My Story: Empty Spaces


On March 13, 2020, I was 14 years old. It is difficult for me to reconcile the person I was then with the person I am now. It seems like an inconceivable task to bridge the nearly two year gap between us, and yet we are, at the root, still the same person.
When I was cut off from the external things that forced me into a mold of a person, I became somewhat weightless. There was nothing to wake me up at 6:30 a.m., nothing to occupy seven hours of every day, no homework to push to the last minute until it left me scrambling at midnight. I had an overwhelming abundance of time. With every not-so-urgent update from the school district and delay of normalcy, more of that time oozed out from under the floorboards until it was knee deep. It is difficult for a person to be tossed about in an ocean of time. You are forced to recall what you love to do, or even what you can bear to do.
I was living within ever-tightening walls. I could not expand myself into a complete person. Drifting between different motivations and passions, I realized that I had become rather empty. Confronted by my equally blank planner, and my sudden desperation to run errands with my mother, I hunted down my past hobbies, dusted them off and forced them back into my life.
Pastel crayon dust and pencil shavings and eraser shreds worked their way into the cracks of my floor as the stack of papers grew on my desk. I let go of artistic value, and integrity, and copied Google search results for “things to draw” to the fullest extent.
I became reacquainted with the treadmill in my basement, which was surely shocked to find itself reacquainted with me. At first it was a slow walk to justify binge watching eight episodes of Criminal Minds, then a jog to fuel me with a sense of accomplishment, until full on running became rewarding, until the sweat dripping into my eyes was recompense as well as nuisance.
In the summer of 2020 I begrudgingly dragged myself to cross country practice each morning at eight a.m. with my sister, where I sweated, berated myself and wished desperately to be in my bed. And yet I loved it. I had routine again. Routine that I had dearly missed. I was again surrounded with laughing, breathing, tangible people with whom I did not share relation and every hour of the day.
Slowly, but surely, the yawning gaps found themselves filled: with new friends and late night swims; new running shoes and a surprisingly detailed running spreadsheet; Tetris high scores and repeated overindulgence in sweets.
I am still, of course, someone who sometimes finds themselves empty. A rather bottomless pit. And yet, that pit is always shrinking, growing, filling. At times it even wells over the lip, overwhelming, pouring over. It has led me to the realization that each and every hole can be filled, but also to the more important one, that not every gap and empty space is cause for alarm, and most certainly not for collapse. The pandemic created emptiness, and loneliness, but also a blank canvas for each of us to become something new.