It began of course with leaving: I’ve been away from home now for a third of a year, tides shifting around my ankles & carrying me away from monsoon & memory. Into a new grand uncertain adventure. The first weeks of university have been frenetic & fathomless, glass-lit & good. I’ve learned so much, primarily how to move. I wake up running. I am never more than steps away from wonder.
But also I am never more than steps away from loneliness, & I confess I didn’t expect much out of my twentieth birthday—at least nothing more than the usual weekday whirlwind of lectures, precepts, Italian conjugations, dubious dining hall desserts, early autumn air like a baptism. Alone. I like alone, & I mean that in the most genuine sense possible: even oceans apart from everything I once knew, the quiet reminds me these days of blessing instead of mourning.
Instead I woke up this morning to a happy birthday sign across my doorframe, strung by friends in the middle of the night. In class, an impromptu birthday song; cards slipped into the crack beneath my door. An afternoon phone call from a friend back home who by all rights should have been long asleep. Birthday girl yelled across the halls on the way to class. A letter from someone I haven’t heard from in years: I miss you, I still think about you, I hope you’re happy. Flowers & cookies delivered to my dorm. Ice cream with six of my loves on one of the last days of the year warm enough for ice cream, laughter ribboning into the air, breathless.
Sometimes I become so good at alone that I forget what it feels like to belong somewhere. Today I turned twenty & I remembered.
Last night, as has become an annual ritual, I was going through my old diaries & was struck by how often, throughout my teenage years, I’d written I just want to feel loved. I just want to be loved.
You do now, my darling. You are now.