This moment – broken teacups and butterfly wings

A+photo+from+New+Years+Eve+that+makes+me+inconceivably+happy

Natalie Mix

A photo from New Year’s Eve that makes me inconceivably happy

At 11:47 p.m. on December 31, I documented my tear-stained face in my Snapchat camera roll, a pale orange memory of crying fifteen minutes before the new year.

At 11:59 p.m. on December 31, an entire cup of very red sparkling juice splashed across my very white sweatpants, the plastic cup clattering to the floor as the seconds fluttered closer to midnight.

At 12:00 p.m. on January 1, as cheers filled the small basement and someone’s arm hugged me tight against them, I was a canvas of tears and juice and a sloppily modge-podged collage of emotions.

Two weeks before, on a cold, clear Saturday, I had totaled my 2008 Cadillac DTS—the car I’d sworn would be the vessel for my senior year memories, the car I had my first kiss in, the car whose speakers I’d never gotten to turn all the way up. 

With a broken ankle, a broken collarbone, a knee scooter, and an inability to accomplish any trivial task without assistance, my winter break dissipated in a haze of smoky, charcoal memories. Only a few golden moments stood apart. 

For two weeks, I had been watching my life happen to me, grasping at the remaining tattered threads of things I could control, able to escape only in fleeting moments surrounded by the few souls whose arms could hold my broken pieces together.

So there I was, standing on the brink of a year that has shimmered on the horizon my whole life—the year I become an adult, the year I graduate high school, the year that everything I’ve known for almost eighteen years changes. And I never expected it would look this way.

My friends’ faces were warm under the lights strung up on the walls, and they all shone with anticipation for the landmark year ahead, but all I could think was that I’m not ready—not ready for everything to change, not ready for my friends to scatter across the country without me, not ready to face a future it doesn’t feel like I have. 

For two weeks, I had been watching my life happen to me, grasping at the remaining tattered threads of things I could control, able to escape only in fleeting moments surrounded by the few souls whose arms could hold my broken pieces together.”

So I finally broke—like one of the teacups my grandma used to gently remove from her cabinet for impromptu tea parties. They stood displayed behind glass doors, each their own entity, each with their own story painted across their fragile exterior, but as a little girl, I played favorites with the brighter colors and left the others to my brother and sister. 

Now, I feel like one of those overlooked teacups, rendered in duller colors, a disappointment to that little girl who valued praise and adoration, hopes and dreams, a future that she wanted to exist in. Except unlike those teacups, who were always handled with an abundance of care, I was teetering over the edge, falling to the ground, shattering into a state that felt irreparable. 

For days after New Year’s Eve, I slipped away into myself, marked my days in the number of times I’d cried, clung to FaceTime calls and text messages to keep myself from disappearing completely, and wondered what could’ve gone so wrong to leave me like this. 

But just when I could almost breathe again, when the first week of my final semester of high school had come to an unceremonious close, when the weekend’s promises were a brush of fingertips away, a faint pink line on a COVID-19 test nearly broke me all over again. 

I’m still not sure why it didn’t, still not sure how it all happened. But I think it went something like this. 

In the forced solitude of my room, I let sadness in—I let it hold my hand, but I didn’t let it wrap itself around me. I cried, and I wondered at how I could handle one more thing on top of everything else, but I could breathe, and I could see the glimmers of light between my tears. 

And then things started to get better. I cleaned the clothes and trash off my bedroom floor, I stood in the doorway masked up while my brother rearranged my furniture, and I took some Vitamin D before I went to bed. And when I woke up, I could breathe again.

Seven months ago, I committed to being in the moment, committed to a series of columns that I hoped would help me achieve that. At the time, I wasn’t sure what that meant. I only knew that the colors of life around me were beginning to blur and I needed it all to slow down, wanted to be able to see each of those colors as they flashed before my eyes.

I guess I did something right. These last few weeks have clouded my ability to see it, but this past semester was a collection of moments I was fully present in, moments I can recall with stunning clarity. 

I only knew that the colors of life around me were beginning to blur and I needed it all to slow down, wanted to be able to see each of those colors as they flashed before my eyes.”

The shadowy landscape of the last three weeks is, in itself, evidence that I did something right. I was breaking under the full weight of emotions that I’d only experienced glimmers of throughout the last seven months, gaping questions and despairs about the future that I had known how to cope with. 

On that cold, clear Saturday, I made a mistake, and that mistake robbed me of so much—things that I will never get back, things that are beginning to return to me now, and things that will come back as I grow and heal. 

With time, I have found the moment again—freeing, euphoric moments like the one a few days ago, when I realized I could lift my arm just high enough to tie my hair up myself, a small dignity returned to me. 

And then there’s the golden moments from the last three weeks that stand untouched by the shadows that surrounded them—like the moment two hours after midnight on January 1, when I told someone I loved them, someone whose presence within my words was once a fleeting mention of butterfly wings, a line in a story about something else, a whisper when I wanted to shout. 

I’ve grown to be able to shout, grown to be able to give them more than just a line in my stories, grown to be able to send this to them and have them tell me it’s corny, grown to be able to say now that they are part of the reason I learned to be in the moment—heart racing in my chest and butterflies swirling in my stomach. 

So here I am, pushed over the brink of a year that has shimmered on the horizon my whole life. I never expected it would look this way. But I’m here in this moment—with my Jane Austen candle dwindling down to nothing beside me, my cat sleeping on my couch across the room, my life an indisputable mess.

And I’m okay.