Halcyon days

[Halcyon: the idyllic time of the past]

I remember walking briskly in the afternoon air… I had places to go. There are certain feelings from the days of my youth that I’ll never forget, when the air itself felt like it carried a hope that lingered around me for a while. I had big dreams and I held them close. I was humble and hopeful and light. I liked this version of me. Somehow, over time, I allowed myself to get smaller and smaller. As I’ve begun to awaken, I feel like I’m getting more in touch with who I used to be. I’m finally shedding the layers that never fit in the first place. It’s almost as if I can see clearly now… my halcyon memories show me the beauty I may have missed in the moment as well as what could have been.

Smaller and smaller…

For the longest time, I tried to fit into the mold that others set for me. I had my own mold in mind, but I hadn’t thoroughly defined it for myself enough to stick with it. Some of this was a result of my mom… she never seemed comfortable with my choices, particularly my artistic ones but even the mundane type. Not wanting to disappoint or start an argument, I would often cave and choose things that reflected who my mom was rather than the the person I was. My mom had a specific box that she wanted me to stay in, eternally. I defected from her ideas at times, when my own were strong enough, but in general I often deferred to her. I got used to trying to decipher the boxes of others in my life as well. At times, I got pretty good at fitting into the boxes I thought others wanted. However, the boxes didn’t often mesh together well and I’m not sure I ever squeezed myself into them as well as I’d imagined. When the squeezing didn’t work anymore and the competing desires clashed, I often minimized myself and let go of parts of me. Over time, the “me” I knew got smaller and smaller.

In a literal sense, I remember standing in my bathroom in my new apartment trying on clothes (leotards, to be specific). I was evaluating myself to see if I was thin enough by looking at myself in various styles. I believed I needed to look good in all of them: if I didn’t, I needed to shrink myself a little and become less. Metaphorically, I did this in all aspects of my life. I became less. Less daring: what if I wasn’t good enough? Less ambitious: some people are better than me/don’t like me, so I’ll hold back. Less confident: you’re right, I’m wrong… you decide for me. Less forgiving: I made a mistake, so count me out for the long haul. I became smaller and smaller. I forgot that desire and intention matter. I didn’t know that I didn’t need to check every box (or fit well in every style) to be worthy. I didn’t know I could choose what fit for me.

Before I knew it, my goals were so tiny and yet they still seemed unsurmountable. My fears grew instead of my confidence. It seems like the smaller I made myself, the harder things became. I couldn’t finish a project I started. I had too many boxes and too many of them led to disappointment. I had the “good daughter” box that I could never fit into properly as well as many others that were similarly unattainable (e.g. perfect homemaker/housekeeper; eternally peaceful, patient, artsy, validating mom; keeper/organizer of memories; devoted, constantly-in-love wife; faithful, unshakeable believer; artist) as well as other boxes I felt I “should” try to fit into (teacher? coach? yogi?). In attempting to fit into all of these boxes, I lost myself. I spread the pieces of me too quickly — I wanted to be what everyone wanted from me; I thought that then I would be good enough. I would even be able to prove it with documents and pictures. I ended up crying over a photo album project, confused over how I would organize the pictures or choose the album cover. My life was completely lost in the details, as I was trying to get free.

Shortly after this scenario, I became more interested in how others lived. Social media helped a little. I saw other people who just didn’t buy into it all (or so it seemed). They focused on what really mattered to them — what only they could do or wanted to do, the things that made them unique. They didn’t get thwarted by haters or consumed by fears. They trudged on in the direction of their dreams.

In my halcyon memories, I tend to only remember one box at a time, forgetting many of the painful parts. I sort of love that memories are like this. Viewing my past with joy & longing, I’m more ready to move forward. Perhaps I can regain the hopefulness I had in my halcyon days and mix it with the wisdom I have now.

What about you? Do you have halcyon memories of idyllic moments from the past? Have you ever felt you’ve lost the parts of yourself you had at that time?

Faulkner writes, “The past is never gone. In fact, it isn’t even past.” I like this line and, in a sense, I agree with it. I am still the same person I was in my past… just a little roughed up and a little wiser. The past will always be a part of me. I’m encouraged by the fact that I often have memories of days that seem idyllic in retrospect. I wonder sometimes if I will look back on my life in this moment and consider it another stretch of halcyon days.

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