[If you’d like this post read aloud by the author rather than a screen reader, please play the audio below!]
On July 23rd, I turned 21. I want to write a post to mark the moment but it’s dawning on me that I don’t have as much to say as I thought I did. Many people use words and intellectual understanding to create distance between themselves and the terrifying world of emotions worth feeling. I suppose you can guess (finding yourself on the text-heavy blog of a songwriter) that I am one of those people. So this year I don’t know what else I can say, without accidentally spinning another web to catch my emotions before they hit me.
I’m used to fighting off “shoulds”.
Shoulds that come from ableism, shoulds that come from a far off idea of “society says”, shoulds that never actually make anybody happy. So I set to writing this post about all the “big ticket” items I haven’t checked off yet, all the ways I’ve found happiness without complying with another should. All the things I’ve said before. However, the same old stuff wasn’t hitting the spot. Something else needed saying.
Do you know what can feel similar to fighting off conditioned shoul
Squashing your own desires. Putting barriers in your own way. I taught myself to switch off from those big goals and turn to this day, to a single flower, to the feel of my favourite blanket and the sound of music turned down low (actual music in general, not just the film on repeat). I don’t know how to pick myself up from this, I don’t know how to recognise the importance of my own desires as an adult. I want to detach the concept of adulthood from particular ideas of independence, so I can be okay living here with my parents, okay needing care, okay defining independence differently. But not all my so-called big ticket items are tied to this, I don’t want to release an album because somebody told me that’s what musicians should do. Or because I think it’ll make me any less disabled or act as a way to “catch up” with others my age. Though these motivations have been true in the past, and it’s important for me to remember that. Now though? I want to release an album because the process (and resulting shared work) is something I know would be fulfilling to me, would make me happy.
And that is terrifying.
I know what I’m doing in the day-by-day “appreciate the laughs and the hugs” kind of life. That was all I was well enough to do while fighting for my education and healthcare as a child. Was… “Child,”… These things are in the past. Who am I now, if I’m not fighting my way to an A level qualification? Who am I if I’m not fighting at all? Maybe I’m somebody who can take those little slices of unpredictable daily strength and build something bigger, something that lifts up and frees my soul the same way a wheelchair carries my body; towards greater adventures than I could ever manage alone.
It’s terrifying because I’m scared to try. I’m scared to lose the dream that keeps me going and watch it turn into a reality that doesn’t live up to the expectations. Dreams have been everything to me; I’m beginning to think I’ve spent most of my life disassociating and dissolving into them. It’s hard to reassemble myself, to drag these tiny, hurting pieces back together into something that makes a sound. But my dreams only comfort me while they possess a degree of realism, of possibility. The longer I lean on them and give nothing back, the less I believe in them. And the closer I feel to falling.
The downside of a downscaled life?
These years of “living the little things” have the unintended side effect of blowing those little things up out of all proportion. I’ve grown to appreciate moments and small treasures by holding on tight. By recording, by remembering, by caring a lot about every little thing. No wonder this movement in time, marked by a changing of age, always gets me scrabbling to hold on to something again.
We all have our shoulds. We all have our wants and our needs. They feel similar sometimes and it’s not easy to figure out which you’re following or why.
“Give me a key to the door and I drop it”
The day before my 21st birthday, I threw my key at the door. I didn’t mean to; it slipped out of my hand at an angle and landed on the step. I’d been sitting in the garden for a while, with tired hands not willing to guide the key into a lock on the first try. I did pick it up and make it back inside but the moment stayed with me, the small laugh on comparing this scene to the “given the key to the door” tradition that used to signify adulthood, trustworthiness and independence. Give me a key to the door and I drop it. I can’t judge myself by those standards. I tried a life lived searching for compensation and accessible equivalents to the established shoulds. It didn’t work. Play by those rules and you’re always loosing. It’s how the game was set up.
So what if I acknowledge my wants?
Then I search beneath them and I find more expectations, more attempts to compensate. I realised gradually that my obsession with making things has often been an attempt to escape myself, to live on outside my disabled body as it scares me with its crumbling edges and obvious mortality. Other times, my creations have been offerings to people, ways to start conversations and continue friendships I didn’t believe myself worthy of. I’m scared to work on myself and my plans, scared of discovering more shoulds and loosing another dream. I’m scared of building another fake me to hide behind. But what is a me who doesn’t try, if not a liar? Perhaps covering a bruised little human in pretty clothes and letting them sing and perform for a moment is less of a façade than all this dreaming, hiding a world of possibilities behind inaction, a door locked tight on the unknown potential of just giving it another go.
… More to it?
Hang on though, let’s consider the context here: disability, isolation, inexperience, a pandemic. I’m happy to put everything on me, to make personal development the answer to it all, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. To return to the title statement (that I’m yet to release an album) there are countless reasons why many people who would love to do this (and who would create great work) might be unable to. Ever. From mental health to finances to discrimination to a lack of energy. No amount of trying, thinking or ‘personal growth’ is guaranteed to make things possible. Personally, I’m in a position to be able to try again, to give this a go. But that doesn’t make my past a series of failings or unfulfilled potential. I haven’t done it because it wasn’t possible, it wasn’t right, it wasn’t time. I have to believe that and forgive myself all the made up sins younger-me was accused of within her own mind.
I’m Sakara. I’ve survived 21 years and that’s my greatest achievement, no matter what I have or haven’t done within them. I will always appreciate the little things, but (as a dear friend said to me recently) that life is not always easy to live when it’s through necessity rather than choice. I hope I can add some of these little things up, I hope there’s space for my wants, underneath all the fear and fatigue.
Here’s to dreams, to being 21 and to an attempt to make it to 30…
Until next time,
P.S. Photography-assistance credit to my ever-patient mother :))