Oh rose! who dares to name thee? No longer roseate now, nor soft, nor sweet; But pale, and hard, and dry, as stubble wheat, – Kept seven years in a drawer – thy titles shame thee.
These were the words I found written on a scrap of paper tucked inside an old notebook. I discovered the notebook a drawer of the bedside table in my childhood bedroom. Though I can’t say this drawer had remained unopened for seven years, despite yearning for such powerful symbolic symmetry, I can say that the notebook, the one of many I had throughout high school serving as outlets for the depression I continue to endure, appeared untouched, the last entry dated 9 years ago. Close enough.
Having felt the precursory symptoms of yet another emotional meltdown, and deciding enough is enough, I quit my job, rented out my house, placed my furniture into storage, and travelled across the globe to return to my family home in England, all cleverly concealed under the pretext of wanting to take a year off to “travel”.
I entered the bedroom of my childhood to find it just as I had left it, untouched, if as waiting for me, expecting me. The anxiety this caused: Did these walls, having watched me as a child, know I was destined to return? Did my family, who I had worked tirelessly to deceive into believing I was a successful, happy, fully-functioning adult, know the truth? Had they kept the room prepared, bedding fresh and carpet hoovered, in anticipation of my failure?
I rummaged through the cupboards and drawers, finding old memories, pictures of long gone pets, stuffed toys I used to treasure, old t-shirts I had lived in for days at a time, and of course the notebooks, evidence of my shameful crimes against life and living, my only proof that I had been alive at all.
The text is from a poem written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and its words strike me just as potently now as they did back then. I am still pale, and hard, even harder maybe. As I flip through the volume of written thoughts, I can tell that I am dry. I am completely dried up. I haven’t written in years, and the few sentences I have attempted are cadaverous in comparison to the hues of thought I had back then. I would write for hours, days; entire weekends and warm summers drifted past as I penned my every encounter with the world. I was spiritual, inspired by the earth, breathing in the taste of the wind, and memorising the colours of the clouds. More than this, I could describe them with such potency, each word was a brush stroke painting layers of tastes, smells, sounds on my blank page canvas.
Now, there is nothing. Not even darkness (as I have known in years past) for that at least requires an awareness of feeling. I live in neither black and white, nor colour. I feel neither joy nor pain. My life is pale and hard like Elizabeth’s dead rose. I look through my old notebook and am shocked not by how much I have changed, but by how much I have stayed the same.
I never suspected for a moment, trapped in the darkness of my teenage depression that I would not have found my way out nearly a decade later. I’m frightened by the thought that if I had known then the ten years that lay ahead of me were going to be just as bleak and lost as the ten that had preceded it, I may not have wanted to continue to live.
It seems even in the darkness of my teenage depression, I still had a strong sense of life and wanting to live. It’s eery, finding these words, as if I have sent myself a warning, not from the future as one would expect, but from the past. It is a warning that time is running out, that this life will end without even beginning if I don’t change my ways.
So here I am, starting my life over. This blog is my new notebook, documenting my year of travel, on a journey not to a new place, but a new life.