I was looking at the scars on my ankle yesterday and thinking about how 15-year-old me didn’t ever think she was making scars that would be on 28-year-old me: A business owner, community figure, homeowner, sometimes activist, artist, wife. I could just pinch her. But she didn’t know it would pass. That it was just an era – a piece of the whole instead of the entire picture; the few awful teen years of an entire life.
She didn’t know that her (albeit angsty and overdramatic compared to the pain other people have felt) suffering would someday be the dark to hold up to the light so the light shone brighter.
That she’d grow her wings back and turn into me.
I was thinking this morning about how I owe a fat thank-you to all the people along the way who saved my life. My parents, sister, grandparents, people in Killington — adults who opened up to tell me I wasn’t alone, teachers, friends, my high school love, mental health workers, authors, poets, the upperclassmen at Hartwick who took me under their wing, and later, Cory and his family – and Glens Falls for being an open receptacle for all my gushing.
Where would I be otherwise?
Everything was a step leading to this. Everyone who either directly stopped me from self-harm by holding my wrists and calling toll-free hotlines and holding the phone to my face until I broke down exhausted, gently cradled a piece of my broken heart until it stopped bleeding or gave me a bouquet of favors and compliments is a piece of this, the Kate Austin-Avon story. It’s a great story. It’s a story of early slashes and later triumphs. Of coming out of depression and soaring. Not even flying, man. Freaking soaring!
I remember meditation sessions as a teen and young adult, imagining breathing in clean white light that dissolved the darkness with every exhale. It used to creep back in. When I think of my life now, it’s bursting with that white light.
Looking around at everything I have my fingers in these days I’ve been thinking what if I actually went through with it as a teenager? The world would certainly not be the same. Maybe Glens Falls would probably still be awesome, but there’d be something kind of major here missing: Me. Not to make myself bigger than I am, but when I walk into the Shirt Factory and can see ten things I’ve created for artists and small businesses from just standing in one spot, or when I spout off all the boards and committees I’m on or list some of my great customers, it makes me glad to be where I am today. Glad to be alive. PROUD to be alive.
And grateful to be helping people and helping the community and doing what I always wanted to do: Save the world! I’m doing it. Not like Superman from some terrible villain, but as a person who by trying to live each day idealistically and optimistically and actively and deliberately, hopefully triggers others to follow suit and be more caring and loving and helpful to other people and to the environment. To make the world a better place than it would be if we weren’t in it. I really feel like I’m doing that – each day thinking, how can I do this better.
I wish for this same downward-then-upward swoop for everyone. I don’t think you can really appreciate what it’s like to have confidence and hope and happiness (yeah, I said HAPPINESS!) unless you’ve felt despair and sadness – not that I wish awfulness on anyone, but I just don’t think you ever feel the importance of feeling worthy unless you’ve felt worthless, horrible and empty — how amazing the sunshine on your face from the other side of it feels! When you are a person who feels deeply, you don’t only feel the dark deeply but you also feel the light deeply! It’s glorious! Take heart, sufferers… the sunshine exists. You will find your way to it. Maybe I’m being too honest out in public, letting my guts hang out like this. But I write this publicly, loudly, in hopes that somebody feeling down will see this and feel hopeful. That others’ wings will start twitching and bust out.
Not like every day is easy. It’s not easy. But it has no meaning unless you’ve had to work for it.
I’m loving every second up here.