Deteriorating is a Becoming Event

Photos by Yuhan Cheng

Words by Carly McGoldrick


The last few weeks have felt particularly heavy. There’s a certain bleakness, now, as the city turns colder and old snow accumulates along the sidewalks. Puddles are getting cloudier, and I haven’t been able to go outside for more than ten minutes without freezing. Time is moving more slowly. I wish the sun didn’t set so early in the day.

I’ve been spending a lot of time swaying in the darkness of my room, blinds closed, half-comatose. I clutch my arms so tightly to my torso to contend with the cold, and also to avoid letting any important pieces of myself fall out.

There’s a nervousness and a fear, for whatever reason, that as the seasons change, and the snow freezes, and then melts and then falls again, that some piece of my identity is getting lost along the way.

It’s sort of indescribable, the feeling of deterioration. If nature is collapsing in on itself, why can’t I?

I exist in many forms.

It’s taken me awhile to believe that.

For years, I’ve suppressed my multitudes as a means of becoming

more digestible by other people.

It’s frightening to come to the realization

That I had been shaping myself so exhaustively

To satisfy the likes of others,

Rather than developing my own identity.

To instead become a shell of expectations, rather than a whole person.

I‘ve always liked to see myself reflected in my environment.

Now, instead of changing myself,

I change the things I see.

I go on walks.

I admire the water as it freezes and thaws,

Allowing its smooth form to run alongside its more jagged one,

Not fearful of the way in which its two versions are different.

Like that water,

I coexist with myself.

I am not fully one thing, but rather, I am many,

And I am transforming constantly.

I remember speaking to my mother on the phone in the airport terminal a month or two ago, before my flight home to Ohio. I had tears streaming down my face. At that time in my life, even the temporary change of a location, like the one from Massachusetts to Ohio, was disorienting. I didn’t want to go. I’m currently learning to adapt to that kind of infinitesimal change.

It was raining that day, and I remember how the raindrops framed the grime on the terminal windows, illuminating the planes and the runways and the workers and the luggage, all battling the storm outside. It’s funny how something so normal and so harmless, like water, can be such a nuisance.

When I got to Ohio that evening, it was snowing. I missed the rain in Massachusetts, but I would imagine I was glad to be see that Midwestern snow I had known and loved my whole life.

I’ve learned, or am currently learning, that there’s much to be learned from water, in all its forms. There’s power in deteriorating, in the ability to break oneself down, to then build oneself back up in another form. Like rain in one place, turning cold in another, I seek to become more comfortable with change. There lies much power in fluidity, and I’m learning to embrace that.