It gets better.
Today I ran my fastest kilometer ever and it felt absolutely amazing. As I was feeling the world rush by, I couldn’t help but think back to just four years ago.
I can imagine the girl that I was, 22, run into the ground. When I was 22 I was… sad. I don’t want to say depressed because I never received any diagnosis nor did I seek help for it, but I was numb and completely empty inside. I cried every night. My body continued without me as I got up every day, as I cooked and cleaned, as I took care of my unwell girlfriend, as I listened to my mother cry every single day on the phone, as I worked part time and studied full time, as I counted every penny and knew that even if I cut myself in two and sold half we couldn’t afford food. Hardly rent. So I worked more. More money. Less time. But at least I didn’t have to stare at the tomatoes and cucumber and know that I had to choose. I couldn’t afford both.
And friends? I wasn’t too liked at my uni. We lived in the north and I was from the south. I didn’t speak like them. I didn’t know the area like them. I was isolated on the island we had created, far away from any friends and family. My girlfriend and I. Not really Swedish. We had only been in this country, my country, for two years. And I hated it. I missed Britain. I wished I hadn’t left the country I had lived my whole adult life in.
But at 22 I went back to writing. I had written earlier of course, but between the ages of 19 and 22 I wrote nothing. I didn’t have any words. But suddenly they came back with a vengeance. I wrote to feel something. To find myself again. To find the spark that had been killed as I had lost myself years before.
So I went looking. I went looking for the 17-year-old who had left home, fresh-faced and naive. I didn’t know the girl I had used to be anymore, all I knew was that she had died in Britain. She had died so that I could be born and at 22 I didn’t know who I was yet. I have tried telling people this. But they always say “you’re always so happy” and I guess I was always happy. I had the world on my shoulders and a smile on my lips. I was good at pretending.
I used to feel sorry for myself. Not the 22-year-old me, but the Kathy who was a teenager. The 18-year-old who lived alone in a cold flat in a little British town. No hot water. I boiled water on the stove to wash my clothes in the bathtub. The building I lived in was situated between three pubs and I would lay awake in my bed listening to the roars and shouts of the drunk people downstairs. In the winter my flat was so cold I would go to bed at 6 PM just to get warm again. Double trousers, jumper, cover and blanket. And I learned. I learned to cook, and after the skin fell of my hands I learned not to wash my clothes without plastic gloves.
But at the same time I lost myself.
I wanted to hug little me, and tell her that it’ll be okay and that I’m so sorry she had to die.
But everyone has to grow up sometime.
At 22 I changed. I found writing again, and a friend was nice enough to send me Jae’s Backwards to Oregon. Then several of Gil McKnight’s books. Which introduced me to lesbian fiction.
And I found myself again. My girlfriend stopped sleeping so much. We moved back south and I started studying here instead. I started believing in myself. I started running. I’m asthmatic and sometimes I thought I would die. But I ran. And I wrote. And I read. And I lived.
I don’t live by my past anymore. I don’t need every difficult thing to be a part of my identity and I have restored the connection with the girl I was. And now?
Now I’m married. We have two dogs. I have graduated and I have a wonderful job waiting for me that I’m starting on Monday. And this week I published my first novel.
And today I ran my fastest kilometer ever.