Like a decent percentage of the global population, I have part of the “Frozen II” soundtrack stuck in my head. The movie is about the unknown. Self-acceptance. Stepping into your power. Themes that are fitting for me, as the sun sets on the second decade of my life.
I started 2010 as a freshman in high school. I had so many hopes for my high school career, and approximately 99 percent of them hinged on the handsome (but secretly nerdy) football player that I hoped would fall in love with me. I waited with the tenacity of someone who believed in happy endings. I waited, and I waited, and then I waited some more.
I graduated high school and spent the next two years in a major depressive episode. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I can’t remember anything from those two years. I was telling my dad last night that, sure, I was alive, but it didn’t feel like living. The timeline of my life is obscured by dark spots. Burn marks. Char.
I waited to get better. Fell in love as I waited, and when that relationship turned south, I waited for my heart to put itself back together. I didn’t leave the house. I flinched at every speck of light. I was sad and small and lost.
I waited for an answer, or a reason, or maybe just a way out. I waited like Elsa at the beginning of “Show Yourself”: “You are the answer I’ve waited for all of my life.” I didn’t know who I was without the football player, the third act climax. The story I’d adhered to my entire life — someone would arrive in a shower of sparks and save me from the world, show me how to love myself — was a false narrative.
Elsa spent years searching for an ethereal voice — what she believes is the “answer.” Why did she have powers? What was she supposed to do with those powers? Where did she belong? She leaves Arendelle in search of it. She risks life and limb. She lets her hair down (literally). But the true turning point is the appearance of Elsa’s mother, Queen Iduna, who died years ago.
The voice that Elsa followed into the unknown wasn’t an otherworldly entity. It was Elsa herself.
“Come, my darling, homeward bound,” sings Iduna.
Elsa replies, “I am found!”
The rest of the movie is Elsa’s becoming. “Step into your power,” Iduna tells her. “Grow yourself into something new.” Elsa tears up when her mom says, “You are the one you’ve been waiting for all of your life.”
You are the one you’ve been waiting for all of your life.
It’s fitting. Or maybe it’s just one of those pesky poeticisms that follow me around like dogs.
2019 was a year of tattoos and jobs and things I can’t talk about. I was tired of waiting for my mental health to improve, so I started taking an antidepressant. I was tired of waiting for someone to finish my book for me, so I wrote the worst first draft in the history of first drafts. (It’s not actually done yet, but it will be, I promise.) I was tired of waiting for people to invite me to parties, so I threw my own. I bought a projector, made sugar cookies, and watched “Star Wars” until my eyes burned.
Now it’s the end of the decade. I am, in essence, a nostalgic creature, so there’s a part of me that’s a little weepy at the thought of saying goodbye to the 2010s. But it’s good to move on. It’s good to grow yourself into something new.
The past 10 years were a little bit like the first “Frozen.” I waited. I fell in love with an antagonist, as unfortunate princesses do. I froze in the icy Minnesota winters. I took off the gloves, let my hair down, and sang about storms, the past, rising like the break of dawn.
Now I’m older. Elsa and I have grown, or maybe it’s just that we have stepped into our powers. Does it matter?
It’s tempting to skip the first “Frozen” and go straight for the sequel. Even Elsa cringes at the sight of her old self, belting it out in an icy castle. But the thing about stories is that we don’t get the genuine showstoppers without the No. 1 hit single. You don’t get to find yourself until you let go of the idea that you are anything but found.
December is a month of carols and self-improvement schemes. But this time, I’m going into the new year with the knowledge that I am the one I’ve been waiting for.
No one else. Just me.
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