I’ve outgrown you

Image: qi bin

When I was 20 I thought I had fallen in love with a boy. He had sharp cheekbones and expressive eyes and I wrote him countless poems, trying to somehow show how I felt. I think he wrote me one back – a strange, sad sonnet, stuffed into the back of a blog that I stumbled upon months after our demise. It described me as “subversive”.

I think that’s the best way anyone has ever described me.

Subversive. Insurgent. Renegade. Agitator.

Like I somehow managed to revolutionise his entire outlook on life.

I don’t think he meant it like that at all, but I’ll take what I get from the lovers who’ve lost me.

When he left it felt like I couldn’t breathe. I can still remember clutching my heart on the train home, sobbing over how unfair everything seemed to be. It was all so raw, so painful, so desperately sad. I think I described myself as a “rubbed raw, icy footed, miscommunicated mess”. I think I described him as “right and good and lovely”.

I think everything was a little too dramatic to be honest.

3 years later, I am completely healed from my brief cosmic dalliance, this dance with desire and despair, and sobbing his name repeatedly on public transport. I found myself a million miles away from the person I was on that train platform, light-years ahead of the me who considered that boy to be the best thing that had ever happened – because better, more exciting, kinder things have happened since. I found myself in a bar belting Wheatus and having my hair lightly ruffled by a mutual friend. He grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me in the eyes and told me that he thinks I’ve outgrown the person who made me feel all those things.

Do you hear that? I’ve outgrown him.

That’s so wild. I used to be convinced that I never would, that I’d stay stuck on that train platform forever, that I’d be devastated and miserable without that little patch of sunlight shining on my life.

But I breathed through it all. I breathed and I lived a little bit more each day and I discovered my own resilience in the midst of my disappointment. Then eventually I stopped telling myself to breathe, I just did. I stopped choosing him and chose myself instead. That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Like I should have been choosing myself from the start, I should have remembered the golden rule of “I am number 1 and everyone else must fall in line behind me”. I think when you’re young and someone kisses your palms like they hold entire galaxies, you start to believe that the universe can only exist within you if they keep telling you it does. Turns out the cosmos have been lying dormant in my chest this entire time, waiting for me to acknowledge their perennial existence regardless of whether or not that other person reminded me of them.

In two weeks time none of this is going to matter. You are going to be breathing despite your doubt, you are going to find everything a little easier. Your patch of sunlight is going to expand with each dust-mote and beam that finds its way onto your bedroom floor, you’re going to be okay.

Just keep loving yourself, and loving the people who ruffle your hair and tell you you’ve grown. Just keep filling yourself up with good human connection, and trust whatever process you believe is out there, because there is one.

You’ll be okay, there are asteroid belts wrapped around your lungs and super novas in your soul. You’ll be okay.

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“Setting fire to our insides for fun”

Image: Kinga Chichewicz

Hi,

I’m back…for now I guess. We can’t say how long this is going to last because I’m really bad with commitment. The only thing I’ve ever properly committed to has been a 1 and a half year relationship that ended about a month ago, so hey, there’s your answer.

That’s also roughly the same amount of time in which this blog has been briefly abandoned. Weird. I think it’s because I’m not very good at writing when I’m feeling happy.

My mother actually asked me last night why I only write when I’m sad, my answer was simply that happiness is not an interesting enough emotion to comment on. Think about it. When I’m happy I wake up early and stretch and greet the hobos milling outside my window like I’m Snow White and they’re the little forest animals. I skip out of my flat and down the road and I fist bump car guards and breathe deeply and stare up at the blue sky and grin widely into the universe.

And it’s all very boring.

The real shit. The interesting, mind-bending, gut-wrenching, soul-searching shit, is when it’s 2am and “Daughter” has been playing on a loop since midnight and everything feels a little too real, too uncertain, too wild. And when the dawn arrives there’s a certain victory in surviving that shitstorm of emotion and adjectives. That’s how Plath wrote “Daddy”, and Eliot wrote “The Wasteland” and Spike Milligan wrote “On the Ning Nang Nong”.

