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Ordinary Love

        Most of the time, I like who I am—at least superficially. I like the way my new stretch marks ribbon across my skin and I don’t feel bad about gaining twenty pounds in a couple months, but maybe that’s because I don’t think about it too hard, probably on purpose. Most of the time, I’m not afraid to talk about my mental health, but I usually leave out the bits that people don’t want to hear. The colors of my pride flags look nice against my bedroom wall and I choose not to dwell on all the people I haven’t told about my identity. 

        As a child, I heard every iteration of “it’s just a phase”. They cornered me in labeled crates and when I outgrew them, they found larger ones to shove me into. It didn’t matter that my brain never worked like that. There are few things in life that I have discarded. Everything I’ve loved has a home in my heart because I know I will return to those small comforts when the world outside fractures. I used to think phases were a myth, created to trivialize that which brings others peace. I’ve come to understand that some people abandon with ease. Some people live hopping from stone to stone in the garden without looking back. Some people move on.

        Little has changed since I was young. The architecture of the house in my head remains much the same. New rooms have appeared, perhaps curtains have been swapped out, but the sanctuary from my youth with all its residents remains intact. The things I loved then still bring simplicity to this tangled life. I’ve grown fiercer, taller, happier. I’m old enough now to imagine traveling back in time to protect my younger self from the injustices she faced. My wit is sharper, my words clearer, and I’m ready and willing to fight for her.

        I imagine hugging a trembling, six-year-old version of myself and telling her, just cry. It hurts to care, but there’s no better way to live than with empathy. You aren’t too sensitive or too dramatic. Things will get better, and I’ll make sure you get the help you need.

I imagine myself telling ten-year-old me what they left out in sex ed--this doesn’t have to apply to you. You don’t have to pretend to be in love with someone and you don’t have to do anything with your body that you don’t want to. You’re not broken.

        I imagine holding my thirteen-year-old self’s hand walking into gym class and telling her, he is not worth your tears. Talk to your parents, they can help you. I don’t know why he’s targeting you, but I’ll make him answer for all of it. You’re safe with me.

        I imagine being a mentor, a confidant, a bodyguard, a teacher, an inspiration for my former self. I help her out of the boxes they’ve forced her into and show her the labels I’ve chosen for myself. I lean against the wall and fire snide retorts at anyone who bothers her from behind a pair of sunglasses. I explain to her that people can wear whatever they want, that when others treat her cruelly it’s not her fault, that there’s a difference between platonic, romantic, and sexual love and some forms of love are not inherently better than others. I show her my art and writing so she’ll know what she can achieve if she never gives up. I console her when she loses friends and I defend her against unwanted attention from men on the street.

        Most of the time, I like who I am. Even on days where I can’t get out of bed, even on days where I feel stagnant, I find relief in knowing that a younger me would idolize who I’ve become. I know that if she can love me, so can I.

©Kaylee Schuler

Listen to the song I chose for the title:

Listen to the playlist inspired by my head-house:

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