Clean Slate

Anything can spark a change. A birthday, a new year, a milestone, a good book. A change can be a soft moment in a sea of sharp angles and loud voices. It can be a step forward into something new. It can be the manifestation of hope.

Change is a risk, isn’t it? You never know what’s going to happen when you step outside of the familiar discomfort. Even if what you have is bad, when that’s what you’re used to, it can be scary to try something new. Or, change can feel like the freedom to rediscover yourself, if what you put aside while you dealt with other things was the soft, special parts of yourself.

Sometimes, change means turning what you have into whatever it wasn’t, before. And other times, change means wiping the slate clean, starting over, and pouring the past through a sieve to sort out the best parts, the bits you want to keep. The right pieces to assemble the best version of you.

The last several years I’ve been dealing with a lot. Not all of it was mine. Some of it came from being impossibly poor in a small town with no family nearby and limited options for childcare – especially when your child has a severe speech disorder and ADHD – which made working a regular job just as impossible, at least for more than a few months. Some of it was my health: thyroid cancer, losing my hearing, and then last February, I broke my knee. Some of it came from being the support system for someone… suffering, mostly from things that aren’t their fault, and they shouldn’t have to bear.

I don’t talk about how hard it can be to raise my son, for the same reason I don’t talk about the issues my partner is dealing with (and by extension, I have to deal with): those stories aren’t mine. And they’re not fair, either. The truth is, for every story I share about hardship, about exhaustion and fear and disappointment, people forget a good story. If I say my son was a lot to deal with today, which, some days, is true, how many people will forget the days he’s brilliant and loving and funny?

I have never figured out how to talk about my struggles because what’s beautiful about the people in my life might be lost to public perception then, and it’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

But last year, life started to settle down. After 7 years of dating – slowly, at arm’s length, then closer and closer, as we worked out all the burdens left on us by past relationships – my partner and I moved in together. Paying 1/2 of the bills (because that’s what you do when you live with someone, you both contribute equally)? That I could afford, after years of not quite being able to cover all those things on my own. I started pulling back on my freelance work and side hustles and the constant grind of having to take everything that came my way, even when I didn’t have the time and energy to do it properly. I slept through the night for the first time in years.

Over the second half of 2018, I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish, and who I could be, if I had the time. I outlined a novel, and then actually wrote on it. I went to WFC Baltimore. I did PT and figured out how to walk again. I started learning ASL. I stopped taking on more than I could handle and most importantly, when I didn’t think I had no choice but to overextend myself constantly, I stopped letting other people down.

So now it’s 2019. A new year. My son is in high school, and doing well. My partner is taking steps to help himself through the worst parts of himself – and I am deeply proud. My finances are slowly getting back on track (I think I’ll have my credit cards paid off this spring, and aside from student loans, that’s all the debt I have). I have stories in my head and finally, the brainspace to write them. Doesn’t that seem like the right time for a fresh start?

Part of that is redoing my website. I’ve turned all of my posts into drafts; they’re still here, just invisible. I’m going through them all. Anything worth saving, I’ll update if necessary, and put back up. A lot of it is, I think. You can’t build a future without building on the past. But you can decide which parts of the past make up the person you want to be, and you can step into the future with only what you really need.

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