madisen kuhn

afterword

afterword

let me begin with this: sometimes you must go through things, totally and completely, to fully understand them.

the last few years of my life were a whirlwind. i saw myself as broken, and i didn’t know how to fix things. or maybe i did, but i didn’t know how to muster up the courage to do so. i crossed my arms and furrowed my brow and screamed while keeping my feet planted firmly on the ground. then, one day, i decided to move. i woke up and realized that i would rather be lost and broken down on the side of the road without a phone, than sink deeper and deeper into a foam pit of comfort and lethargy. i wanted to feel alive again.

for weeks, i’d stay up late at night looking at flights online, picking at my cuticles and replaying a scene in my head over and over again of me navigating the airport until finally, i bought a one-way ticket that would set me free. moving across the country was the best decision i ever made. it was an awakening. i look back and realize i had to be fully immersed in all of that darkness to really understand it and myself.

on those overexposed and oversaturated months in los angeles, i’d wake up in the morning and walk my dog—somedays taking a quick loop around the block, other days not worrying how far away from home we wandered. i did yoga in my living room and told myself i was more capable than i realized. i entered anxious situations and reminded myself that not trying is more harmful than doing the thing that scares me. there are still things i want that i do not have yet. i have so much more to learn. i’ll always be learning. life is a constant torrent of trying to figure shit out and doing your best.

in october, i purchased another one-way ticket. i left a love that grew me and shaped me, but did not nourish me in the ways that my soul ached for. i said goodbye to açaí bowls and palm trees, and kissed my best friend of three years goodbye. some may feel that traveling across the country for a relationship that would end was just a waste of time. an immature and starry-eyed adolescent mistake—but i don’t see it that way. i look in the mirror and i see someone brave. someone full of hope, someone who chose to chase warmth all while knowing the real possibility of imperfect endings. i believe that fairytales don’t always end in happily ever after. mine ended in tears and poorly taped cardboard boxes—but it was still magic. i will forever cherish the time i spent with the person who so many of these poems are about. he was a temporary home, one that i’ll go out of my way to drive by every so often, giggling at the new garden gnomes and christmas decorations put up by the latest occupant.

we are so lucky to love, to know the light and dark parts of each other’s souls, to get to feel anything at all. none of it is in vain. we turn the hurt into art, into poetry, into stories to share that create unity in understanding. the bliss turns into polaroids we tape above our desks, montages we play back in our minds set to blaring eighties european rock.

i used to see the stages of my life only as steps towards improvement. i thought i had to justify everything with my desire to be better; seeing present sorrow as a fleeting phase. like somehow, the lulls of depression and anxiety, the slower days, the dull minutes were not me. but they are. every moment is valid. every moment counts. and we must learn to love who we are right now, apart from who we could be in the future. we are more than just the highlight reel. we are the moments in between. the messy hair and the drunken irrationalities. we should find peace in the lazy afternoons, instead of criticizing the inactivity. learn what drains you and what makes you whole. focus on the here and the now and the good. you are here, you are now, and you are good.

i used to fear abandonment because i thought that my imperfections made me inferior. that to earn the affection of someone i cared for, i had to beg them, please don’t go before i get better. i believed that someday i would reach this ideal version of myself and suddenly everything would fall into place and i’d ride off into an endless sunset of well-being and stability. and then i discovered that my imperfections do not make me lesser, they just make me human. and these flaws are not detached or impersonal, they are essential notes in the composition of my depth. and unrealistic sunsets should not be the motivation, but rather, the beauty of all that imperfection. the gift of feeling. the luck of existing.

and the chance to write poetry about it all.