By Rivka Yeker
It is the first time I am back in my “old bedroom” in my “parent’s house” and I feel my past self filling up each square foot of my wooden floor. I am haunted by my bookshelf and the space where my TV used to sit, my keyboard, the embarrassing flower border that I never wanted.
A person’s childhood bedroom holds their most intimate experiences: the first time they fell asleep with the lights off, their first panic attack, the first time they thought about sex. This room has been the storage space for countless nights of sad music blaring through speakers, hours of Sims being played instead of homework being done, post-work exhausted collapses onto my bed, the loneliest thoughts and the most desperate. This bedroom has seen every inch of me, every angle of my mind, every thought I’ve ever blurted out loud, every mistake I’ve tried to hide, every movie I sobbed to, every song I've belted, every selfie I’ve taken; this bedroom was my best friend, my most comforting friend.
This room is empty now. Most things are in my new apartment in Chicago, aside from books I read growing up, the keyboard I have yet to move, and the same unsettling and triggering lavender color that paints the walls. I never chose to color my room lavender, as much as my mom tries to tell me I did. I distinctly remember saying “yeah, that’s fine” when my mom offered the color to me because I knew, even at 5, that putting up a fight with my mother would be the wrong option, so I accepted lavender. Years of internalized misogyny and confusion, I was in my own personal physical hell.
I decorated the closet with posters from AP Magazine on the left side and Andy Samberg’s face on the right. I plastered as many concert posters across the room as I could, even throwing up Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” album art just to hide the lavender that taunted me.
The nostalgia is overwhelming.
My eyes swell at the thought of all the times I’ve barged through my bedroom door unable to control fits of mania, every outburst, every punch to the wall, every time I thought I had reached my limits.
I wish I could grab her by the shoulders and tell her to keep trudging and to continue being passionately in love with existing, regardless of how many times her friends make her feel less than she is or how many boys comment on her body and weight, how many times her intelligence is mocked, and how many times she will have to prove herself over and over again.
All I wish I could say is, “it won’t get easier, no, but you will become stronger. It’ll be hard, but it’ll be okay.”
I feel bad for the girl I once was. I feel bad about the people that treated her like a dog toy, chewing her up and throwing her to the side, I feel bad about all times she let herself be vulnerable only to be ignored and stepped on. I feel bad for how confused she felt, for how she didn’t fit into a category or didn’t fully understand her customized femininity.
When I was a little girl, I saw my future self have short black hair, bangs, a strong sense of self, and the motivation to keep moving forward. I saw my future self as strong, powerful, and independent. I’m screaming to my younger self, “You did it. I’m doing it.”
I sit in my empty room staring at the tennis trophies I won as a constellation finalist for almost all of them, the one ballroom dance trophy, the photo of me playing a nurse in a production of The Secret Garden, and the giant board of concert tickets I saved and stickers from bands and record labels that I kept. My mediocre and average self resting before my very eyes reminding me how ashamed I once was. How I had to work ten times harder to understand a concept or win a tennis match, how learning to cope with my mind was my biggest accomplishment, and how living as myself has never been easy.
It has taken me a long time to admit that I am proud of myself, but I think about all that I've done this past year, and I am proud.
There was a time where I punched holes in my walls because my anger consumed me, a time where I sat against the bathroom wall and lost my mind in front of the mirror, a time where I thought it was impossible to feel as much as I was feeling in that exact moment, but now I am handling myself through the help of what was once my best friend and my worst enemy:
the childhood bedroom that I grew up in.