*After months of planning to write this piece, here I am. It’s 5am and I’ve just finished Part 1. Originally it was supposed to be called “My journey towards self-love” but that sounded disgustingly corny and it implies I’ve arrived at a final destination of some sort which is far from true.

I couldn’t think of a better way to  talk about my ups and downs than taking excerpts of my journal entries from 2015 and plopping them here for you to see. Enjoy and be sure to read Part 2 to see what I’ve come to conclude about myself and the universe from all these teenage troubles.

The Blank Slate
I’m complaining again.

“I don’t know man. It’s grade 12. There isn’t anything to do anymore-parties are boring, weeds boring, we can’t even get in anywhere downtown” I whine to her.She tells me that when we are 19, we’re going to miss this frolicking around without a care in the world. I can’t imagine things will change much when I’m 19. I’ll be hanging out at bars, making conversation and connections. But the future is out of arms reach and right now I am restless.

When you don’t know what it is, how to approach it, how to fix it, if it even requires fixing in the first place- well… then complaining becomes the only rudimentary solution that comes to mind. It gives you the false assumption you are moving forward while you are standing utterly and completely still.

Most days, I imagine I’m some kid in a low-budget indie movie walking to school gloomily day after day only for an eccentric character to dip into my life and turn it upside down. I straddle Hollywood fantasies to push me along but no eccentric character arrives and at night, I go to bed hoping the weed triggers vivid dreams that I don’t have to wake up from.

In English class, I debate getting a tattoo of a sword that gradually transforms into a pen tattooed on my forearm. Maybe the word “storyteller” on my left hand written in cursive. The power within words; I want a symbol of this truism etched onto my skin.But I exploit them, don’t I? I can always make it sound like I have things in check, like I know what I’m doing.

“Sareema has a very mature writing style” most reports read. I have this bad habit of using it for mischief.Like when I wrote a sob story letter for the principal in order to get out of doing my guitar test. Or making Ms. Cartmill cry with that email about why it wasn’t fair to say I was cheating just because I actually put in some effort for a change.It gives you a power trip, turns you into the ultimate puppeteer. Pulling on people’s ethos and pathos strings and making them dance for me.It’s a formula minus the numbers. People are not toys Sareema, I repeat rigorously to myself.

My Senior Song (A Poem I Wrote Last Year)
Picking weed out from under my fingernails hoping to rewind the high
Breathy laughter that felt sort of good in a slo-mo drowsy world
Meeting my friends everywhere but sober
Are we even friends or do we just have the same self-destructive tendencies

I want to catapult myself into the community pool after prom
Waterfall makeup will make you sparkle darling
Engulf ourselves in street arguments and city skylines viewed from atop apartment buildings
Going from one party to the next, hoping to land ourselves in a buffet of eccentric personalities
But we’re stuck with the same dirtbags and queen bee’s so we drive until our eyelids are heavy

I’ve been feeling awfully bored and these gray hues are stifling me
Replaying memories of broken friendships feel like dancing on carousels
A euphoric high takes over but I’m too hazy, too busy admiring the view the blurry rotations give me to feel any sort of sad

I’m longboarding down a winding road and I bend on one knee, palm gently caressing the pavement as if it’s a new born child
But then a car with a broken taillight hits me at 70km an hour, giving me a gash from rib to rib

 My guts are spilling onto the pavement, they’re falling into the sewage drain
Can you get my heart back for me I think it’s drowning in literal shit
Fish it out from the lethargy and sea of happy faces and place it right above where it should be
But don’t patch me up because I want them to gaze at my scars.

I mean, it’s the only way they’ll ever notice me.

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to connect sober.This becomes evident during one of Sarah’s barn jams. The best part of the night is when I am lying on the trampoline in complete solitude and the garden gnomes have yet to arrive. They will soon decorate the lawn in their drunken stupors, if they do not become slugs that wither into the soil first.  The moon is glaring at me. It knows of the dirtying of lungs that is about to take place and it shuns me for not admiring its beauty.

I want to be clean. I want to remember how it feels to connect with someone through a raw, ethereal channel. I want to make myself believe they are interesting and dynamic and that I cannot reel them in using sly tricks on their psyche.

“The more questions you ask a person about themselves, the more they will like you.” I wish I had never read that.

I feel crummy at the end of the night, knowing I couldn’t stand on my own two feet without the enhancement of a faulty substance. I am flimsy. People are not toys, I remind myself. You are not a toy. 

The earth pushed back
I look everywhere except inwards. My close friends have lived through serious depressive episodes and I soaked up their tales of mental turbulence for all the wisdom they could possibly provide.

I never got diagnosed as depressed, let alone did a single online test.She told me this one day after my divulgence of what I’d been feeling lately.“It sounds like you’re depressed”. The church bells inside my belly echoed and I existentially rolled my eyes at this problem that wasn’t really a problem but yet, somehow still managed to be a huge problem that I had to fix.

And so following the pattern of my makeshift diagnosis, I turned to other folk and asked for their opinion.What one of them had to say resonated with me.

You know what’s weird
When you feel sad, it’s supposed to be good to listen to sad music
And in my experience, reading sad stories, listening to sad music, and just accepting being sad all help
Because once you’ve been sad about whatever it is there was to be sad about
It’s over
And sometimes you just feel sad, and you’re not sure why
And that’s alright
Afterwards however, you owe it to yourself to turn it all around
To read stories in which against all odds, adversity is overcome
To listen to music which takes you above the small world you feel you live in
And finally you’ve got to get back to the world which pushed you down and push back, because that’s what it means to truly be alive

 Final Semester
I have things to prove to myself. But I’m blank slated and accomplishing goals no longer gives me joy. Rather, they just add to my frustration at how my emotional voids cannot be filled with anything and the emptiness isn’t sad or depressing, it’s a hindrance. Like a too tight tie or an itchy blouse. It’s not glaringly evident and just sort of uncomfortable but by the end of the night, you can’t breathe.

And then hatred starts seeping in- hatred for fellow peers who spend their days lost in petty teenage conversation, hatred for the school system and how meticulous it tends to be sometimes, hatred for my strict overbearing parents..

I have become this gray mold of self-loathing and I am STILL a pity party and I still take the easy way out. I’m still failing to take initiative because it’s easy to say in journal that I will, I promise I really will start trying tomorrow but unlearning years of bad habits takes more than words.

People can make you believe in yourself again
We lie on the sand, side by side, staring up at the stars. We talk about Freud and our dreams and what dumbshits high school kids can be and I tell him I don’t know if my volunteering endeavors are inherently altruistic or selfish and he keeps complimenting me on the fact that I use big words and that he likes it and he keeps saying “you’re so cool” and I like the attention but I don’t  because he sees me on somewhat of a pedestal just because I use big words and as the ocean waves provide a calming soundtrack to honest, half drunken conversation I try not to get caught in the tides of his admiration.

The first night after we have sex, I’m slipping my dress back on and he’s sitting on the edge of the bed, staring acutely at the floor. “How drunk are you? You’re not going to regret this, are you?” he asks. AWWWW ARE YOU KIDDING ME WHY WOULD I REGRET THIS, GIRLS DON’T SHAVE THEIR PUSSY EVERYDAY  but I just smile real big at his thoughtfulness and tell him “No, of course not”.

Date nights cute; he talks passionately about the possibilities of science and I’m intrigued as he puts on a new spin on something I thought was so finite. But I get distracted by the way his eyes light up when he talks and the way he’s sneaking in words I’ve heard myself say the past couple of days. This guy thinks I’m smart, that’s for sure. He then adorably rants about LGBT rights and I try not to grin, wondering if he’s only saying this because he knows my best friend is gay. You’re saying all the right things for all the wrong reasons, you silly fool. 

Slow Progress
Getting better is hard when you’ve become addicted to self-destructive activities, even when you feel they no longer suit you.  Trying to remember what happened last night feels like I am stepping into memory chambers with a gas mask. I am desperate to not touch anything that might make me relapse and grab that joint I secretly tucked into the leather cushions of my purse. I don’t really feel like getting high, I just want to see myself from a third person perspective furrowing my eyebrows as the flame nears my face with every long drag.

