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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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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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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.

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A letter to my 19 year old self

hands

Source: worldfiled.tumblr.com

Hello my darling,

I know you’re tired. Look at you, you’ve had the marrow sucked out of you by a parasitic force, you’ve spent 5 months trying to piece yourself together and you’re exhausted. My God you’re exhausted, but honey, you’re also so beautiful.

You are so much more than those nights you spent clinging on to a relationship that only gave you grief from the beginning. Remember how you’d run after his chaotic emotions, trying to make sense of the dark corner he stuffed you in? Remember the nights you spent in his bed, your knees tucked to your chest, your skinny frame shivering in his t-shirt, waiting for him to start making sense? Remember sneaking out of your house at 2am to race across the road and climb through his window, because you felt guilty for how much you thought you needed his embrace?

Sweetheart. He’s not the one. I know you think he is. I know he’s got you trapped in the toxic little universe he’s structured around your insecurities. I know you think you’re going to stay with him forever, that you’re going to get your degree and he is going to get a job and maybe he’ll stop freaking out if you forget to text him and he’ll let you go out with your friends every once in a while and maybe he’ll stop yelling. Maybe, maybe, maybe, he’ll stop yelling and shooting wine glasses with metal BB bullets and standing over you as the shards slip through your scarred hands. Maybe he’ll stop blaming you for everything that’s out of your control. Maybe you’ll stay with him forever and you’ll be happy because he’s got you convinced that no one else could possibly love someone as strange and as wild as you. Maybe he’ll stop yelling.

He’s not it my love. You know he isn’t. You know that with every icy word, every bite of his temper, every snarl in your direction that you’ll just get smaller and smaller. You know if you carry on you’re going to disappear. Rip out his claws honey, rip them out of your skin and start running, because your flame can only grow brighter from here.

You are going to burn all of the empty letters he ever left on your bed. You are going to start a mini bonfire in a tin can in your garden and you are going to belly laugh wildly and dance around the carcass that was the past 5 months of your life. You are going to kiss your scars and run your feet raw as you tear down boulevards. You are never going to be afraid to raise your voice ever again.

You are going to beat your pillow with a hockey stick until all the rage and regret  that he spoon fed you, explodes in a flurry of feathers and relief. You are going to change all the locks to your heart and then spend the next 2 years simply loving yourself. You are going to snip away at every single toxic relationship that eats into your spirit until the only people who are left are the ones that carry you to bed and bundle you up when you cry. Prepare to have your face stroked and your soul held and your forehead kissed my darling; prepare to feel confused and tentative about all these gentle gestures – I know it feels foreign, but this is what you need and deserve.

Then prepare to have the breath knocked out of you by someone who exudes sunlight and warmth.

I know you think you deserve locked doors and acidic words, it’s going to take a while for you to break that cycle. But when you finally do, when you finally look up and realise your own electric disposition, you are going to free fall into the arms of someone who makes your entire body burn.

He is going to take you to parties and introduce you to fellow wild things. He’s going to take you onto rooftops and sit and listen while you animatedly chat about everything important to you. He’s going to let you bury your face in his chest while he strokes your hair and tells you that he is never going to contain your spirit or lock up your happiness. He is going to look at you like maybe you are magic, and he’s going to pour golden words down your throat.

And you, my love, you are going to realise that the people who try to extinguish your flame are the ones who don’t deserve any of your warmth.

You will detonate into a plethora of water-colours and wild flowers.

I love you with all my heart.

 

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You are so much more than this.

flower

Source: weheartit.com

Friendships are complicated webs. Two people decide they like each other slightly more than they like other people and therefore they entangle their lives in joint memories, shared secrets and a blur of complimentary character traits. As soon as the web is spun, glistening and dewy in the morning light, it’s difficult for it to unravel without someone getting trapped in the chaos of cut strings and unpleasant emotions.

Relationships are slightly trickier. They are more fragile, require more maintenance. Relationships, at least the ones I’ve been in, are made of a more brittle kind of silk than friendship, they’re tenuous and devastating.

Both kinds of interaction are as disastrously beautiful as they are lovingly crushing. They represent the pleasure and pain of what it means to be truly human, I’ve been hurt by both.

The worst thing to deal with, besides for the fall out, is when friendship and relationship blend in a delicate and confusing emotional masterpiece. Especially when circumstances allow for only friendship to grow, where does the lust stop and the platonic begin?

Yesterday I had a leisurely post-lecture, pre-devastation chat with my friend Su. We discussed the positive traits we see in each other and how important they are to our lives, a bit of an uplifting tête-à-tête before exams crush our souls. She told me the one thing I willingly and selflessly give to people, is my time.

I’ve always understood that time for another person is the best thing to give them. I’ve never been the type of person to buy affection – I don’t demand attention with sad stories or gifts. I’m not exactly rolling in cash money. I could be eating 2-minute-noods out of a rusty tin can, or trying to diabolically take over the world with lab rats and soggy cheese rolls and I’d still take 10 minutes out of my day to remind the people I truly love that I am still a happy presence in their lives.

That’s the thing. That’s the snare in the web of friendship/ relationship/ weird hybrid of emotions, I give and I give and I give my time sometimes to people who don’t have a minute to reciprocate it.

