dearest Opa,

You used to call me ugly as a term of endearment – it was our inside joke that started at the very beginning of our relationship… I believe it was around the time I started working at a Bavarian restaurant in town, and Omi lent me a bright green dirndl, my hair was purple at the time, and you thought the colour combination was hilarious.
I always felt like you treated me as one of your own, it was as if I had been part of your family for the 14 years prior to our meeting, and I appreciate you so much for that. You made room for me at the adult table during family dinners, snuck me shots of ouzo while my parents were out of the room and always made time to sit and chat with me, which normally ended in us picking on each other or exchanging fake glares across the dinner table.
I helped you set up your first cell phone, the wallpaper was Sylvester and Tweety, and you would call me every time you needed help learning how to use some feature of it. After I moved to Vancouver, every once in a while, you would text or call me to make sure I was doing okay. It always started with “Hey Ugly!” – it only took those two words to spread a smile across my face.
I saw you twice, after moving back home. The last time you were not there, and that is okay. The second to last time, you looked at me and said,
“Melissa, you know I never actually thought you were ugly, right?”
I know Opa, I know.

We all love you so much.
Rest well.

09/21/2017

I’ve been on such a high, having just moved back to my home, that I had almost convinced myself the lows wouldn’t come… at least not yet – but having been living with my fiance’s parents, I haven’t really given myself much solitary time to deal with some emotional bruising that comes with being back, which has definitely pushed me in to the deep hole I woke up in this morning. This is nobody’s fault but my own, I thought I could come back and pretend some issues and insecurities no longer exist, but they really really do, and that angers me to no end… not to mention adding some new insecurities, around people not thinking I work hard enough, that come with working remotely… even though I’ve been pushing myself to work extra hours and not take breaks.
Couple those with other sad and stressful things going on and I’m already sliding down the slippery slope of seasonal depression.

There are some bright lights coming up though, so I hope it’s enough to set me afloat, at least, for another couple of weeks. Until that happens, I guess, I’ll just repress the “you’re a fuck up” voices that keep battering on inside my head with peppermint tea and really angry pop music.

saying goodbye.

As you read this, my partner has safely travelled, with our cats, to our hometown and I am in a plane to Seattle, ending what has been the hardest and most rewarding 6 year journey of my life. There’s a lot to be said about the time we spent in Vancouver – a lot of beautiful, sappy words and hot, vindictive words that I could use to describe so many of the experiences and relationships that I will always associate with this coastal city.
When I was in high school, at the end of every year, I would write a letter – that letter would be many double sided pages in length, and would highlight the best parts of whatever grade I was in at the time. I saw it as a way to remind myself, even if the overall experience was terrible, there were always wonderful, cherishable memories scattered amongst everything else. So, keeping it short and sweet, in ode to the version of myself I left behind 6 years ago and the one I leave here today…

I’m writing a letter,

to: everyone and everything along the way. 
to: a city that simultaneously destroyed my mind and body then rebuilt me bit by bit, year after year.
to: Cody, for your never ending wealth of love, support and ferocity.
to: the people I dungeoned with, the people I partied with, the people I worked with and the people who have been there since the beginning – you all, in your own ways (be it negatively or positively), taught me how friendships/relationships should work, and I thank you for that.
to: me – for taking the plunge in the first place; for growing and admitting your faults; for allowing yourself to be vulnerable and accepting help when you needed it; for stepping out of your comfort zone and stepping up for yourself – and, lastly, for learning when it’s time to let go, and not looking back when that time comes.

to: Vancouver, because I may have grown up in the mountains, but I grew in to myself by the ocean.

Goodbye.

p.s. this is my moving playlist – if anyone is interested. I couldn’t help but end with that classic Michelle Branch.

hello future!

