Stop This Train
I have a real issue with endings, I’ve never known how to stop ‘em.
I’ve spent a lot of time lately trying to decide what I want to write, but more importantly, who I want to write for. Half of the time what I say doesn't even reach its intended audience, if it ever leaves my notebook in general. But for me, it’s therapeutic to know that the opportunity is there for them, if they’d be so willing to take it. I write a lot to myself. Reminders, memories, life lessons I want to hold onto. I write a lot to my friends, past and present. Things they have taught me, parts of themselves they should be reminded of. I write to my family. To my parents, who have bent over backwards to make me comfortable, happy, and proud. To my brother, who’s ambition and drive runs laps around the rest of us before the light even turns green. But lately,
I’ve been writing mostly for my sister.
I wrote her a letter once, promising that she’ll grow a few cup sizes in high school, but one day she’ll miss her A’s. I taught her how to put math formulas into her TI-84...just in case. I reminded her to say thank you when mom drops her off, to take her makeup off before she goes to bed. That the first boy she falls for will certainly not be the last, though he’ll come back a few times, you know, to see how she’s doing. There’s always a quizlet already made, a friend will always have an extra tampon, and it doesn’t matter if she wears the same outfit twice. Everything tastes better with ice. And cheap wine will still get the job done. I told her that time builds trust, that listening always goes further than responding. Finding an outlet is the healthiest way to cope, keeping things bottled in inevitably explodes.
I still get angry when she takes my clothes, paints her walls in the EXACT image of the stickers I just bought for my laptop. When she gets invited to the dances I used to die for, fits into the dresses I wish I still could. When she gets her license, and picks up her best friends just to park somewhere for the hell of it. But at the end of the day, the hardest part for me is letting go of a life that I wanted forever, and now having to watch it replayed in front of me, ever so slightly out of reach. I don’t like to label it as jealousy, because that’s not what it is. A few years ago I found a word for it, one that fits a little better.
Sonder – n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.
When I was a junior in high school, I had to write a paper with the vaguest prompt that I have ever been presented with. “Write about 4 things”. That was literally it, as far as I can remember. It was called the “Mount Rushmore” paper, and the prompt was essentially to capture a 4-faceted concept that tied into one whole. I had several ideas, one was to linguistically illustrate the 4 different types of rain, and the emotions they elicit. One was to link 4 people to 4 different body parts of mine, and explain how they’ve shaped me. What I settled on, was choosing an emotion, and dissecting the 4 different ways to feel it. I chose sonder because I was an angsty teen. I was frustrated that sometimes people who I put first, didn’t reciprocate.
It’s a hard concept for me to wrap my head around, and I hope I’m not alone in that.
As a 17 year old, the word meant something very different to me, than it does today. Rooted in frustration, sonder meant that most of the time, the question I had wanted, was not even going to be asked. It meant that regardless of if I left him on read, and didn’t call him back, he wasn’t going to ask why.
Today, however, sonder is no longer rooted in frustration. More so, I find the anchors in perception, rather than resentment.
With time, I’ve become a very level headed person. Though sometimes my delivery isn’t fantastic, I give grounded advice. I’m good at seeing both sides of an argument, reading the emotions, and remaining calm. I pride myself on that, and I attribute it to my understanding of perspective.
I took a psychology course one time, called Sensation and Perception. We talked a lot about neural pathways, specifically in relation to threshold. There is a light threshold, sound threshold, and the most familiar use of a threshold, is in regards to pain. The pain threshold is not constant, in anyone. Some people have a very high tolerance for pain, others, a low one. This is where I grow frustrated. Oftentimes, we forget about tolerance, and we take each other’s word for how badly something is going to hurt. For example, when I was a junior in high school all of the boys wanted to burn themselves with a cigarette, as a bro thing, I guess. I, of course, also wanted to be a bro. They all told me it would only hurt a little, just tap it on my wrist lightly and hold it for a few seconds, it’ll only burn temporarily. So I did, but I couldn’t feel it. I held it there for almost half a minute, because my pain tolerance was high, and I didn't think it would leave a mark unless I could feel it burn. Guess what, it’s been like 5 years now, and my burn is more prevalent than ever. Everyone else’s burns? Basically GONE, faded with age! Mine? Ugly as hell. On my left hand too, my wedding pictures are ruined.
Anyways. I translate pain threshold, to an emotion threshold. Everyone has their own. If you go through a breakup, there is no way for me to understand exactly how much you are hurting. There could be tears, smiles...fights, or calmly worded text messages. Regardless of the factors, it could happen to me the exact same way and I still could not feel it the same way you did. Our thresholds are different, because our perception is different. The breakup for me could be a 9, but for you, a 4. The death of a childhood dog could absolutely shatter my brother’s heart, but be a quick phone call for me, because I haven’t lived at home in 4 years. It’s easy to live life assuming that what breaks me, will also break you. But what’s harder to live with, is assuming that what broke me, did not break you.
Perception is a tricky thing. But right now, it’s more important than ever, in all aspects of life. It doesn’t require a psychology course to understand empathy...it shouldn’t.
I’m the oldest of three kids, and when we were little we used to wrestle and pick on each other, naturally. Sometimes my brother would catch an elbow to the face, or my sister would get thrown into the couch (all in good fun), but inevitably it would end in tears for someone. The instinctual response was always “you’re fine!”, “I barely even touched you!”, “don’t tell mom!”. My brother always immediately fired back, “you’re not me so you don’t know!”. Who would’ve thought that 15 years later, this would STILL be etched into the forefront of my mind. Some toddler-boy nonsense once used to explain his tears and fits, single handedly shaped the way I handle almost every situation I come across.
My little sister turns 17 in a few days.
When I was 17, I felt like I was on top of the world. Everything was so new, and I felt so invincible. I was so sure of everything. We’ve all been posed with the same question, on numerous occasions, “if you could go back and teach yourself one lesson, what would it be?”. Many responses tend to build a hypothetical bridge over troubled waters, to save their younger selves a lot of pain, heartache, time, and tears. I, myself, don’t know what I would change, I don’t know what I would take back. Everything that I’ve lived, has taught me a lesson not only because I survived it, but because I found a way out of it. The ending isn’t the lesson, the way through it is. Each seemingly insignificant moment in time has built my threshold.
There’s a lot I want to say, so much I still want to teach my sister. God if I could hold her hand and walk her to school every morning I would. But I’ve learned the best way to grow, and the best way to live, is to do so independently. When you tell a story, or you cry to your best friend, you don’t always want them to relate. Most times, I find peace in the fact that what I’m going through is my own.
The most comforting advice you can give someone is “it all works out in the end”, and it does. Back stabs become scars that you learn to admire, bullet holes heal. There have been so many times that I’ve wanted to tell her not to call that boy back, not to send that text message. I’ve wanted to tell her to go to that party, and make up with her friends. To skip the concert because mom is upset, to stay in tonight because Dad is worried. But there’s no use in an easy way out, she has to learn for herself, to build her own threshold, and to write her own stories.
I have a new list for her now.
There are friends I don’t talk to anymore, but I still pray for everyday. My emergency contacts still include a friend that I haven’t seen in almost 2 years. My favorite pillow is one my neighbor gave me when I was 9. I have a matching tattoo with my best friend who goes to school 8 hours away from home. Sometimes my 4th grade english teacher still messages me on facebook. I’ve kept every handwritten letter I’ve ever received. And I still have my purple jack rogers from 6th grade, when all of my friends signed their names on them. I’m still in love with everyone who’s ever complimented something I was insecure about. I still call that one friend who never picks up, just so he can get the notification. I still send a picture of the Barefoot double bottle of pink moscato even though I haven’t drank it in years. And I still think every day about that boy who asked me if I believed in God before he even knew the color of my eyes.
Sure, sometimes people don’t put you first, sometimes they won’t even think of you, because everyone has their own lives to worry about. But if what I just said teaches you anything, know that there are still so many people out there who do. You’re the picture of patience in someone’s story. And you’re the cool mysterious girl in 3rd period for others. Some girls will show their stylists a picture of you, just because they love your hair. Some boys will even call you the one who got away. For the boy who had his heart broken by you, you’ve built his threshold of heartache. For the best friend you defended, you’ve built her threshold of loyalty. You won’t always know what is going on in someone’s head, and you won’t always ask. Sometimes you’ll make the mistake of judging someone before they’ve had a chance to explain, and sometimes you’ll wish you hadn’t.
The only way around sonder is to live knowing that what you’re doing isn’t completely unnoticed. Someone is paying attention, whether they’re here, or up there, it’s purposeful. It’ll teach you a lesson, it’ll mold your character, or it’ll give someone a reason to continue.
I told you earlier that the hardest part of watching you grow up, is realizing that I did the same. You can’t stop this train, you know? I’ve never felt settled with the idea of something just being over.
I have a real issue with endings, and I think it’s because I know I can’t change ‘em.
I have a real issue with endings, and I think it’s because I know I shouldn’t change ‘em.
Smile for the camera sweetheart, happy early birthday!