I dreamed and dreamed of someday going there. I worked my fingers to the bone for years, just to gain a glimpse into some world I had never seen before, with no friends and no certainties and no knowledge of its culture, hoping to learn what I could become if my past and my plans and my home were stripped away from me. I found what I was looking for. What happened afterward is anybody’s guess.

It was hopeful and it was hellish and it was a prolonged, holy spectacle. I do not know if it will feel worth it, in the end. But some things were worth learning. I realized that I will never really be happy or at peace in this insincere reality. And stranger still, I learned that this knowledge does not hurt me; no more than do these spectres of feeling empty or alone. I am no longer afraid of such notions. I have grown into them: I wear them like a skin. Adjusted, at last, to this world that seldom wants me, I am as strong now as I can ever remember being.

Even so, even now, how many times has my mind flirted willingly with the edges of its own undoing? Some nights I cannot rest and I begin to think of every bad thing that has ever happened to me, or been done to me. It starts slow at first, comments someone made, a memory from grade school. Then it floods in, everything at once, things that happened when I was too young to understand; things my father said and that I thought I had earned; people that let me down, or took advantage of me at my weakest; what happened last summer; what happened in November; the lingering mutilation of my ability to trust; how I have to live with those people this year, the ones who watched it kill me and just did not care; every unanswered message on my phone; every promise someone made but could not keep; all the beautiful things I let go of because I thought I did not deserve them. Now I am beyond recognition or belief, alone sometimes with the sleepless spells and the panic attacks and the violent cycles of thought, and on those nights, yes, it still feels worse than dying.

I know that I am not allowed to have these feelings, because they make everyone uncomfortable, and devour me from the outside in. But still, I live, and so I feel them anyways. And I wonder if it really was so bad, or if I just retained it differently. But I know that I never fought back until it was too late, and the consequence is that now, for the rest of my life, there will be a pantomime, an extended act of pretending that much did not happen or did not matter, and that I never loved or hurt or felt or cared as deeply as I so often did. Because I cannot fix the past, and I cannot look back–and even if I tried, I might be too ashamed to speak honestly of what I found there.

What a life I have fallen into. I never meant for it to happen. Sometimes I am a narcissist, enamored of the world, enraptured by my own existence. Other times, I can scarcely live with what I am. I want to feel good about myself. But even if people were to let me, even if the whole world let me, what if I didn’t?  What if I can’t? What if I just don’t have it in me, to be at peace with what I am, have always been? Would that not be enough to make anyone jaded and angry at the world?

But it cannot be too late for me. Because I still know moments of stolen conviction, and their beauty and their chaos takes root and unfurls like a stillness in the soil. And so I am altered, but never really change. I still speak. I still desire. I still feel a lack. Each turbulent night is still swollen with rainwater or falling stars: those sensations that linger on undersides of memories scarcely retained. I forget what I am until I have no choice but to remember. Then I slip into that strange invaluable melancholy, that current of wordless sensation that means I am still alive. I cannot write what I feel then because I am notes on a twelve-bar staff: I deal in music and memory, in clefts of endurance, in harmonious grief and blistering arpeggios of the most exquisite longing.

Is this it? Will this be the year when I finally revive, when I wrench each past misery like a new shard of glass from my skin? If I do, will it heal me? Will it hurt? Will I still know the difference then?

It does not matter. I have time.

It does not matter what was done to me. It does not matter that I have been like this, at such a cost and for so long. None of it matters, because this history has not ended yet. There is still time, there is still time.

It cannot be too late for me.