That’s the hamartia of this whole thing. The fatal flaw in an otherwise devastating fuck up of fate. My love language is time and the people I waste it on don’t understand that they’re taking the most precious thing I can give them, for granted.

 

I tried to type out the story of why I’m writing this blog post, why I was angry crying at 7 o clock this morning, why it feels like a scalding ball of rage and disappointment has settled in my chest – but I still deeply care for the person this is about, regardless of the imbalance of energy we invest in each other, so I won’t.

I’ll leave it at this. I’ve waited months for a phone call, and the one I got wasn’t nearly as wonderful as I thought it would be. I did a happy dance in the middle of a crowded bar when I found out it was going to happen. I clutched my phone to my chest and beamed around the room whilst assuring the people I was with that I wasn’t getting in too deep, that we’re just friends, that my emotions were not dangling on the promise of a ringtone.

Then everyone around me got to see the heartbreaking plummet of my emotions from ecstatic to disappointed. There was no more happy jigs, my heart stopped clawing its way out of my chest, I stopped beaming and got angry. I’ve never been so angry at someone I care about so much. I never expected to be hurt by someone I put so much faith in.

Su sent me a message about it. She has a wonderful way with words and what she wrote to get me to stop crying made me weep like a small child. I’m talking big fat ugly tears, foetal position, howling.

Forgive her if it does the same to you.

You are so much.

Not too much, but so much.

You are light and rambunctiousness and serendipity with dashes of serenity. You are more than a horny slur at night when someone is too lazy to be decent any other time.

You are a muse. Worth more than dirty words in dark hours and worth more than just a thought.

You deserve the love of legions. And one man who has behaved so cruelly (it is cruel) does not deserve that honour. He doesn’t get to make you feel this way and then let you down so hard.

Darling, you’re more than this and even if he forgets, everyone else remembers. You need to remember that also.

I am so much. I give my time to the people I love. I would spare 10 minutes in the busiest of days if it meant I could add value to my favourite humans on this planet.

I have recieved an apology, it’s going to take time for me to sift through the carnage of the web I got caught in. I’m going to have to figure out how I expect people to treat me and the minutes I give them.

I am complex and caring and a light-stained street of emotions. I can’t afford to settle for less than I deserve.

Neither do any of you.

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I promise this time will be different.

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source: weheartit.com

I am not going to cry when you leave.

I know that’s what you’re expecting, I don’t blame you. All my actions leading up to this point have been emotionally raw. The last time you left we sat at the train station for 45 minutes with my head on your chest, trying to pull ourselves together.

I promise this time will be different.

When you leave, when I finally stop smelling your sweater, stop running my hands through your hair, stop leaning over to kiss you gently on the cheek; I will allow myself one minute to let despair catch up with me. I will clench my fists, breathe deeply and then choose to be happy.

I am going to miss you, my god, I am going to miss you. But as I’ve learnt, my dear, I can not afford to burden you with the responsibility of my happiness. You are a small part of my joy, but you are not the force holding me together. I am my own little hero, I am saving my own little heart.

When you leave, when I stop living in the golden haze that comes with you, I am going to continue studying for my test tomorrow. I am going to wake up early for class, celebrate my birthday with the people I love and read books that I will clutch to my chest, laughing until my breath stops.

When you leave I am still going to sprint down boulevards, yelling after all the devils I’m chasing. I am still going to dance around my bedroom to aggressive banjo solos and obscure bands. I am still going to grin maniacally at absurdities.

I am my happiness, darling. There may be a place for you in my ribcage, but I own my soul.

And my soul has decided to be euphoric.

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My god, please stay.

stars

My head’s a little fuzzy from all the positive reassurances I’ve been feeding myself since 11 last night. They’ve managed to fill my cranium with white noise, bumping into each other every few seconds, trying to squeeze themselves into tight spaces to make room for the demons who are hosting them.

Hello. It’s been a while. I’ve been busy, trying to fill my days with as much thought-numbing joy as possible before all the monstrous thoughts come back. I’ve been happy, so happy. I’ve shaken my fists at gremlins and run down stormy avenues in rain boots – shaking poetry out of my hair and out-sprinting every anxious pang I’ve ever held captive in my chest.

But happiness has a nasty bite. It roars and shakes it’s dreadful mane, daring me to beg it to stay.

My god, please stay.

I don’t want to be left alone with this terrible wave inside me, let me cling to you for a little longer.

I’ve had this pounding ache since 11 pm, a precariously explosive bubble of emotions that I’ve weighed down with an iron anchor.

Don’t you dare escape, do you want to expose us? Stay still and quiet, don’t erupt, don’t scream, don’t show him or anyone else how much you’re hurting. Shut up.

“I am spectacular, I am smart, I have worth, I am not falling apart, I am going to tackle this with the tenacity and stubbornness of a mother-freaking grizzly bear.”

No matter how this turns out, whether the raging winds and torrential rain tear me apart or leave me just a little battered- there is still life within my veins. I will rise, I will eventually thrive, I will guard my heart with an iron casket next time something like this happens because I can not afford to let hurricane emotions whisk me away again.

If you’re going to go, then go. But if you want to stay then please, please do.

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