Don’t try to tell me Spike Milligan wasn’t deeply emotional when he wrote the line “And the teapots jibber jabber joo”, I will fight you.

Anyway, I wrote something at 2am the other day and it was moderately good. So here it is:

Hey, I know you’re tired, and scared. Life is awfully fresh and raw and uncertain right now. You’re not too sure where you fit. Here’s the thing…in a few years time you will be a little less immortal. You will be sitting on new sheets in a bigger bed, with more money in your savings account and more stability in your heart, and you are going to miss this moment.

You are going to have more of your shit figured out and you are going to wonder why you didn’t cherish being 23 a bit more. There’s so much youth still on your side. The world is beckoning you with its fingertips and all you have to do is leap.

You are going to miss being this young, this unsure, this devastated, this inspired.

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Transitioning

Photo Credit: Hanson Lu

I need to remind myself that it’s okay to be and to feel two things at once. I am just as repulsed, as I am enchanted with the person I am becoming.

She slid across the room

A silly half-smile dancing across her face

Eyes,

Closed.

Hair,

Uncouth.

Spreading gold dust with each twirl of her feet

Pivoting on an impossible axis,

Leaving equal parts love and destruction in her wake.

I have never seen anything so lovely,

And so dangerous.

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Sleep

 

I don’t think I can ever learn to hate you.

I know you think I do.

I know you like to romanticise the idea of me lying awake at night thinking of all the things we should have done and all the things I should have said.

But I don’t. I sleep like I’m dead. I’ve slept through break-ins and police sirens and 3 am arguments and almost-break ups. I sleep the same way I did before and after you barrel-rolled into my life with a pack of cigarettes in one hand and a plethora of expletives shooting out your mouth. It’s like I”m still catching up on everything I lost during the era of you. Even when we weren’t speaking I’d wake up to the scent of your Marlboros sneaking through my cracked window. Like those cigarettes, you are impossible to shake off.

I’ve stopped thinking everything is a sonnet. You know I used to stare my worst nightmare in the face and pour poetry down his throat until I’d convinced myself it was love. I’d write essays about his hands wrapped around my wrists and turn his sharp insults into feathers. I used to think everything broken was beautiful and everything toxic was medicinal.

I know you loved being a part of my life because it made you feel less alone. But you forgot that I get lonely too.

I’m happy you’re happy.

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Hello. It’s been a year. 

I just wanted you to know that it’s been a year since you went from being my whole world to being just another pin in my atlas. And I’m doing fine, the chords running through my life are now laced with gold, not soot. 

It’s been a year and I hope you’re okay, and that you’ve been able to scrape the ash off your hands. 

I hope you rediscovered your softness. 

I hope when you think of me, that your thoughts have no sharp edges. 

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You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do To Get Your Degree, Boo.

Today I graduated from University with my (first) degree. I wore orange to match my hood, and ankle boots that were just high enough to reach my goal of wearing heels to my graduation. I woke up early, straightened my hair, contoured my face, shaved my legs, and then donned the good ol’ traditional cap and gown. I wore my cap backwards for a good few hours, and my hood kept slipping off my non-existent little shoulders, but it is nice to feel like I have something to show for the three years of all-nighters I just pulled. I had my 10 seconds of fame on stage, my head was tapped by the vice-dean, I forgot to smile for my photograph, and at the end of the day I have a foiled certificate, a detailed copy of my academic record (yikes!), and a generic key-chain with the words “UP ALUMNI” stamped across it in what I’m pretty sure is Arial pt 12 font. Arial is the font I have to type all my essays in, so why they’d choose such a triggering layout is beyond me.

Apparently it was supposed to feel strange. The ceremony was about 6 months after my final exam, so it makes sense that it would be a reminder for some people of the compatriots, and the campus they have left behind. I decided to take my degree further by completing my Honours year. So for me graduation was less of a reminder of the blessed student life I used to have (because my life is STILL #blessed) and more of a nice day off from tutoring and studying, with the added bonus of having my immediate family focus all their attention on me. 

The one thing graduation did for me though, is it made me reflect on how much growth I’ve experienced throughout my undergrad years.

