By September, I don’t recognize myself. My face bears heavy feeling and time. My skin thickens. I lose track of the days. I have poor memory so when thinking of the person I used to be, I can only trace it back to remnants of last year. I experimented with the woman I thought I always was. I tested my boundaries, trespassed them, indulged, retracted, reflected, re-reflected and attempted to move on. I was the most free I had ever been yet the grounded parts of me, what I thought I knew to be true, felt lost.

I’ve been safe for a long time. It’s the result of fear. It is fear of failure, of inadequacy, of lacking clarity, and of making the wrong choices. At some point after turning twenty, I no longer cared for fear. Why was I holding myself back? Then, after living with less restraint, I began to wonder: was I actually growing or just compromising too much of myself? Was I jeopardizing what I’ve built for myself in years of safety: my self-esteem, my self-efficacy? It was all of that. I coped with my problems at home in unproductive ways, wasted time for some validation, and didn’t have the conversations I needed to have, with others nor with myself. Since then, I’ve paused to heal. I’m working on regaining control, how to keep it and when to lose it; learning how to trust others, but how to trust myself more and ultimately how to be true to myself again.

With that in mind, I am still going to make the wrong decisions sometimes. I can’t fear it or else I won’t do anything at all. This is a relatively trivial example, but hear me out. Just this summer, I went to the beach with some friends. I’m not a fan of sand in my mouth or drowning, but I overlook those factors and still go (what does that say about me, I don’t know). This time, I went a little deeper into the ocean than I usually do. My friends were going in farther ahead of me, but I tried to focus on keeping my feet on the ground. The water was freezing and I didn’t know how to swim (still don’t…but I’m from Harlem, I don’t need it). When the largest wave I’d experienced knocked me over, rolled me onto the shore like a 7-11 hot dog, bathing suit all the way off, I was completely mortified and humbled to the core. But the water didn’t feel cold anymore. I had already faced the worst of it. After a short dignity-recovery period, I went right back in. It was still a really good day.

What irks me is when I know something I’m doing is a mistake. We usually know. If something is not meant for you, the dissonance with your spirit is loud. Choosing to block the sound of our instinct doesn’t ever end the way we want. One of the most difficult feelings to overcome is that maybe we don’t really know who we are at all, so we lose trust in ourselves. We think that we must let things take their course, but we already know what we want, and attempt to let the universe handle it for us instead. The truth is we hold more power than we think, and for the sake of our inner peace, we must use it. I’m still learning.

When the mistakes are made, it’s up to us to change what needs changing. Maybe those parts of yourself you once believed in so firmly weren’t really yours to begin with. All we can do is what feels right to us now, what ignites us. Logic doesn’t always play a part. This is how we grow. Next September comes and what you thought you knew is just the past again.