‘I don’t know how else to say it,’ my friend tells me, stooped forward on my couch, ‘you haven’t really felt like yourself.’

My heart tangles into a knot against my sternum. I absorb what he’s saying, eyes down as I listen for an echo. I look up, meet his gaze. ‘I know.’

We’ve waded into these waters before, he and I. What is a friend if not somebody who will follow you where you’ve gotten yourself lost, who will say to you with unflinching sincerity, ‘this isn’t you’?

The strands of light beneath my loft form a makeshift maze, all of it glimmering over my napping cat. I take pride in this place, in the way its eclectic warmth mirrors my spirit. I find peace in the way my cat has abandoned all his anxiety, secure and relaxed as he grows up alongside me.

On my murkiest days, I scan for truths like these –– bits of evidence that I’m good, worth loving, regardless of the myriad ways I come up short.

I showed up to 2022 with faint traces of bruising, and I hoped I’d find a way to tell a better story than I managed to tell with 2021. Braver, I chided myself, and less apologetic.

Here in November, the calendar year’s eleventh hour, I’m not so sure I can say I was successful. Like any year, it brought its treasures and traumas, but I can’t help but feel like I watched the same fucking movie twice. I’m a writer, yes, and I’ve plagiarized my own work.

I exhale in the emptiness of my apartment, the finish line to a clobbering commute. ‘What have I learned?’ I ask myself, desperate to pinpoint the lesson. If I find it, I delude myself, then it wasn’t all for naught.

There are lessons, and I know what they are; I’ve learned most of them before. Trust your intuition. Believe what you see. Say what you mean. Forgive.

I refuse to concede time to regret. All around me, right now, are ticking clocks. People who’ve steadied my steps are monitoring their blood pressure, treating our conversations together like they may be the last. The train won’t slow, and I won’t spend the ride too preoccupied to notice the view.

Perhaps there are new lessons here, too. It’s okay to try and fail. Only lazy writers think all stories have to have bad guys. Keep what you want and let go of the rest.

My absolutes, a shortlist:

I tell stories like they live inside me and they are restless.
I get bored with people’s surfaces and mesmerized by their inner worlds.
If I love you, I will remember times with you in pristine, absurd detail.
I see into people almost immediately.
I am impatient, and I am remorseful about it. This is cyclical.
I really fucking like what I like.
I really fucking don’t like what I don’t like.
I am forgiving but not forgetful.
I don’t know how to stay angry for long.
I am not lonely when I am on my own.
It is very fucking hard for me to watch someone hurt.
Writing untangles the mess for me. Sometimes it’s the only way.
I feel tender for people who are perceived to be difficult.
When my gentleness backfires, I feel furious.
I struggle to believe anybody has really seen me.
I cultivate friendships with devotion, enthusiasm, and the deepest love.
My friends have rescued me, again and again and again.
I make playlists like they are love letters.
I am untidy and running late and you won’t wonder whether I love you.

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