This was the year I convinced myself that everybody hated me. This is because this is the year I started hating myself. I ran away for the first time. I stopped eating very little and started eating nothing. I sang Sounds of Silence. And sounded good. I surprised everyone by taking a drag from a joint. I wore feather earrings and tie-dyed pants. I started saying ‘blessed be’ when someone sneezed. I still do. I received my first real bra: white, lacy, foreign and uncomfortable. I visited Macedonia. My father promised to buy us a fluffy white dog to take home. Then he changed his mind; our mother said, ‘He doesn’t think before he speaks.’
This was the year I started smiling again. My hair was long and auburn. I got drunk for the first time (and threw up in the car without my father realising). I had my first kiss. I accidentally aced my exams (except for Biology, ironically, which is the only subject I studied for). I stopped eating red meat. I discovered cigarettes; sharing a packet of yellow Silk Cut with three other sixteen year old pseudo-smokers. I fell in love with Placebo. I saw some random emo kid (before emo was emo) and plagiarised his style: one arm enveloped by a fishnet glove. This became one of my trademarks.
This was the year that is too painful to remember. It was a year of losing all kinds of virginities. I ignored school, opting instead for empty parks and cheap wine. I jumped on the love-band-wagon. It was a war of prides, a whirlpool of love, a windmill of slaps and hang-ups and break-ups. This is the year I started drawing my angst on my skin. I don’t think I have ever been prettier. I don’t think I have ever felt uglier. I acquired a habit of running away. It’s a hard one to shake.
This is the year I dumped his ass. The year I lost two best friends and found a thousand more. This is the year I stopped being accidentally golden; I fucked up my exams. I stopped dying my hair black. I didn’t stop smiling. I went on my first holiday. I went with ten men who ignored me until the last night when one of them used me. I kissed a girl. I moved left Greece and moved to England. I thought I fell in love again. I was wrong. I couldn’t wait to be myself, finally, whoever that was.
This is the year I realised that there is some baggage that is permanently checked in. The year I realised, oh shit, I’ve always been a writer. The year I tried to dump someone that refused to be dumped. I got my first job: a waitress at a private club. I started eating again. I stopped eating chicken but couldn’t surrender tuna. Then Finding Nemo came out. Hello, Vegetarianism! I moved into my first apartment. Traffic became a lullaby. My room was sad and spotless. I couldn’t step on cracks in the pavement. I started cracking.
This is the year I became a recluse. I turned twenty and I cried because now I was old. I changed my major to Creative Writing. I started listening to my professors. I put on a few kilos and someone called me fat. I dyed my hair yellow. I dyed my hair pink. I dyed my hair blue and purple and red. I could only wear mis-matching clothes. I could only wear matching underwear. At home for the summer I learnt to love whiskey. I danced. A lot. I woke up with bruises. Often. I got drunk and gave lectures to people on drunk-driving. I kept insisting I was fine.
I got fucked and fucked over by a friend. I had my first panic attack even though I didn’t know it at the time. My hairdresser cut all my hair off because, well, I had destroyed it. Then I dyed it pink again. I did four modules’ worth of work in four days on little sleep and no food. I went home for my birthday weekend and invited all my friends to last-minute drinks. Surprise! No one turned up. I started working out for the first time this decade. I finished university and celebrated by going home to work as a waitress at my local. I eased up on the writing. Nothing was happening; what was there to write about?
I moved back to London because I didn’t know what else to do. I lived like a couch-nomad. I made a lot of friends; some recycled, some fresh. I worked at the Brit Awards. I went to Paris for work: we killed a pigeon, we burst a tyre, we slept in a field and woke up surrounded by rabbits. I lost weight again. I laughed a lot. I went crazy for someone crazy. We wandered the streets of London from morning to night: museums, beers, hand-made bracelets. We talked of travelling round Asia.
We went to Thailand. I celebrated my birthday on a beach with strangers bar two, with fireworks and massive paper lanterns. I stroked elephants and pitied their feet in chains. I made wishes on flimsy Buddhist bracelets. I drank from buckets. I learnt of the power of my instinct. I lost something. We moved to Vietnam where the cafe was thick and black, the raindrops hurt and the people rarely smiled. We broke up one month before we moved out. Awkward. I left him and went to Australia. Three days later I got an interview for film school. Three days after that I flew from Melbourne to Sydney to Bangkok to Athens to London. I had the interview and flew home the next day. I was exhausted. I didn’t get in. I went to Mykonos instead. In September I moved back to London with my best friends. We watched our shows and drank absinthe and partied in Brick Lane. I passed out by midnight at every party we had. I started writing my novel. I was working too hard for not enough money. When I went home for Christmas, I stayed there.
I spent six months going out, drinking and having fun. It was awesome. I met the fabulous Eleni. I had the most awesome summer holiday with the most awesome people. I hooked up with my high-school sweetheart. I remembered why I dumped him. I hooked up with the one that could have been my high-school sweetheart. His seven-year crush waned almost immediately. I drank a lot of Starbucks. I went to the gym a lot. I spent Christmas without my mother or my sister. The rest of my family forgot to buy me gifts. People used me as a last resort for a New Year’s party and then complained about it.
I had the most awesome birthday ever. My body was exactly how I wanted it. I had a massive (secret) panic attack while my wisdom teeth were being extracted. I stayed in bed for almost a week, so swollen I couldn’t look at myself. On my first day out, I dressed up as a sheep and went to a party. I caught fire. I suffered 3rd degree burns on 9% of my body. I was given the chance to believe that I am loved very much. I fought to heal fast enough to go to Miami as a glorified nanny. The kids were horrible and the parents treated me like a servant. I cried all day, every day for two and a half weeks. Back at home I met a boy that swept me off my feet. I was in denial about how vulnerable I was and I couldn’t handle him or how he made me feel. He got bored. He told me so. He broke my heart. I got drunk. I took my pain out on other men. In August, I sobered up a little bit and started crying. In September I learnt something that changed my life that I’m not ready to divulge here. I spent autumn putting pieces together, learning about myself, forgiving myself, getting angry (finally!) and being with people who reminded me of my worth. I started laughing properly again. I started accepting that admitting my accident was a traumatic experience doesn’t mean I’m weak. I ended the year feeling loved.
Putting all down on paper like this, I can’t help but feel like the next decade kind of owes me! On that note, a conversational quote from this summer…
Alexia: The worst part isn’t that it fucked up. Shit happens. The worst part is that I am difficult in the sense that I need fireworks. And, you know, that doesn’t happen all that often. In my experience, there is a limited quota for that sort of thing. And now, despite the shelf-life, that quota has been met… so I’m kind of screwed. Knowing me- for a long time.
Eleni: I get it. Trust me. I get it. But you know what? What about our quota for happiness? We never think about that. And we definitely haven’t filled it yet. Not even close.
Are you reading this, Universe?!