Why Hello There Insecurities
As we are speaking, my thoughts drown in a whirlpool of inhibitions. Shit, what if he thinks I’m nervous, we haven’t talked in a while. Oh god, what if I stutter. Maybe I should’ve smoked some more. Fuck. It is a traditional old-fling-talking-to-each other-after-a-long-time type of scenario. I’d rather not but it would be rude, so I figure I should make an effort but after the first syllable leaves my throat, regret follows it upon the extravagant red carpet that he thinks is my tongue. Whatever I would say used to impress him. But here I stand, bickering like a fool.

And when he turns and leaves, the next thoughts that enter my brain are
I need to forget what just happened
No I need to go talk to him and redeem myself
I shoulda smoked some more, I shoulda drank some more

They all end with the same conclusion; Sareema, alone, is not enough. I am not enough sober. I am a mess, unweaving myself as I speak only to create knots and knots that nobody wants to untangle anyways so maybe if I douse myself in gasoline and set myself on fire nobody will pay attention to these knots.

Tell me about your past lovers
I sit in bed with him; he is another one of those one night stand’s that never really turn into sex. I ask her why she doesn’t tell her best friend she loves her. I ask him about his first time. He tells me about this one girl at school.

I have this journalistic tick where I ask my hookups and flings about the people they are in love with. It is by far the richest part of the hookup experience. They get passionate, and their eyes are usually filled with regret and longing. I feel something when he talks about her. It is far from jealousy; I marvel at the genuineness of young love.
If I’m just a hookup, a temporary side character for one night, then let me suck up this story for all its worth.

 “Do you believe in aliens” I ask to about 10 people that night.
“Maybe. Do you?”
“The universe is too big they have to exist!”
“That’s a weird question uuuuuuh…”
Funny, it’s an interesting, dynamic question but you get predictable answers. I wonder if the only way I’d have been satisfied would be if someone had said “I am an alien”.

I collapse on the grassy green blanket and breathe. It’s too hot in the crowd and the germs in other folks sweat isn’t worth the shitty music that’s playing. Raye and Aedan collapse, one on either side of me. I ask them “How is it”. They say “alright”. We’re trying, we really are. It’s sort of cute and I imagine a camera zooming out from right above our faces. Very picturesque indeed. I stare up the sky-no stars, am slightly disappointed. I think of Sarah’s trampoline, where’s there’s always an abundance of stars. I think of BC. I think of escape. I think of how I’m thinking of escape when I haven’t even started school yet. I think of escape 20 more times that week. I ask myself if I cannot find happiness here, will I find it anywhere.

Intellectual pursuits and a bottle of kraken
I am at a philosophy conference in Atlanta and everyone is cookie cutter business material. It’s ironic because the philosophy is heavily based upon individualism. I buy a 1L bottle of kraken for myself that I am determined to finish this weekend. I get drunk with some of the smartest kids I have ever met and it’s intimidating but the type of unease that’s good for you.

It’s the last night and the conference has ended at 2pm and my flights at 5am. What ever shall I spend my time doing do… tinder to the rescue! I meet up with skater artsy-fartsy blondie and he’s pretty cute. He tells me about Atlanta and how it’s not so rough being a freelance videographer because Atlanta has an abundance of aspiring rappers who are willing to drop bills for shitty music videos. We sneak into a hotel and attempt to get on the roof but it’s locked. After a clumsy make out session, he says “I have a place we can go”.

And somehow, I am in Atlanta in a literal trap house that has car seats for chairs with some boy I met 2 hours ago. It’s sketchy and dangerous but I am young and reckless. His penis won’t get hard courtesy of the single shot he took and I slowly realize I’m with an amateur. Well, no reason to make him feel like shit. So I laugh and tell him it’s okay, this sort of stuff happens all the time. Its cold- the windows ajar and the rain patters on the window. The moonlight is coming in and illuminating the sheer blanket covering us. I think I’m supposed to be feeling icky, having just had sex with a stranger on a mattress with who knows how many peoples bodily fluids. But it’s the opposite. Tycho is playing in the background and it’s sort of romantic really. Not that there’s any attraction between us any longer but I am staring into the ceiling and I can’t help but feel very content with the way the weekend has unraveled.