The Burden

October 4, 2023

Again, I’m reminded by the weight you carry; it looks so much like my own, but it takes seeing that boulder resting between the blades of someone else’s shoulders to remind me exactly how it feels. The crags, dips, and valleys of that crooked rock that you bear the brunt of, day in and day out—the feeling had escaped my mind, or had been pushed out, rather.

Some days, I choose to forget.

I think we all make that choice some days.

It looks different now—now that I’m staring it in the face, confronting it. You were a villain in my memory. An inescapable adversary that had me by the heels and dragged me according to your whims. Did I give you that power?

Today, I’m choosing to remember. To confront you.

And you’re weaker now, but why? Where did that power go?

I’d like to think that I took it back. But the sceptic in me believes something else. It believes that your seeming atrophied state is a fluke, and I’ll surely become the victim again in time.

You made me out to be something I wasn’t. You planted in me a crippling fear of ghosts that were never real—just propped up sheets, dancing in the kitchen breeze.

I’d like to take that back—to take back the version of me that I have fond, loving memories of. A version of me who didn’t feel paralyzed in the face of unknowns and new challenges. A version of me that stood tall in the winds of novelty. You stole him from me.

I understand that these feelings never entirely go away, but peace with you must look different than this. This is no mutual understanding. This is a tug of war that leaves my hands raw and blistered. This is a contest of attrition, where my mental faculties are the casualties, falling prey to your storm. This is a fight with no winners.

But conceding to you was never an option. I have hopes beyond you. I have dreams that live in a world where you are an afterthought—a fragment of a story that has grown weary with age. I can imagine a future where the boulder you once were has been reduced to a pebble, being tossed around in the palm of my hand. Your crags and valleys now smoothed over by the sands of time.

I will heal from you.

Those few moments where the weight of you is lifted let me breathe a fresh air that I’ve tasted before. They remind me of exactly why you are my challenge to face and illuminate the mark at the end of this winding tunnel.

And will you forget me?

Do I exist to you beyond being a mind to torment? Do you take some sort of pride in the white-knuckled grip you have on my conscience?

No matter the number of times I try, I’ve not once been able to rationalize you. As if understanding you would take back even an inch of the power you’ve sapped from me.

Yet, today, you are weaker. Today, I can breathe that breath of dewy morning air without the pressure of you bearing down on my lungs. Today, I am me again.

The dust of the years passed and dreams long dead still remain embedded within you, and the constant reminders sting like needles.

I don’t know if I will forgive you. I don’t know if I can find it in myself to be at peace with the thief of my youth. But I understand the ways in which you are a part of me. Loving myself means accepting you.

I accept you.

headshotAidan Jones, an aspiring writer and lover of all things “granola,” has emerged from the depths of his personal blog to embark on a journey into the great realm of publishing. His previous work has varied some in terms of genre, spanning fictional and non-fictional prose, introspective essays, and a touch of poetry. Having recently completed his bachelor’s degree in English, Aidan now feels ready to begin submitting his work for publication.

Featured image by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash