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Struggling, but Trying

Scrolling through the faces, each one blending into the last. Hearing the same songs in fifteen-second snippets makes them not only irritated, but also restless. They are begging themself to turn it off. Though, that feels impossible, because the world is too quiet; the world offers no certainty. The amalgamation of faces and noises offers comfort because it will always be there. It silences all the questions begging to be answered and all the problems pleading for resolve. 

Eventually, their body can’t bear laying there for one more second. Their breathing has become heavy, and their whole psyche is an alarm, beeping, beeping. They chuck it to the ground. They never want to see that screen again. As they peel themself out of bed, their weight shifts to their legs. Their body feels heavy and their head, light and tingly. Leaving their room, they pass their backpack laid against the wall, their shoes scattered across the floor, and their phone face down beside their bed. The familiarity of these everyday items has become suffocating.

What does a well-adjusted person do in their free time? None of the possible options are very appealing. They simply can’t imagine themself doing anything, as if the power to make decisions and follow them through has been stripped away from them. They just stand there for a while, like a body frozen in captivity. Eventually, the responsibility to help themself surmounts their indecision. 

Painting was always a passion for them — or was it soccer? Maybe chess? They all were at one point or another. The ironic part is that, at the time, they always put their maximum effort into all their hobbies, and they were able to gain real, tangible skill. But through the years, the passions went with the tides. Only the shell of a person remained, devoid of any enthusiasm or interest for activities beyond those of daily life.

They make their way down to the basement. A dark closet surrounds a big plastic tub, labeled with their name on a strip of tape. They know exactly what they are doing; going through this box is self-sabotage. But, they have made peace with that, and they do it anyway. They remove the lid, and they are immediately met with the smell of old paper and ink. Notebooks, cardstock, and canvases are neatly tucked away inside. They rifle through the notebooks inscribed with detailed linework and deep shading. Flipping through them, the illustrations seem to bleed into one another, like a stop motion animation. But, the nostalgic whimsy is coupled with melancholy. Going through the box was a celebration of what once was. Yet, it aches like a devastating reminder of what could have been. It exposes all the talents undeveloped, the hours wasted, and the creativity that was not expressed. The person who ornamented this box with their creations possessed limitless potential; the one that peers into it can barely get through their day-to-day life.

They dump all the artwork back into the tub. What was once neatly organized is now strewn around carelessly. They punch and tear up the papers at the top of the pile, creasing and destroying pieces of art that used to mean so much to them. They slam the light switch off and run upstairs. The house seemed quieter than ever. Oh, how they wish that someone was sitting in the kitchen, someone they could talk to. At this hour, everyone was isolated in their rooms. They could go to their mom or call a sibling, but what are they supposed to say? 

Walking is not something that they want to do on a regular day, let alone a day like today. But they know that that is what their mom would suggest. The choice between a walk or not is like choosing between two great evils. 

“Is the sun always this bright?” they think, squinting as they walk down their driveway. They are dizzy, no doubt because of dehydration. One foot in front of the other. Each step is almost instantaneously overtaken by the next, and they begin to blend into one another. They count their breaths: 7 seconds in, 5 seconds out. 

The houses haven’t taken a new shape; the cars are parked in the same spots, and the birds sing the same song. But, internally, they feel soothed. Their thoughts have slowed down. But, the doubts and fears haven’t completely drifted away with the afternoon breeze. They are still there. It’s just another day, making it through an early-life crisis.

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