Vashti’s 2023

I have a difficult time comparing myself to who I used to be, seeing how I've changed. I am normally somewhere between the thoughts that I am a completely different person between the day, between the hour or that I’ve stagnated & that I’ve become all I will be & it’s all just rot from here. Lately I have felt like I haven’t made any meaningful change, that Vashti is sentenced to be just Vashti for the rest of her life. I was reading through my diary entries a few days ago & I am realizing that this is not true. I’m recording my insights here, my moments of clarity, as a way to start 2024 right. When I feel stuck, I hope that I can look back here & understand that I am nothing but change, that I am not who I was before.

These are sorted in order of when I’d written them, not in order of importance.

  1. ”I think that the idea that the world is a fair place is actually one of the worst misconceptions or ideas that humanity has hatched. Learning that the world really isn't fair, that things aren't right, it's set me free. As a kid, any time something bad happened to me, any time I was somehow mistreated, I began to think that I deserved it. My thinking was as follows: 1) Bad things won't stop happening to me. 2) Bad things aren't supposed to happen to people who are good. 3) I must not be good then. I came to the conclusion that bad, after bad, after bad thing was happening to me, so something about me warranted it, because at first, it really hurts to realize that the world is an unjust place. No one wants to think that. In a way, it's almost easier to admit that you're what's wrong, that the world is right, that the universe is right, that everyone is right and that you are wrong, but that kind of thinking will fester and kill you if you let it. I basically had to debride myself of my entire worldview. I had to teach myself that bad things happened to me not because I deserved them, but because things just happened. It's a very scary thought: That there is no order of just or unjust, that no one's really keeping score here, that there's no one governing these things. It's actually horrifying, but for me, the alternative was worse. Rather than endure constant guilt just by virtue of existing, I had to realize that at times, the world can be an awful place. But it shouldn't be.”

  2. ”How can someone live in shame like that? That's another jail where you're the prisoner & the warden. There are so many things you can do, if you just let yourself. My sister lives by a lot of self imposed rules, so I don't get it. We're just absolutely different in that way. She won't let herself drink soda, won't let herself play video games, won't eat if she knows she's gonna have good food the next day, other people may call it discipline, but I don't know... What good does discipline do you if it doesn't make you happy. It just seems like she feels guilty all the time. I hope she learns to grow out of it one day. It reminds me, there's something I tell myself a lot that I think applies here, it's the top five regrets of the dying:

    1) “I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” 2) “I wish I hadn't worked so hard.” 3) “I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.” 4) “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” 5) “I wish I had let myself be happier.”

    I repeat these to myself every day. It may sound a bit morbid, but I think it's silly & actually pretty stupid to live like you're never going to die. It's basically the only guarantee you get, you're born, so you die.”

  3. ”Maybe if I get better at being myself, I'll be able to, but I'm not sure. And you know, I was texting E, telling her that I was really frustrated with myself & that I always seem to be bending into what people want me to be & that I wish I could be more myself. And do you know what she said? She said, "It's funny you say that, because I remember from our first English class one of the things I admired about you was how unapologetically yourself you were. Idk like you are just you!! I think it's super cool." And she said that she wished to be like me one day. This was last year. It was one of the nicest things someone has said to me, so I haven't forgotten it. And I've been thinking about it, and I think she's right. I really am myself, I really try my best to be, I really, really do, but I don't think I'm all the way there yet. I'm not sure. I think it's normal to want your family's approval, to want people to like you, or at the very least, to want people to want you for something, anything. Even though it's normal though, I still think I can overcome it.”

  4. ”I'm not depressed right now, but I think I'm going to start doing that again. And can I just say that it feels so good to say that I'm not depressed, that I'm 21 so I'm probably just in some weird episode of my life? It feels good. It feels so good. I never thought that I'd become 21 & I didn't think that I would ever be happy again, but here I am. I am happy & I am alive. I feel weird, but I am happy & I am alive.”

  5. ”A misfortune isn't just a misfortune, they're all connected; I string them together like dirty pearls & I wear the necklace and I tell everyone, "Look! Do you see how terrible I am! Look how God has branded me with pearls!" But the truth of the matter is I started wearing that necklace myself. People like to pray to God, but I feel like a lot of prayers could be solved if God came down (or up) for just a minute and told everyone to look at their hands, told them to quit clasping their hands to pray to him & start using them.”

