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When I look back to the way I behaved in 2012 and 2013, I feel overwhelmingly guilty and ashamed.

As of late, I have been cleaning out my tumblr though the mass post editor (bless it, truly, it’s a gift from the heavens), and it’s kind of embarrassing to admit that it feels like I’m going back in time. Looking through these posts is giving me flashbacks; I remember that episode of glee, and that phase where all I reblogged was photoset after photoset of Liam Payne or Zayn Malik from One Direction. It’s weird, not because I’m embarrassed of my interests per say, but because my interests have vastly changed.

That was four years ago. I remember then too, clearly. I had so much contempt in me; I was a moody thirteen year old girl with so much sexual and emotional frustration. It was that time, that coming-of-age time, where nothing is explained to you and you’re not allowed to do anything, but you want to learn and do so much. You think “I’m thirteen now, I’m a teen, I’m a young adult, I’m not a baby anymore.”

But the thing is, I was. I was a baby! I was only thirteen. I thought I knew so much about the world, about everything. I’m seventeen now and I still don’t know jack sh*t!

I think about myself then and I get a blast of different emotions. I was so sad then. I’m still sad now, but this sad is a different sad; it’s a systematic sad I get every now and again and I know that the lapse of sad will end eventually, and I’ll be back to the ‘normal’ I live everyday. (For those who don’t know, that’s how my depression works!)

The sad from three years ago was so different. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, there wasn’t even a spark in that entire tunnel. There were no torches lining the walls; there weren’t even holders for the damn torches or burnt scuffs on the low ceiling. I was hopeless back then. I was so damn alone, so sad, and the worst part is, I know now that I didn’t have to be. I was stubborn; I didn’t want support, I didn’t want comfort, I wanted to be sad and helpless because I thought if I was, I’d get more sympathy, more friends, more attention because that was what people on the internet were saying, right?

If I could go back in time, if I could poof to two years ago and tell 2012 Isa to get a grip, I would do it in a heartbeat.

It was so unhealthy for me to be online then. I was in such a vulnerable period of my life, where impressions were everything. I was depressed in a place where depression was ‘cool’; so instead of trying to better myself, I dug my heels in the dirt and stayed there. Why? Because I was finally in a place where I belonged. I knew this. People related to this. I could live here if it meant inclusion.

I wish I didn’t. I wish I didn’t. I wish I didn’t, but I did. I thought I knew everything then! I thought I was so smart, I thought that feeling would go away if I had a few online friends, two thousand twitter followers, and a cool icon of a goose wearing glasses. I could brave the crushing feeling in my chest everyday if it meant that when I got home, in the comfort of the four walls of my bedroom, I could be an internet superstar.

I left middle school with two friends. I started high school guarded with a ten foot pole. I took my first AP class. I frequented the internet less and less. My twitter follower count decreased by four hundred followers. My posts got less attention. My online friends went online sparingly. They started relationships, meaningful ones, in real life. I cried clutching my pillow every night.

Today, after skyping someone until four in the morning, I woke after getting four hours of sleep, and resumed cleaning my room, a job I was valiantly trying to get done last night. I came upon a nondescript green bag. I didn’t remember this bag at all, so I didn’t know what to expect when I upturned it.

Eight key chains. Eight separate key chains from London. Right then, it came back to me. The memory of the green bag, of the day in London when I bought them, content, a small smile on my face, thinking that my friends would love them.

I sat down and I cried for twenty minutes until I plucked up the courage to write this.

See, here’s the thing: I bought those key chains in the winter of my freshman year. I had just started high school. I had made a couple of friends. Of course I wasn’t going to know anyone very well, but I still had people. I had real life people. I was getting better then. So I bought the key chains thinking that maybe I could give them to my new friends and spread some kind of happiness.

But when it came to giving them, I could not find it in myself to do it. I couldn’t go up to my new friends and hand them a f*cking key chain. Why? Because I was scared. Because I thought maybe they’ll hate it, maybe they’ll think I’m a nerd, maybe they won’t like it, maybe they’ll think I’m clingy, maybe they don’t like me, oh god, what if they don’t like me, what if I’m just a nuisance to them, what if I think we’re friends but they really just hate me, what if I just wasted all this money, what if they’ll just make fun of me after for still being the dumb, ugly, stupid nerd who still gives their friends key chains.

I deliberated this for a week, the stupid green bag next to my world history binder and agenda book in my backpack. After that week, I figured it was too late and would be even weirder of me to hand them, so I took the stupid green bag from hell and I shoved it in my drawer thinking that as long as it was as far away from me, I didn’t have to think about it, I didn’t have to see how I failed to be sociable and friendly already.

I was drowning then. I had no one online, no one at school. I was in a funk for three weeks after that because I didn’t know what to do.

I’m looking at the key chains now as I write this. They’re very pretty. Gold and silver Big Bens, a telephone box, a couple of double decker buses. Signature London style. They’re lovely. Just like my friends. Because, see, I have them now. I have people. I have people who will stay up with me until two in the morning clowning around, people who listen to me when I talk about things I love, people I fight and make up with, people who laugh and cry and yell with me, people who stand up for me, people who will talk to me on the phone until I can get better, people who I’ve written about in awe and glory, people I admire for their courage and honesty and strength, people who I love and who love me.

And though it has been three years, the next time my friends see me, they are going to get a key chain from London. Maybe I’ll have two left over, maybe three. But it’s better than the whole eight.

Because I’ve grown now. Because I’ve stepped out of my skin. Because I can say f*ck it, whatever and nothing horrible will happen to me. Because I’m stronger and older, and I’ve survived this sadness that I thought was the end-all once. Because I can laugh in the face of 2012 Isa, knowing that the future is better.

There are times that you will be climbing a mountain for what feels like forever. You will be tired and hungry, limbs aching, sweat at your brow, and you will look up at the peak of the mountain and feel as though the world is crushing down because you are not even close. The peak is so far, so out of reach, and looking forward, you have so much more to go.

Sometimes, it is good, rather than to look ahead, to glance behind: to see the road that you have carved behind you. To look at the progress you have made. Yes, you may not be at the peak yet, but you have braved sharp rocks, steep inclines, jagged pathways. You have come a long way, and though you are not done yet, you’re not there at the peak, there is room for celebration of what you have already walked, what you have already done, and how you have grown.

I’ve grown. And I’m proud of it.

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