When the lockdown hit, it found Damien at the lowest point in his life. He lost everything he once held dear. He was failing his education. His relationship with his parents was strained. All his friendships turned into acquaintances and eventually even that evaporated. He did not interact properly with another human being, heart to heart, for more than half a year now. Honestly, in the last weeks, he found himself questioning more and more everything that he did. Himself. His choices. His accomplishments, whatever they may have been once. All that made his life his and made him him. He did not even know to feel responsible for it. He was in a state of misery and pain, in a hole he slowly dug himself into and covered on top. Damien was done with it all and the devastation he was filled with was more than he could bear. He did not want that for himself anymore.
The bright and glittering calendar looked out of place in the disheveled room in which chaos reigned. Still, Damien did not let that bother him. He forced himself to smile confidently as he took in the clear calendar list. It was the 10th of April. It was not a special day by any means. At least, not to his knowledge. Still, he decided that the next time it rolls around, it will be very much special. To him personally. It will mark the anniversary of the day when he decided to turn his life around.
Days like that did not need to be special to begin with. They became special after the value people decided to imbue them with. Due to the effort people made to keep up with them and hold them sacred. He decided, that in his life, this will be his day when he will be able to, with a light heart and conscience, say and celebrate that he has been making continuous effort to improve. What exactly he decided to improve on varied. There were so many things that needed fixing, things that needed his attention and input. Too many things, that he had let drift and spiral, for no particular reason. He just kind of lost interest. His mind, for instance. A masterpiece of creation, for him to use to his benefit, yet he did not have the faintest idea how to make use of it. It worked against him most of the time. He was anxious, full of fears. He was hesitant with people. He wanted to improve on that. His studies. Hobbies he was once interested in. All of that which was once his life. He wanted to fix his life. His relationships. Everything and all of it. He decided to change the narrative and rise up to the challenge. To shoulder the responsibility, little by little. God knows he always avoided responsibility, and took on as little as was allowed, and most of the time even less.
15th of April. Boredom. All the time he wasted on the internet, watching videos or playing video games, was now limited to a mere fraction of the uncontrollable mess it once was. Suddenly there was so much time on his hands. He did not know what to do with himself. He stared at the ceiling. He slept… He tried cleaning, of all things! The attempts bore little fruit.
7th of May. His head began to clear out somewhat. It was subtle. It was little. It manifested in a voluntary move of his hand to fix up a stack of papers in a corner of his room. One thing led to another and Damien was tidying up. By the end of the day, his room looked cleaner than it had done in a long while, though it was very far from good, let alone perfect. He decided to work on maintaining it clean.
31st of August. He found himself doodling. Something he had not done for years. Yet he started doing that, suddenly finding it interesting enough to do it for hours, losing track of time. He rediscovered his interest in drawing! That was a happy day. He realised slowly that what he lost was not interest, it was himself. He lost that person who was inherently excited about coming up with an exciting image and committing it to paper. He lost that person and now he was slowly finding him again.
29th of October. He was not successful every day. He could not be. Yet every day he strived to make effort to better himself. That was enough. After so many years of neglect, that was a win in his book. This was a mind battle more than it was anything else, he knew that by now. He was learning compassion. After hating himself for so long, that was not intuitive.
New Year. He could not see his parents, he could not visit them. He was not too eager either, but since his head began to clear out somewhat and things began to come into perspective, he found that he missed them. He did not miss them dearly, but he knew he had to make effort. He reached out. They were pleasantly surprised. He was kinder to them than he ever was and they responded kinder to him than he remembered them being. It was a work in progress and things were set in motion.
Beginning of January. He found his focus begin shifting towards his studies. The concepts which to him felt alien and provoked a reaction of worry and avoidance he decided to invest time into. They stopped being phrases he was remotely aware of and began to gain substance and definition. He found himself answering in class. He found others show interest in him, something which to him was as foreign as the sensation of a first kiss.
20th of February. The first exam results came in. His results were, surprisingly, good. Words could not describe the happiness he felt. Already he felt he was changed and he could not see himself ever losing interest in his studies again. At least that’s how positive he felt at the moment. He did keep to his studies more diligently after that, since he realised that his effort mattered and it was directly definitive of the result.