  6. ”People aren't simple enough to explain away as a list of traits, nor are they simple enough to fit into some cohesive thing. I think, for me personally, my self is more comparable to a quilt or to a collage. Many parts of myself are clashing, but they are still equals. Perhaps some people fixate on certain squares of the quilt, but that has nothing to do with me. In fact, it doesn't matter to me. I am complete, but I am not finished. I can keep adding to myself. I can patch some things over. Put simply, I am not stagnant or flat. I'm always changing.”

  7. ”I suppose in light of this, (though if there's light to be found here, it's a dim & dirty one), I feel like something is going to go wrong again this time around, that it should go wrong. Sometimes it's comfortable to be pessimistic, but just because pessimism feels safe doesn't mean that it's good. Safety feels better than hope, but it's really not. It's not even true safety. Being pessimistic is just trading possible disappointment for certain disappointment. It's comfortable, but you shouldn't just try to live comfortably. In the end, it's really not possible. Even if you do your best to avoid pain and discomfort, even if you look under beds & lose sleep over it, it'll still find you. It's an inevitability. I've realized that I can have the discomfort of avoiding discomfort or I can have the discomfort of living the life that I want to live. I just have to choose over and over again to choose the rewarding type of discomfort.”

  8. ”I think it's just because I want approval, or maybe love, but I'm beginning to think that maybe love doesn't work like that. I've always thought of love as something you can track, something that goes up & down, like a currency & if I mess up then I lose love points & if I do a good job, I gain love points & praise. I've always thought that I'm just a few errors away from falling out of someone's good graces, from being demoted, but I don't love people like that. I'm not keeping score, so why do I think everyone else is keeping data? And that's an exhausting job, isn't it? To be a love accountant, to choose how much love to dole out & to whom, to be sitting at your desk with your scales when right outside the window people are loving one another freely. And less and less lately do I really want approval from others. I think I've been sacrificing parts of myself, like some sort of offering, for the purpose of making others like me, but that doesn't even work, does it? What's the point in others liking me if I don't like me? I think that I'm becoming someone who is self assured. I think I like myself. And I think if someone doesn't like me, then it's fine, because there will always be someone to love & to take care of me, & that person is me.”

  9. ”I've been sitting here for a while trying to articulate this feeling I have, but I still don't really know how to describe it. It feels like I'm always in waiting for something or someone, like I'm looking for an excuse to enjoy myself. And I feel like all of my days are blending together into some kind of choppy amalgam that's hard to remember. There isn't a lot to differentiate between them, they just kind of bleed into one another & all end up with the same tinge. And it feels like I'm not really living my life, that I'm just experiencing it passively. It's like I'm outside looking in, even though I can do whatever I want. But I don't do whatever I want.

    I think the problem is that I keep putting things away like a fine china that I only take out for special occasions, and I just look at them through glass while they accumulate dust in their cabinet, & I think of them as possibilities for a future date, not something that I can just grab with my two hands. It's like I'm looking for a reason to take them out. Isn't being alive a good enough reason, though? That's miraculous in and of itself, yeah? So what am I waiting for?”

  10. ”So the fact that even though I do feel relatively bad, the fact that I haven't felt bad without cause for about a year feels good to say. It was unthinkable to me for years. I genuinely thought I'd be depressed my entire life until I eventually would just succumb to it. Not only that, I'm handling it well enough. I don't feel motivated, but I've showered every day, eaten, cleaned the house, gotten out of the house, etc. I don't feel suicidal & I'm not even talking down to myself, both of things that were so routine to me that once I unlearned it, I noticed their abscense. I'm treating myself gently. I'm treating myself like a friend. & I am not hopeless; I am not giving up; & I know that I will be fine. These are all things that I've finally learned. I'm proud of myself. I'll get through it. The only way out is through. And it's always okay in the end. If it's not okay, then it's not the end. I truly believe that.”

  11. ”I just keep living like normal, even if I don't want to. It's the only way to go on.”

  12. ”& it's really easy to feel separate from it all, but I'm really not, I'm just as much a part of this world as everyone in here. And people like to say that the world is cruel or the world isn't fair, but that's not true, because I'm a part of this world & I am kind & I am fair. And you know, it's easy to feel like you don't belong, but that's not true either, because when I'm watching birds, I'm not asking myself why they deserve to be here, they just deserve to be here by virtue of being here, they don't need a justification, & I have as much right to this world as the pigeons & the egrets do. Sometimes it's just that simple.”

  13. ”Of course, the thing about forever is that it doesn't work. Even if I somehow could hold one of these moments forever, my hands would be full & I wouldn't have room for anything else; You can't watch the sunset forever & drive in circles in the afternoon sun forever & drink coffee forever while you share Ramune forever. These things are mutually exclusive by virtue of being forever. You can't have multiple forevers. So I'm grateful that they're not forever, even if I do want them to be that way. Because everything was temporary & ending, I got to experience so many wonderful things over the course of only a few hours.”

  14. ”I think my way of love has been wrong & that's where this is all coming from. As long as I've been trying to act normal, I've seen love as something that needs to be earned. Something that is not given freely. You have to act the right way & people give you love in return. And when I say act, I mean act. You have to act like someone better, more ideal than who you really are. You need to act like someone who smiles at the right times & & looks people in the eyes even though it feels like you're really looking into the Sun & talks about things like the weather & doesn't talk about things like the fact that we're all going to die one day. I think I've been mixing up love with acceptance. I need to act a certain way & then people will accept me. And I think my idea of acceptance has been wrong: If I am not acting like myself, how are people accepting me. They're accepting the counterfeit Vashti, the one I've put makeup on. And I think that love and acceptance are distinct, but that they rely on one another. For someone to truly love me, they need to truly accept me. For someone to truly accept me, I need to truly be myself, and not act. And these things seem really obvious as I say them, but they haven't been that way for me! Maybe I've caught glimpses of this idea before, of the fact that this double life of mine won't really work & that people don't like the true me, they like the fake me, but I've never genuinely acknowledged it. I've always just pretended not to see it. It was the only way I could continue. I've always felt lonely, like the other, and desperately I just wanted someone to love me. People need love, and I've realized that I love me. I don't need someone else to love me anymore; I can do that myself. I was looking for approval from others because I couldn't get it from myself & needed it from somewhere, anywhere, no matter what I had to do to get it. And I think I love myself so much that I'd rather be alone than pretend to be someone more palatable. I'm not sacrificing parts of myself as an offering anymore. I'm going to be unapologetically myself. I think what's changed is that all of this shame I've felt is gone. Well, what I mean is that I got rid of it. I like myself. I love myself. And I love myself so much that I'm not going to compromise anymore.”

  15. ”Being happy is enough, so I'm practicing being happy. A year or two ago, waking up every day hurt. And the idea of doing that every day for the rest of my life seemed insurmountable. It really wasn't, but it seemed that way. Well maybe I shouldn't say that. At the time, it actually might've been. I really do think that I got as close to breaking as you can get without actually breaking. But that's over now. And now I'm happy to wake up every day. And the fact that I'll be in school for a few more years? I don't mind it at all. I was so eager to get out of here, to move away, & to not look back, & in some ways I still am. The entire reason I'm in school is because it'll help me leave this place. But right now I'm content. I'm happy. Not only am I okay with the fact that this is my life for the next few years, I look forward to it. Recently, I had come to the realization that in the end, how I spend my days is how I spend my life, so I've been living day to day, while still keeping my future in sight. Maybe I'm being too vague. When you're depressed, you retreat inwards. & people think that oh, being depressed, that's when you feel really sad, too sad, but that's just the beginning of it. You start off that way, but eventually you just feel nothing. Nothing, for days, weeks, years at a time. Everything becomes monotonous. You don't leave the house, because it doesn't change how you feel, so why bother? You don't visit your friends, because they're outside the house & talking to them doesn't change how you feel. You don't shower, because you're not leaving the house, you're not seeing your friends, & it doesn't change how you feel. You don't eat, because food no longer tastes good, & you don't feel hungry, so even on a physical, biological level, it doesn't change how you feel. Depression is pointless, monotonous, a state where nothing changes; It's stagnation on every level.