If we look at the first blog post I wrote in my first month 1st year , I spend an awful lot of time discussing all the “strange” things that had happened to me in that month. These included:

  • Singing Afrikaans karaoke (Don’t test me on Loslappie now: I KNOW THESE LYRICS)
  • Meeting sneaky racists (Everyone in Pretoria is either a full blown racist, or totally against racism…there is no such thing as a “Sneaky Racist” in Pretoria)
  • Being offered weed (Wow girl…you were LIVING)
  • Being offered an electric toothbrush (First year Harriet was clearly sheltered and unaware of what all-nighters can do to a person. I am the one offering electric toothbrushes now. IT’S ME.)

I was 18, stupid, and completely mind-fucked by all the freedom I suddenly possessed. I thought drinking booze straight from the bottle was cool, that kissing strangers in sticky clubs was exciting (thank you Hook-up Gods for keeping all the venereal diseases away from me), and that I would never find another man like my high school boyfriend of two months (I still haven’t, and thank God).

At the end of that silly, silly blog post I sign off with a little “I have a tertiary education to attempt.” And wow, was that education attempted.

Despite the failed module towards the end of 2nd year, the 3 distinctions I managed to scrape up on the way, the countless calls home to my mother, panicking over the fact that I may have chosen the wrong thing to study, and the many, many, many all-nighters…the real education came in the form of life experiences.

I wish I could go back in time and meet January 2014 Harriet. I wish I could sit her on my lap, rock her back and forth, stroke her hair and tell her, “Holy shit kid, you’re just getting started. There’s a whole universe of people and experiences and happiness out there to take hold of. You’re going to come out of this new place, with its scary one-way streets, and its horrific neighbours, and its dingy bar bathrooms, and you are going to be glowing.”

I wish that I could pull her out the window of her ex-boyfriend’s commune. I wish that I could grab her by the hand and lead her to a different room in a different house, one with friendlier demons. I wish I could tell her not to fall in love with boys who can’t stand to live any closer than a twelve days walk away, and to stay away from Gin and Tonic and to love every wonderful, awkward part of herself. I want to tell her to keep her secrets to herself, because you never know whose tongues have been dipped in razor blades.

But if I told her all that, she would still think that Pretoria is the weirdest place in the world. And she would still think drinking out of a bottle is classy. And she would still cry whenever things get a little uncomfortable.

So I’m glad I got my undergrad. I’m glad I had so many strange nights, in this wonderful, fucked up city. I’m glad I met the people I ended up meeting, and I cut off the people I ended up cutting off, because today when I graduated, so did 1st year Harriet. And she’s so freaking proud of how she turned out.

My mother got me a graduation gift in the form of a bracelet. Along the outside, stamped in a font that is definitely not Arial pt 12, are the words “Don’t Panic”. Which just so happens to be my favourite quote from my favourite author, but it also sums up the first three years of my student life incredibly well.

Don’t panic. Don’t you dare panic. No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. You are going to fucking glow.

You gotta do what you gotta do to get your degree, Boo.

IMG-20170503-WA0009 (2)

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Kindling.

large

Source: WeHeartIt/JaazRodriguezz

My best friend has recently found herself wrapped up in the lovely, warm sensation of having someone she really, really likes, like her back. It’s a big leap from her previous relationship, which she’s said was more of a slow, soft, glow rather than a catastrophic flurry of heat and 3rd degree burns.
So here it is: my catastrophic flurry of heat and 3rd degree burns.

You lit a fire in my damn soul.
Boy.
You engulfed me in heat until I dissolved
Ashy and blackened and burned,
Everywhere your fingers traced.

You lit a fire in my damned soul.
It was a pyrotechnics display
It was an overwhelming burst of oxygen
There was too much sound and light and colour,
And not enough sense.

Boy.
You filled my chest with kindling.
Poured gasoline down my throat
And struck the match.

And every night I’d stay awake,
Wrapping my body in dressings,
Kissing my blisters with my lashes
Wishing you’d come back with more flint

You lit a god damn fire
In my god damn soul
And my corpse is still smoldering,
And I’m still trying to scream the smoke out.

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