I am afraid of myself. I think this is what I keep sitting down to write. I sit down, open my laptop, attempt to formulate a sentence in my mind. I can’t get the first one out. I give up. I am not so afraid, though, that I cannot try again.

A month or so ago, I was drunk on my potential. No, it must have been two months. Two months ago I was absolutely obliterated. Stumbling in the glorious fog of self-love, I believed that I was on the up and up. I was recovering nicely from a nice break up. I was getting into yoga and ginger tea and inspirational quotes. I thought I’d figured myself out. I had a job and money and a dog and a cat and a sister and it was all very nice.

I still have those things. I just don’t know if I’m as love drunk anymore. And like any come down, I see the fog lifting and I grow so afraid. What will it leave in its wake?

Self-love’s great, of course, until it wears off. Like all drugs, self-love begins to let you down. Maybe you wake up and you’re not so in love with yourself. You’re not so sure that you should love someone like you. You find that you begin to experience negative emotions such as doubt, disappointment, frustration. You’re no longer drunk. You’re just tired.

The fog’s gone. And here I am. 

A few weeks ago I stood on my head for more breaths than I ever had before. I can do it now, right here, if you’d like. I found the balance point and the strength and the breathing. I can stand on my head as easily as I can stand on my feet. But I don’t. I don’t hold my inverted position for longer than ten breaths at a time. I will myself through this. Just one more. And then, softly, I fold back into myself. 

It’s scary to be upside down. It’s scarier to know that you can stay there. Did you know that your world could be all upside down, all of the time? If I stay like that for too long, how much will my world change?

Two months ago I thought I knew who I was, or at least who I was becoming. Now I’m not so sure. I keep learning new things about myself. Maybe I’ve always done this. Maybe, every day, instead of just “learning something new,” we figure out new parts of our whole. I think I’ve felt it more acutely since I’ve started spending time upside down.

I am afraid of what I may do. I find myself staring down strangers at bars. Freedom surges through me in an unfamiliar way. The other day I looked at my sister as a thought raced into my mind: “Sissy–I can do whatever the fuck I want.” “Yeah, yeah,” she mumbled. But I know she felt it. She used to say that. I think she wants me to experience life this way, if only for a little bit.

The fear is exhilarating. I feel as if I’m walking a tightrope, so close to the edge of everything I could ever want to do or to be. I want to see what I am capable of, but I don’t want to betray myself. I don’t want to wake up one morning and hate the “part” of myself that I “discovered.” You see, then, how exhausting this fear can be.

At 23, we just want to know ourselves. That’s it. Yeah we want to be loved and needed and wanted and we want to be important and we need to be remembered and we’d love to have it all. But we really, really, just need to know who we are. Just when I think I’ve got myself figured out, I’m sent spiraling down some new avenue of self. Who the hell are you and where did you come from? You like that? You did what? 

If you told me, a year ago, that I would be a head standing vegetarian growing a (thriving!) tomato plant, working at a financial management company, loving a 40 pound mutt dog, with no interest in monogamous relationships, and a growing appreciation for dipping tobacco and Miller Lite, I would have told you to piss off. But, alas. You would have been right. 

My sister worked last Saturday night, and after drinking with her coworkers, she was dropped off at home. I woke up to my bedmate growling and standing on my chest. Emma Louise, of course, guards best against inhabitants of our apartment. I stumbled out of bed, looked at the clock, 3 AM. Sissy, also stumbling, and armed with a massive pizza slice (“you just get half!”) threw herself on the couch and began to recount her day. I sat down next to her, managed to eat most of the pizza, and listened to her tales of rude customers and big tips.

We talked far too long for two half-conscious girls. Over and under each other’s words, we got a sense of what we’d missed when we were apart. Since I’d made it back to my bed, on a Saturday night, before 1 AM, I was questioning the progress of my self-discovery. Is life really just two vodka sodas and nothing more? And then I remembered. I am this. I am this person sleepily eating pizza with my drunk sister. I say boring things like “I need to go let my dog out” and “I’d like to get up early for yoga.”

I can scare myself. I want to keep scaring myself. But I’m not so many disconnected parts as I’d like to think. It’s comfortable to wallow in the depths of uncertainty. It’s like a weird and heady mix of self-pity and self-confidence and self-hate. You’re safe if you can say that you don’t know who you are. You can get away with being parts of yourself that other people may not like.

But I’m 23. I know a lot of myself. I’m pretty much all of my pieces stuck together, with a few that may need rearranging. On this whole tightrope of life shit–I have a responsibility to my other 22 years to not fuck up too bad. I think I can manage that. But, then again, it’s only Tuesday.