad back meant her dream of becoming a firefighter was ended, retiring in Bali, and her next two tattoos designed. I listened to this girl talk constantly for two hours.
After a while of listening to her I stopped envying her apparent knowledge of self when I realised I was her at nineteen.
Had I told my nineteen year old self that I would find and eventually leave the happiest job I had ever experienced right when promotion was around the corner so that I could travel across a country I have loved my entire life in order to ‘find’ myself I would’ve cried.
By twenty-one I was to be a graduate of University, at twenty-four I was meant to be accepting my Oscar; a plan I had created ten years prior. By twenty-six I was meant to have found my true love – an age I am at now and, as this blog shows, is yet to be actualised (and yes I have just told you my age despite my initial plan to avoid that) and living surrounded by love.
Instead I left University at twenty when the cost of living in London ran higher than I could handle, at twenty-four I broke off a long-term relationship and developed an eating disorder, and at twenty-six I am in California with a clear mind and a smile on my face for the simple fact that although I have no answers to my own nagging questions of life, I am happy. And when I try to pin down why I am so happy when nothing has worked out the way I thought I wanted I can only come up with one truth; I am doing whatever makes me happy each day. Just me.
I don’t have the guy on my arm, telling me he loves me. I don’t have the Oscar in my hand telling me I am successful. And I don’t have the degree telling me I worked hard.
I have my own money in my bank, after limiting my spending and working two jobs for two years, telling me I worked hard. I have my demons I battled and overcame, and a smile on my face each day telling me I am successful. I have the friends I have made in the last two months sharing stories and experience with me and the friends I have known for years back home encouraging my independence and courage out here, telling me I am loved.
I have everything I ever wanted for my life.
The nineteen year old on the train made me think about everything I wanted and everything I have. It might not look as I thought, but I have it.
Do I enjoy the company I keep in the empty moments? As a test to myself I had to ask myself this. I have everything I ever truly wanted; do I like myself as the person that has this? Am I ok being alone?
Ask my nineteen year old self if she likes herself. Ask my twenty-four year old self the same. The twenty-six year old me is the first version of myself that can silence her mind and smile because she is content with herself and her own company.
I don’t look the way I used to, in body or spirit, and when I looked at a photo of myself during my eating disorder – told in each photo I posted on my social media page how pretty I was – all I see now is a forced smile and the memory that the photo that got the most beautiful comments on it was a day I watched my sister eat a bagel as we waited to head to the park to take the photo for our Mother. I look at that photo and remember watching her eat, myself starving myself so much that my mouth was watering as she chatted and ate and I told her I had already eaten. I don’t remember the conversation we had. I remember the hunger. I remember the smell of the bagel, the saddened feeling of wanting it so badly but knowing exactly how many calories were in it, and wishing she would hurry up so we could leave and take the photo.
Twenty-six and ten pounds heavier.
Each photo now may not be as pretty, but my smile has never felt so beautiful.
Anyone struggling with an eating disorder (and it is a struggle, even when the immediate battle is won, you are adjusting to your new image and an entirely new way of thinking) please feel free to message me. If I can help in any way, through listening or anything that you need, I assure you I will do my best.