10th March. Today he awoke feeling excited. That made him pause. He wondered why he felt excited. He was not playing any video games, the excitement from which could once keep him awake at night and invade his mind in the morning. No. This excitement was of a different kind. It came with the thought of a new day ahead of him. The possibilities of that day. All the things he had the liberty to do. The amount of joy and eagerness that thought brought up in his soul was riveting. He rose, and did something he was loathe to do. As a force of habit, he never opened his shutters. It pained his eyes and just made him uncomfortable. That was what he told himself anyway. But not today. He rose and in a single motion flung the curtains open. He remembered that today the lockdown was to be lifted. It was early spring again. His favourite season. He wondered quietly why he didn’t feel this happy everyday as his gaze travelled from treetop to treetop, to the houses opposite to him, all of the city waking up to the new day. It was still early, light was just starting outside. He opened the window, breathing in the crisp morning air, the chill making his body shiver. He smiled unwillingly. He felt so happy.
In his reverie, his eyes arrived at the window directly opposite to his. He never really payed attention to those. In fact, he never really saw them, on account of his shutters being closed all the time. There, he saw a girl leaning on the windowsill, observing the world just as he was with a pleasant smile on her face. His breath caught. She was… truly beautiful. Why did he never see her before? While he looked at her like this, dumbfounded, she felt his gaze and looked at him as well. His heart quickened. Reacting quicker than his thought, he waved at her. His heart was thumping in his chest. She smiled and waved back. Before he could stop himself and call himself stupid a dozen times, he pulled out his phone and motioned at her, as though calling while pointing at her and shrugging. She understood and disappeared from the window.
He kept looking at the empty frame, his heart racing in excitement. His arms and feet felt tingly from anxiousness. He did not expect an excitement of this extent this early on, but early mornings in spring have a tendency to be magical. They have a certain atmosphere to them that is unlike anything else. She appeared a moment later, an A4 paper in her hand, numbers written across it.
He looked at the numbers, slowly typing them in with absent motion. His mind was racing. What he would do if he was the same way he used to be? He would awkwardly look away, that’s for sure. He would be too terrified for any waving or motioning. He would likely shutter in and never poke his head out again. But he was not the way he used to be. This year, he changed. This year, he was different. The very way he felt and was able to react quickly was a testament to that change. He calmed himself and told himself to take this lightly. He did not know if this could go anywhere, so he would not try to push it more than was necessary. He asked her for her number on a whim, and she responded on a whim as well. That was the magic of an early spring morning.
He called. The phone rang a couple of times. He saw her pick up her phone from somewhere on the right and answer it. She looked at him as she held her phone to her ear.
“Um, hello?” He started, somewhat lost and very nervous, though somewhat comforted by his own decision to approach this lightly. “Hi.” A beautiful female was sounded on the phone. The girl smiled as she spoke. “So, I know this is random. I just woke up, saw you, and well, here we are.” He laughed somewhat nervously. She did as well. “Yeah. This is strange. Have you done this before?” “Me? No. I never really open my shutters… Anyway, I was wondering if you would like to have a cup of coffee later today or something…”
A month later, it was the 10th of April. It was also the one month anniversary since Alan started dating with the girl who lived across the street. Her name was Abigail, and she was the best thing that happened to him. Coincidentally, he was the best thing that happened to her as well. This year transformed him. He learned to be responsible, to have accountability. He became someone who could be relied on. He did not fully defeat his demons, nor did he right all of his flaws. He knew that was impossible. So he did better. He learned to be constantly aware of it. To fight the fight, every day. He learned to recognise when he was starting to slip away, or when he was being too lax with his systems and rules. At the end of the year, he was a changed man.
He celebrated by himself. He crossed the last day in the calendar and he leafed through it, taking a moment for each cross he made through the months. He took out his notebook, which was now entirely filled with his scribbles and revelations. He started to read. He read and he reminisced. He remembered. He even teared up, remembering a few particularly hard and dark days which he since forgot about. Days when he nearly threw it all away. There were many emotions, more than he was awake enough to feel a year ago.
A single line was left empty. He took out his ink pen and he wrote on the last line:
“It was all worth it in the end. I have found myself. Thank you.”