“Tell the story of the mountain you climbed.

Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.”

-Morgan Harper Nichols


Hard things are supposed to appear easier in retrospect. Simply moving them from the to-do column into the one marked done is supposed to distill them somehow, smoothing out all rough edges, romanticizing all struggle.

And yet, when I look back, I can’t manage to splatter the past with a glossy finish. I can’t push myself hard enough to fall into the all-too human trap of revisionist history. Time continues to pass and I never seem to get to “I guess it wasn’t that bad”, can’t make my mouth form the words “Well, I muddled through once, so I suppose I could do it again.”

The small voice in my head is more likely to say things like “I’m not sure how you managed” or “I wasn’t sure that you would”. Unlike the breaks in bones that strengthen through their healing, parts of me still feel shell-shocked, weak, and scarred.

Scarred, and scared. For nearly two years, as I dutifully recorded five things I was thankful for each day, my gratitude felt like a penance or a promissory note. Things had begun to get better and thus I damn well better savor the sweet stuff. But you can narrate the positive until your voice gives out without ever directly addressing the anxious knot underlying each articulation.

Each and every day, I still feel far too proximate to the cowering girl not quite sure if life would ever again feel like anything but an uphill climb. And I’ve become a girl always aware of how close her feet are to the edge, of how quickly carelessness can lead to calamity, of how the only thing we can be certain of is the uncertainty of what the future brings.

So while I no longer dwell in the darkness, I can’t quite say I’ve made it fully into the light. The mountain I climbed is more or less one I’m still climbing, as I try and fail and try again to reckon with how hard some things were, are, and will always be.

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