Victoria Day was on Monday, which means fireworks.
Last year I wrote a post about fireworks in which I talked about the fact that I had become a firework myself, in the sense that I had finally accomplished a lot of things that I had wanted to and become who I wanted to be.
And I had, but I was also still kind of faking it till I made it. I knew I was because even though I remained optimistic, it took a lot of energy.
I absolutely hate spending holidays and other important occasions alone, partially because I genuinely love celebrating them and partially because it reminds me of a time when I was purposefully excluded from other people’s celebrations. For example, last year on Canada Day my friend cancelled plans on me for the ten thousandth time, but I really didn’t want to let that ruin my day. I had lunch with another friend and then dyed my hair purple and relaxed at home with a drink and some Canada Day cupcakes and watched fireworks from the roof of my building. But the whole time I had a nauseous, nervous feeling gnawing at me. I was still struggling not to cry.
But now I feel more of a sense of peace no matter what I choose to do. This year I had the opportunity to watch fireworks with some friends, which is exactly what I wanted to do. But when the time came I was feeling incredibly lazy and tired and all I wanted to do was watch The Mindy Project on my computer. At first I felt obligated to overcome this feeling and make the hour-long trek down to Ashbridge’s Bay because I would surely regret it if I didn’t, and how could I not take this opportunity?
And then I was like…wait, what? Why would I regret spending an evening the way I desired to spend it? Why was the only ‘acceptable’ desire in my mind to go out and be social and put on pants? So I cancelled my plans (which I do feel badly about, though I wasn’t the only one) and I did pretty much exactly what I did last Canada Day, except this time I was happy about it.
I don’t need to SEE fireworks to know that I am one. I don’t need to constantly prove to myself or anyone else that I’ve changed, that I’m no longer the ‘loser’ I was in high school.
I feel a sense of peace with myself – not because I know who I am now, but actually because I don’t. For so long I put myself into a very tiny box covered in various labels and traits and inabilities that were assigned to me either by myself or by others, and now I’m realizing that actually, there is no box.
I think this is because of the wonderful people that I have surrounded myself with in the past year. Some are friends that I’ve grown closer with, some are new friends, and one of them is my ex-boyfriend.
I know. Why, right? Being best friends with your ex is super weird, and hasn’t exactly worked out great for me in the past (can you say 9-year on-off relationship, anyone?), but I think it has its advantages. At the very least, it gives me a standard to live up to when it comes to future partners. I swear to never date anyone who I don’t feel is better than or equal to him. It’s a high bar to set, but I think that the eventual result was worth it last time.
In terms of our relationship, I feel like we’re closer than we were before because there’s less pressure, and I feel a little bit less sad about the whole thing. While we were dating he became one of my best friends really quickly, and now at least I feel more confident that I won’t lose that friend. He said he was going to try to be a better friend than he was a boyfriend, and honestly, I think he’s actually succeeding at that.
He challenges me and pisses me off because he is the type of person for whom everything comes easily and I am the exact opposite of that. Everything is hard, but I want to be able to do everything he can do and then some (and backwards and in high heels).
We’re rock climbing partners now and this is something that I would have never thought in a million years that I could do. Or that I would even want to do. I only went in the first place because he asked me if I wanted to. I struggled pretty hard at first, mostly because I am knot-challenged, but eventually I got it and I’m almost as good as he is.
And now I’m like, I CAN DO ANYTHING! I can learn all the instruments, I can run a marathon, I can dance, I can sing, I can learn a language, I can act, I can do stand-up comedy, etc. etc. Those are just some of the thoughts that have crossed my mind over the past month. Those are nice thoughts to have, even if they never come to fruition.
Just like fireworks are a symbol of inner strength to me, so is he. I’d only ever dated one person who I was happy with, and each time it ended added a new set of fucked-up problems to my collection. For me to find someone else and still feel good about the relationship now that it’s over means that chapter of my life is over. And it means that maybe I can find even more ‘someone else’s. It’s given me the confidence to try looking, but also to be content by myself. It’s hard not to be happy on your own when you have such great friends.
As I discussed last year, that person did believe in me and gave me a model for who I wanted to be. He asked, “Why not?” whenever I said I couldn’t do something, but by leading by example Dan taught me something better – how to ask that question of myself.
And now baby, I’m a firework.
Chelsea Ricchio is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the SPEAK OUT blog. She is also the Communications Manager for Healthy Minds Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2015 with a BA in English Literature and Book & Media Studies. She was the former president of the student group Active Minds at UofT, which hosts SPEAK OUT events on campus (from which this blog takes its name). She was diagnosed with Dysthymia and Social Anxiety. She is 22 and lives in Toronto with her cat Genie and her roommate.