Being On The Cusp Of Adulthood
Being 17 is hard. You’re on the cusp of becoming a fully grown person, while still in your teens. You got your IC last year, but still can’t enter clubs. You are expected to be an adult when you were only 16 last year.
At 17, I was battling severe depression and the early onset of what turned out to be a personality disorder. I was disorientated, craving attention and fighting to keep family secrets.
Meeting my ex
We met online when I was 17, and I was impressed by his verbosity and ingenuity. I thought I was mature for my age, but when I met him in person, I was intimidated and overawed.
He had a baritone voice and an articulation I admired. I was glad he even paid attention to me. I wanted to be a writer, and he wrote beautifully. I felt in equal measures envious and drawn to him.
A week after we met, I told him that I loved him. He said it back, and I cried in the orange light of his room.
Moving out of my home
I fought constantly with my parents. They found lighters in my bags and pockets, but I always said they were my friends’. Then they found rolling tobacco and cigarette filters in my room, and I couldn’t come up with an excuse.
My parents were furious. I thought they were hypocrites because my father had been smoking cigarettes since I could remember. But really, it wasn’t the smoking that made me want to leave—the smoking was just an easy way out. Our family was broken, and I wanted to feel love.
But I kept silent, and a few days later I packed my things while my parents were at work. In the course of two weeks and several 2.00pm trips home, I was fully moved into my boyfriend’s flat.
The reality of living on my own
The fact is that I was a spoilt child, but it wasn’t how I would have wanted to grow up. If I could choose, I would have wanted a father who was here all the time, but I got to see him once every two years instead.
Every time my parents fought, I got a new toy or gadget. I helped them lie to each other from the time I turned 7, a few years after their relationship turned sour. They gave me everything I could want to make up for their resentment against each other.
My boyfriend didn’t make much money—he earned a little from his art. We stayed in a shophouse and shared the flat with two other guys. We had a communal bathroom and no air conditioning, which took me a while to get used to.
I told myself I didn’t care that we were poor—we were in love, and that was what mattered. He loved me deeply, often indulging me in my childish whims and capriciousness.
Many people narrowed their eyes at the difference in our ages, but it was not imbalanced in any way. I was either a precocious teenager, or he was immature for his age. Whatever it was, we got each other.
He introduced me to artists and took me to art shows. We drank too much and engaged in philosophical debates. Most nights we filled our bellies with hors d’oeuvres and sat around smoking cigarettes with his friends, who were older and wiser and more fun.
I thought it was part of the experience, even though I wasn’t particularly fond of it. We made art, we wrote things, we were degenerate and decadent. I shaved my head and grew out my body hair. We were misfits, and I loved every second of it.
Until I realised that the excessive drinking was symptomatic of a much larger problem.
The decline and breakup
My boyfriend often spent the last of his money on beer from the store. It was routine for me to find him on the street under our flat, unconscious, his laptop or phone either misplaced or stolen.
One night when he came home intoxicated and passed out on the couch, I poured a pitcher of water over him.
My depression had turned into intense rage, and I was angry at him for choosing to spend time being drunk instead of with me.
That night, he bellowed at me for the first time. I retaliated by hurling a chair at him.
I ended our two and a half year relationship after I left to go on holiday. I was tired of fighting, and I knew deep inside me that I had to fix my own problems before I could ever expect him to change.
There wasn’t much resistance on his end, even though I knew it pained both of us equally. We were both woefully aware of the fact that we were no longer in a healthy relationship.
What moving out taught me
It wasn’t all bad, despite all the screaming and the throwing things. I loved him deeply but it was the same reason why I felt lonely and isolated. As much as I wanted to believe it, I wasn’t at all ready for a relationship with this sort of intensity.
Leaving home at 17 was foolish, but it also taught me to not take things for granted. I like to think that I’m not as sheltered as I was before—at least now I know how to do laundry and cook—and I owe a lot of it to my ex.
But living together with someone is hard. Minor annoyances become increasingly abrasive with time, and more so if you share a small room. I hardly had any time or space to myself, which made me feel suffocated.
Still, despite the fact that we didn’t have much money, we did share a strong bond and an overwhelming desire to make each other happy. It wasn’t enough, but it was there, and it was worth it.
Until today, he remains one of the most intelligent people I know, and I have a never-ending respect for his work. I think about him a lot—no longer in a romantic fashion, but warmly, and with tenderness.
Cover image: Source