    ... But listen to me when I tell you that the only way you can meaningfully change & learn how to live is to just do it. Just change! You have to wake up & decide to be different. And you really can do it. All of the things that were once out of reach to me: a friend, reading books, writing again, leaving the house & getting coffee, leaving the house & going to another city, leaving the house & going to another state, (leaving the house & going to another country next summer), learning how to drive, doing my schoolwork, watching movies, all of these things were out of reach to me until I moved to reach them. I was a small person who hid at home. And I mean I hid. I used to be too scared to leave the house. When I did, I got sick to my stomach & I couldn't breath. That was my life for a while. And then one day, all of these fears I had, I realized that they were the problem, that I was the problem. I really did think to myself that hiding from life was killing me & that I'd rather be dead than living like this. I don't say that to people, because it's too extreme, off-putting. But I was so scared of leaving the house, so scared of something happening to me, till I realized I've put myself through more suffering than what anyone or anything else could do to me. All of my suffering was self inflicted. & when I realized that nothing could be worse than what I was going through, I was able to change. I'd always heard about people talking about this comfort you feel when you reach rock-bottom, & that was it for me. I realized things really couldn't get any worse than that. & it was comforting somehow.

    And when I talk about finally being able to change, it wasn't an in the moment thing. And it wasn't an overnight thing. And I didn't unfurl my butterfly wings & fly away. It wasn't like that. It wasn't that easy. It took a lot of effort. I had to practice driving & practice leaving the house & it was awful. I still felt scared & sick & my chest hurt. Sometimes it still feels that way. It was uncomfortable. It was extremely uncomfortable. It hurt. And it took time. It was a culmination of effort. That's how actual change is. People like to look at butterflies as a symbol of change & I can see the appeal: They're this undesirable little worm & then almost like magic, they become a creature universally admired for its beauty. But I was reading the other day & they say it's not that easy. When that caterpillar is in that cocoon, do you know what's really happening? It's dissolving. When that caterpillar is in that cocoon, it digests itself in a way. Enzymes turn it into goop. Not all the way, mind you. It's a bit of an oversimplification that it loses itself completely, but that caterpillar really is dissolving, disintegrating in that little cocoon. It's disgusting, isn't it? That's real, radical change. It feels so uncomfortable & painful & disgusting & it's so worth it.

    And unfortunately, I am neither a caterpillar nor butterfly, I am a person, so change is less obvious to me. Sometimes it can only be seen in retrospect. And looking back, I can say that last year, or the year before, or the year before, I would not feel so okay right now. I'd be panicking, scared to go back to school & to fail yet again. But that is not me anymore. I'm different now. I'm someone else, by which I mean I'm more myself. It feels as though everyday I'm getting closer & closer to who I really am & as I come into sight, I like what I see. And tomorrow, as I catch the bus & head to my first class, more than likely I'll feel scared & sick. But the difference now is that I know I can get through it. I can make myself get through it. It doesn't sound pleasant when I phrase it like that, but that's how it is. And I'm happy."

  16. ”But I can do uncomfortable things & that's what I did. My fears don't control me, I control me. And Vashti decided to take the train into the city. I got a window seat, one with a table & just stared out the window for the entire ride. Despite feeling scared to get on, once I was actually on the train, I calmed down a lot. I think it's because I've done it before, at least a handful of times over the past year or so. And because one of my very worst nightmares, getting stuck on a train, happened to me earlier this month & I was okay. I watched a blur of burnt grass fields that all sort of blended together, until I saw this beautiful deer, galloping through the monotony. I felt so deeply moved. I do feel like it meant something. I saw that deer & immediately thought that it was some sort of sign... I don't know. Just seeing such a beautiful, delicate creature in such a hot & hostile place, surviving anyways, it stirred something in me. I'm that deer. I can be that deer. I live where the deer lives, the only difference between us is that it lives its life beautifully & with splendor. I can do that, in spite of everything.”

  17. ”E said something to me the other day that I haven't really gotten out of my head. She told me that I'm more moody than emotional, which I think is very true. I think I can see myself with a bit more clarity now.”

  18. ”Just stepped away to go for a walk as the sun was setting, past sunset really, dusk is what I mean. I took a walk on the cusp of dusk & night. I felt like I couldn't breathe & started crying. Crying on another walk? Yeah, I know. It was just so beautiful; Not the sky, not the weather, just the fact that I was alive & experiencing it. There was a time when I thought a night like this one, one so far in the future, was out of reach to me. I didn't even allow myself the thought of the possibility of happiness, no matter how unlikely it seemed. But this night was mine, & I was grateful to myself, my past self, for allowing me to live to experience it.”

  19. ”I never feel angry. I'm gritting my teeth at no one. I'm so mad. I am so mad. What is wrong with me? I want to tell myself to grow up & get over it, but if I could, I would, so I'm just going to let myself feel angry. No forbidden thoughts, no forbidden emotions, even unpleasant, accusatory ones like anger. And I mean accusatory in the sense that I know the exact experience, exact place in time that this feeling has come from, it's pointing right at it & it's hideous & I'd rather it be covered up but it's not. Maybe this is good though. Normally I tell myself to just be grateful that people put up with me & I never let myself become angry & if I do become angry, I waver quickly because I want approval & how will I get approval or acceptance if I'm angry.

    Talking about dogs, if you've ever read Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, the narrator frees this dog from its abusive owner & the dog goes right back to his owner & she doesn't understand it. & I didn't understand it either. Come on dog, you should be upset, you should run away! But then something shifted in my thoughts, shifted in a way that gave my vision more clarity & I realized I was just that dog. And Vashti would rather be loved like a person than loved like a dog. & Vashti would rather be hated like a person than loved like a dog. So it's okay for me to feel angry. I'm okay with it.”

  20. ”My life is actually right now & there's no amount of waiting or preparing that will change that. This is my life whether or not I am ready for it. These days right now, I'm going to miss them one day. I'm going to look back at pictures of this one day & I'll think to myself how I miss it & I'll never have it back, all the while I'll be living days that I'll miss even later on. It never ends. These days are precious whether I realize it or not. Time is passing & it's the time for me to live my life, to really think about it, to do it consciously. I keep thinking to myself that my future, it doesn't exist yet. I think of the future as this inevitability I'm hurtling towards, but I can change it. I can change my life. To change my life, I just need to leave each day completely differently. I need to do things on purpose. I can change my life. I can give myself whatever life I want. I can.”

  21. ”I’ve been treating my life these past few weeks, maybe months, as just a path, just a way to get somewhere future and distant. I think life has been a bit too heavy to bear, and that’s what I’ve needed to tell myself to keep going. I’ve been telling myself that I’ll get to put this weight away soon. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s the only thing that I’ve been telling myself. My thoughts have just been consumed with getting through things, getting away from things, getting to live the life I want, soon, one day, but my life is now. I can live right now. Maybe I’ll do it imperfectly and unpleasantly, but I think I’m really grateful to be alive. I’m tearing up as I write this. I really mean it. I’m so happy to be alive. I’m happy to feel, to feel anything. This capacity for feeling & possibility that comes with each new day is a blessing. I don’t care if my days are bad, because they’re mine & they’re all I have, so they're precious to me.

    Writing this made me feel like I remembered something really important.

    I'm going to live, & I'm going to do it day by day by day, because days are all I have. I used to describe myself as someone who lives one day at a time, who treasures the mundane parts of my life, but I'd forgotten that part of myself without even realizing. I'm going to try to make each day special, rather, I'm going to remember that it's special. Everything I need is already there & it's already with me. This feeling may not last, it may not even last the night, but that in and of itself makes it, & makes today, even more precious. If I don't pay attention, it'll disappear without me even realizing it.”

  22. ”Here is the type of person that I am, that I’ve been: I washed my sheets a month ago & today I put them on my bed. To put my sheets on my bed, I had to move the pile of clean laundry that had been sitting there for weeks. My room has posters that I’ve bought but never put up & manga that I’ve bought but never read. I feel the weight of unplayed games & they’re no longer in a queue, they’re in a heap. I haven’t been able to keep up with Animal Crossing & my flowers have died. On my desk, I have a few flashcards that I’ve written but haven’t studied & many flashcards that I haven’t even touched. This is the type of person I am. I’ve been starting things but not finishing them. I’ve done it my whole life & I’m done. I hate it. I don't want to live like this anymore.

    I keep saying that I want change, but I've forgotten that I have hands & that change is a verb, an action. Change is something that I do, not a state that washes over me. I'm being serious. If I don't change now, when will I? I want to be different, radically different. I'm saying this & I'm saying it with conviction: I want to look back at this one day & I want to be unrecognizable to myself. I want to be better & transformed. I don't know if I can make this feeling last, but I'm really going to try to make these actions last. My life is right now & no one can live it for me. Change is right now & no one can change things for me. I'm desperate.”