This month is extremely important for me, it marks an end and a beginning that I’m still settling in to. Honestly though, I don’t think I’ve been this legitimately happy for a long time. That’s not to say that this summer hasn’t been stressful, and that I don’t have a minor breakdown every couple of days as the end of the month comes closer, but all in all I can feel weight slowly lifting every day.
At the end of the month my partner and I will be moving back to our home town. We’ve decided that the city life isn’t quite worth the mental and physical toll it takes on both of us… we want to be able to enjoy our lives together and, unfortunately, Vancouver just isn’t conducive for that, for either of us.
I think this is one of the first times in my life where everything just seems to fit in to place… when we initially moved out here, 6 years ago, we came with nothing… no plan, no jobs, ground zero – now, heading back, we have a timeline to purchase a home, our employer has been so amazing and is allowing us to keep our jobs and work remotely, we have so many plans for our future, I can hardly contain my excitement.
I’m also being sent to an event in Seattle, for work, the day after Cody leaves with the cats, so I’ll be saying my farewell to the west coast from my favourite convention!

There are no words to explain how lucky and privileged we are to have gotten to this point in our lives, considering how we started, and that this is a choice we made together, rather than a decision based on monetary necessity. I can’t thank my team mates and current landlords enough for being the wonderful accommodating people that they are and my friends and family for everything over these past 6 years – I am so ecstatic to be back with you all soon.

Hello world, hello future, hello home!

 

breaking the habit.

I remember riding in the back of a Suzuki, with the top off, my best friend in the seat beside me. It was a weird point of life for both of us, socially strange teenagers, just trying to navigate high school to the best of our abilities.
One of our frequented albums to play during these wind swept drives was Meteora – Linkin Park.
For me, this album helped validate a lot of how I was feeling and dealing with my depression / self harm issues. It gave me someone to look up to – someone who felt just as I was feeling. Someone who had lived past the demons that currently clouded my judgement. For that, I appreciate Chester.. for sharing pieces of his life, that were no less than excruciating, with me, others like me and others nothing like me.  Of course, I now understand that you don’t ever, truly, shake the demons of mental illness… rather, you try and learn to coexist.
I just hope that, in the last bit of his life, he had the same support that he, unknowingly, provided for us.

For those thinking about suicide – please know that it isn’t your only option. You have an entire life ahead of you.

rest easy Chester, wherever you may be.

twenty six

Getting older is weird – in the moment, it feels exactly the same as it did last year, and the years before… but really, everything has and will continue to change. It’s hard to believe that, at one point in my life, I didn’t see myself being around this long… there is a part of me that wants to sit my younger self down and tell her how many obstacles she will overcome, and explain that failure doesn’t diminish her self worth. She will hit a rockier bottom than she has ever experienced before, she will lose herself in a city that doesn’t stop, skipping meals for coffee because it’s less expensive. She will hurt the person closest to her and then beat herself mercilessly over it. She will cry, wish she hadn’t left home and fade into the dark backdrop of depression. But, five years later, she will have built a solid foundation for a successful life, she will have a job that she loves, a home full of cats and a partner that has stuck through it all. She will have access to opportunities and choices that she would’ve never, previously, thought possible… and all of this will start from the, seemingly, unending darkness that enveloped her. And it will envelope her, as mental illness does, more than once

I remember my middle school self, having to read an essay about my self harm experiences in front of the entire eighth grade class. I was sat in a plush arm chair in the school theatre, hot stage lights bouncing off my face – my hands shook as the words left my mouth, and then the speakers above me… I don’t think I’ve heard a silence quite like the one that followed, since. The best way to describe it comes in the form of a quote from one of my favourite authors:
“It was the patient, cut flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.” ¹
In that moment, it felt like me and everyone around me was just waiting for it, waiting for the day that I didn’t show up to class, waiting for me to die. I accept that this perception probably existed only in my own mind, but at the time it felt so real.
Maybe you are asking yourself what relevance this has to anything? I spent a lot of my life, after that moment, fearing this silence. Fearing, being honest about myself and my mind, might be met with a quiet so thick it could smother me. I imagine, laying on my bed after reading my deepest secrets to an auditorium full of students and teachers, and promising to never speak about it again.
It took me 13 years, to be candid about my experiences, to see a therapist, to accept and validate myself… and I don’t think the teenage me would believe that today, at 26, she would be writing and openly speaking to people about mental health. That for every person who empathizes, there are multiple who want to learn, to understand; That, while silence is scary, it is sometimes necessary; That she would become an advocate for herself for the first time… and for that, I think she would be proud.

 

¹ – Quote from The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss