Overexposed: A Self-Love Project.

Overexposed: My Chapters.

Chapter one,

I am in love with you. So fucking in love with you, that it keeps me up at night because it’s eating me up inside. I’m happy whenever I’m with you, your smile makes me feel like I’m a teenager again, your positive energy is contagious, and the way you try you say my name makes me melt to this day. I love putting my hands through your hair, skin on mine, whispers in my ear, hands on my warm body, caressing every part of it without making me feel insecure about my weight. We never are the same people in our little world. Every time I wake up next to you, sun peeking in through the wall-sized window and the cars driving throughout the busy city, I see my future with you. I see myself getting ready for work with you on mornings, I see myself making you coffee, helping you agree on your outfit for the day, getting your bag ready with your things, kissing you goodbye until we see each other later tonight. I see you continuing giving me my firsts in life; I see us traveling to California for a vacation under the palm trees, I see myself attending my closest friends’ weddings with you, slow dancing with you in hopes I will one day wear a white dress for you. I am so crazy fucking in love with you, that I know I can’t see the bad things you also make me feel. You make me feel inadequate. You make me feel like my anxiety and depression are meaningless. You make me feel like I don’t deserve anyone else– anything else– in the world but you. You make me feel anxious, scared to be myself, scared to be something you will not be in love with anymore. I am utterly in love with you, but I don’t know how to love myself, and I constantly feel like you want me to love you before I love myself. Because of that, I feel like I’m slipping, like something is coming to an end, like I can’t save this from being the most heartbreaking thing to happen to me. I am in love with you. So fucking in love with you, but I need to love myself before I kill myself.

Chapter two,

“Welcome to the CSI Bookstore; my name is Liz, how can I help you today?” is the best way I could say I’m fine without getting too deep into things. “Hi, welcome to my shitty life, can you see my liquid eyeliner trying to conceal my puffy eyes? There is also mascara to prevent me from crying but hey, when did that ever stop me?” Behind the register, wanting someone– anyone– to see me, ask me at the counter if I’m okay, to tell me everything was going to be okay. I look up to see my co-workers and I instantly smile; laughing and joking around without a care in the world and they see me. One of them is a freelance fashion stylist. One of them is a huge oldies music lover. One of them knows all the latest trends and lingo. One of them is an international student from Honduras. One of them has piercings and tattoos that tell a story. On days that are dead, we get to know each other through stories. I’m able to tell my story; a story that is still continuing but slowly, with time, coming to an end. I’m sharing this story to a bunch a strangers that only knew me for a couple of months; yet, they feel natural. They feel right. They feel like they belong here. “Hi, welcome! I’m Liz, is there anything I can help you with?” is now my default but this time, a smile, a “omg, I love your bookbag, where did you get it from?” or a “omg, you should totally go to my tattoo guy, he’s amazing” and even a “honestly, professors are just doing too much, even when I was a student here” follows along. I laugh from a coworker puts the biggest smile on my face, a joke from another makes me laugh the heartiest laugh I could possibly do. Even a boy that comes into the bookstore has caught my eye, the first one in 10 years. I feel seen. I feel wanted. I feel loved. I feel like I belong. When I leave the bookstore that Saturday afternoon to get ready for a vacation in the sunshine state in March, I wave goodbye to my coworkers, hoping the next week for them is a good one, that I will be back with Florida stories and possibly a Florida tan talking about my experience being on an airplane for the first time. I left the double doors, leaving my presence there, not knowing that I’m also leaving a chapter there; that I’m not coming back as the person I let there as.

Chapter three,

I cannot stop laughing. My laughter is echoing through my small, NYC apartment. I can’t help myself. I type in the group chat a really clever joke about a member of Victon, but someone beats me to it. Twins. I don’t remember my stomach ever feeling this hurt from laughing so much. The chat dies down and I’m able to catch my breath and reflect on how these last couple of months have been some of the best this year. “These people get me, I feel like I belong.” My phone screen lights up with a notification; “saranghae_ro: what are you doing rn? Watch party tonight?” It’s never a dull day without these people. For people I never met in person, I feel the most love for; people who understand a side of me that I hid for 2 years; 2 chapters in my life. In 2 months, I was more myself than I have been in my life. I was allowed to gush over a Kpop idol that I secretly loved for months, a group that saved my life during my grieving process, music that I am able to openly talk about with people who do the same thing. Although being in this new world brings back insecurities and worries that I accept will always follow me into new environments, I am reassured that who I am, in this moment, is perfectly fine. And because of that, I remind them how much I love them. I tell him how grateful to have them in my life. I am thankful for their presence, I am appreciative of their kind gestures, and they are just a part of my overall happiness. I even have a best friend, my first one in 10 years. They are the closest thing to a friend I had in the last two years, the last two chapters. They freakishly share similarities with me, which makes the dynamic even that more interesting. I’m not one to believe in coincidences, but my best friend was meant to cross paths with me, they were meant to be in this chapter to allow me to see that I can be someone’s closest friend, that I was worthy enough to be a friend, to someone, who saw the same value in me as I do them.

But I fear this chapter the most. As easy it was for me to get here, to feel like I belonged, and for once I am afraid that it will slip through my fingers like the memories and the people in my other chapters; the ones before these and the ones that came before. I am tired of my chapters. I am tired of never getting some sort of closure to one chapter; they are always lingering; those chapters are still being told in this one. I am scared this will be another chapter I will lose, that I will mourn, that I will talk about in my future chapters.

That I am nothing but chapters.

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