in search of the truth

dear dad,

for the first time since you died, i had a positive dream about you. i was playing hide and seek with my friends, we walked by your room, we saw that you were sleeping. ‘shhh, we don’t want to wake him,’ i said. we tiptoed quietly. you looked like you were right where you belonged. you looked peaceful. you looked happy.

for once, i wasn’t trying to punch you, kick you, or kill you. you didn’t do anything to upset me. you didn’t infuriate me. you didn’t incite a kind of rage that has never existed in my waking life. for the first time, i wasn’t angry with you. you were simply sleeping! you were helpless and vulnerable, and i, i had compassion for you. i had empathy for you.

why now, after seven years? i am not sure precisely how it happened but, it seems that, over the course of learning to love myself these past two years, i have been learning to love you as well. the part of me that is you. my death shadow is less of a shadow now–it’s more of a light.

this change has not taken a clear progressive path. i couldn’t even tell you when it started. was it the day i left my perfect world and boarded a plane to brisbane, australia in search of a different life, in search of the truth? or was it that july seven years ago, when everything i ever knew disappeared as quickly as you did?

the best way i can explain it is this: i had to mess everything up before i could put it back together.

i have had to deconstruct myself, lay out all of the pieces on the table, pick them up, handle them, study them, mix them up, brush off the dust, and–the worst part–love every one of those pieces. the imperfect, the controlling, the cynical, the indecisive, the dark, the resentful, the envious, the critical, the anxious, the insecure, the sensitive. (i could go on).

this mess hurts. some days i feel utterly defeated. some days i (still) don’t know what i’m doing or why i’m here. but somehow this mess makes me happy. somehow my life is better than it was before i knew the mess existed, when i was back in the states, in my safety, security, comfort, predictability, contentment, plan. when i knew what i was doing, where i was going, and what i (thought i) wanted.

i still have no plan. (well actually there is a vague plan to stay in queenstown, then travel asia or africa or south america, then go back to new zealand, and then maybe go somewhere else, but that doesn’t go with the story so i can tell you about that later). i don’t know where i am going, or where i will be even next year. the only thing i know for certain is that i want to collect experiences, be challenged, learn from mistakes, and have a large plate of freshly baked cookies nearby at all times.

for me, right now, that’s what success looks like. one of the pieces i have been tortuously inspecting is ‘career’. only about 99% of the time, i panic about my career. i am haunted by thoughts like ‘i should be making this much money’ and ‘i should be advancing in my career by now’ and ‘i have to put my education to practice’ and ‘what i’m doing isn’t good enough’. and i am especially haunted by what you might think of all this. would you be proud of my decisions? or would you remind me of what could have been if i had stayed?

i finally went back to the states for the first time in nearly two years. in some ways it was as if i went back in time. nothing changed, and yet everything did. i missed birthdays. family dynamics crumpled. colleagues got promotions. my nieces and nephews became humans. friends got engaged. friends got married. life goes on, and it doesn’t involve me.

because i live in new zealand. i live in new zealand. how many times do you have to say something for it to come true? how many reasons do i have to give to family members for why i left, for what’s so good about a speck at the bottom of the pacific? how long does it take for the truth to sink in?

after three weeks in the states, i got dropped off at LAX and was overcome by a strange, weird feeling. i couldn’t name the feeling, i couldn’t identify it at all, which of course was very upsetting to me. but when the plane was landing in new zealand, the man sitting next to me asked ‘so do you live here?’ i responded yes. and it felt right. it felt scary, but it felt right. and i like to imagine, dad, that i looked peaceful and happy too.

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