Smells Like Home
Being a teenager is like walking a tightrope. There's a definite need of balance and concentration, fluid steps and steady hands. Walking the thin rope is all you can think about, and sometimes the idea of it keeps you up at night. Your heart is constantly pounding and your eyes are always wide. The nauseous feeling in your stomach becomes permanent, and butterflies take wing. All the while a little voice keeps screaming 'don't look down!' You don't look down.
Looking down would compromise your balance, it would make the nauseous bile in your stomach run up your throat. Seeing just how far you could fall would send endless thoughts racing through your body.
A moment of panic, one leg shaking, one toe out of place.
And you'll fall.
Falling is something you don't want to do.
Fall to the left, and you're in a dark depressive cave, nothing but your own mind and long fingernails scratching on the cave walls to keep you company. Away from the spotlight, away from the glares and whispers that judge and haunt your ears. Away from everything you've ever hated.
And everything you've ever loved.
Fall to the right, and you're on display for everyone to see, your body exposed with nothing to protect it. Your heart on your sleeve and your soul on display, like the perfect mannequin you've become. Forced to walk in the shoes they put you in, crawl into the skin they desire and smoke 'em if you got 'em.
Both sides are undesirable. But both sides seem inevitable.
So you don't look down.
You take a few steps and like how you're going. There's a breeze that ruffles your hair, but doesn't disturb your balance. Your confidence rises, just a little bit. You wiggle your toe and enjoy the rope under your feet. You feel a little more powerful, knowing that it's all in your hands. And for a moment, you forget about falling. Some of the butterflies nesting in your stomach fold their wings and land, letting you have you small moment of glory.
You start to think that you could do this, that this rope was nothing but a miniscule obstacle that was the course of your years. The tightrope meant nothing. The power small power you felt gave you hope that you would amount to something, that everyone that had ever looked down their nose at you was wrong. That your life would mean something, that you'd contribute to society. Even if you were just some circus act.
Don't get ahead of yourself.
You re-grip the balancing pole in your hands, hoping your palms aren't too sweaty. You keep your eyes on the other end of the rope, and your spine is straight as can be. Sweat falls from your neck as you hear the cheers from your peers, and feel the watchful eyes of your parents. They're always watching.
But they never see.
You ignore the urge to look at your friends, to see what they're doing, to take their advice. It had almost become a reflex reaction for you. If you were in a crisis, needed advice, or simply felt out of style, you looked towards your friends. You didn't know whether you should continue walking to tightrope.
Many are trying to sway you one way or another.
Continue walking, and you'd earn more respect. You'd be labelled as the gutsy one, the one that never quits, has a heart of gold and will always be there. Stop walking, and it will give them an excuse to have a fuss, to pick you up, to act like the friends you deserve to have. Your peers would be labelled as the caring ones.
You never have the heart to say no.
You go along with their trends, even though you hate the feeling.
The butterflies start to eat at you again. They fly up your throat and congest in your chest. Adrenaline flows through you and your heartbeat becomes irregular. Your moment of glory is gone. You're back in the real world.
You need to hurry up.
Gripping the balancing pole harder in your hands, you hope the blood vessels in your palms won't burst.
The pain from such a thing would certainly bring tears to your eyes, blurring your vision. The tightrope you stood on would shake from your sobs, and the hysterical air in your throat would burn like fire in your mouth. You would fall.
You want nothing more than to be in the dark enclosure of your room. Where your walls are the colour of home and your scent covers everything. A place where you're remembered and acknowledged. The only haven you have. The only place where you truly belong. The only place where you can dress with your own mind, sleep with your own dreams and be who you want to be.
Everyone loves their privacy.
Your parents usually wonder why you don't spend more time with them, why you always have your music playing and your hair covering your features. Why you hide in your room and simply provide one word answers to whatever generic questions they ask.
They wouldn't understand the jungle you live in.
Sometimes you wonder whether they even care.
You've reached the middle of the rope without even noticing time passing.
You suck in a jagged breath and try to keep your spine straight. Your mind runs away from you.
'I'm going to fall.'
'Everyone's going to see.'
You won't tolerate hyperventilation, and you cannot bear to begin thinking about jumping.
You make a decision.
If you're going to fall, it's going to be in a place no one can see. A place where you won't feel the judgemental eyes of those around you, a place where you'll hear the world, but you won't listen. A place where you won't have to. You'll be alone, in a dark solitude known as a 'lost cause.' You think it will be better that way.
If you lose your balance, you'll jump to the left.
You hear more cheers and try to bring your train of thoughts back home to the station of your mind. Not long to go now.
You take a step. Again. Another. One more.
Time has turned into a sieve as you find yourself getting stronger and stronger with every step you take. The hands of the clock tick quickly and fluidly, looking up, you see that you're a mere foot away from being off the tightrope, so close to being away from the constant glare of the world and the judging eyes that belonged to it.
So close to not falling.
The muscles in your shoulders tingle as you square them, and the tightrope shuffles a little under your feet when you're suddenly so conscious of them. You breathe deeply, wiggle your toes, and step off the rope.
You hear shouts of glee from your parents as they acknowledge your triumph. Their pride in you is only measured by your pride in yourself. You lean out what is seen as a window, and wave to them.
You don't know whether it's goodbye or not.
You turn around, and find not a cosy room filled with your heart's desire. There are no fire places or leather chairs, no beds are warm slippers. There's nothing.
You feel aged; there are calluses on your feet from the long walk on the rope, you feel taller, fuller, but the pride that gleamed in your eyes slowly dwindled into confusion. This place was foreign, unknown. The lump in your throat refused to be swallowed. You look at your hands. They're different. Aged. You begin to wonder just how much time you spent on that tight rope.
You turn around.
And you're all alone.
You don't have a plan. No schedule or routine. School is gone and homework forgotten. You make your own life now. With no one helping you along the way.
You take a step in the darkness, and you get scared.
There's nothing to hold you straight, no hint as to what kind of rope you might be walking, if it's a rope at all. Your balancing pole has disappeared, and you find yourself trying to push past tears.
This is the real world, and you hate it.
You long for the balancing pole to help you, and for the tightrope as your guide line.
You long for nothing more to be a teenager again.