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Itxy Lopez
Photo by author (art by my dad)

When I was in the second grade, I reported a boy named Adrian to the bully box. I grabbed a piece of paper, wrote down the problem, and then slipped it into the box while staring him in the eye.

What was the problem? He wasn’t actually bullying me. He was just really annoying. He kept singing the Itsy-Bitsy Spider, and my seven-year-old self was losing her mind.

Even at seven I’d heard the joke too many times: “Your name’s Itxy? Like the Itsy-Bitsy-Spider?”

“Yes,” I’d say through gritted teeth. “Just like that.”

Sadly, the X in my name throws…

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Some days you’re going to hate your body. No matter how confident you were yesterday or how many affirmations you use in the morning, you might wake up tomorrow and wish you looked like someone else. You’ll hate your skinny legs or wide thighs or crooked teeth or dark body hair. You’ll lay your palm against your belly in hopes that it’ll disappear.

Some days you’re going to wake up smiling. Cold wind will sneak in through your window, but you’ll feel physically and emotionally safe and warm under a fuzzy blanket. You’ll get up and make a cup of…

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Your life is a tangle of vines. You open your eyes but all you can see is dark green. You try to move your arms and your legs, but you’re caught in the trap of the plant. In the darkness you try to breathe, but you only manage a few deep breaths. Just enough to get you by, but not what you need to feel normal again.

You just lost your job. You broke up with someone you thought was the love of your life. Your grades are falling like change out of a hole in your pocket.

How do…

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This morning, I opened my eyes underwater and screamed. The sound waves vibrated in the ocean but no one could hear a thing. Calm down. Take a deep breath, I thought. But if I inhaled, the water would seep into my lungs and I’d drown.

I looked around for help, but all I could see were sharks. Above me, below, to my left, and my right. I shouted and shouted until I felt myself caving in.

Someone come save me. Take my hand and lead me to the surface.

Wild. Desperate. Frantic.

But never, never hopeless.

Seconds away from sinking…

I grabbed the loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a jar of strawberry preserves. I popped two pieces of bread into the toaster and just as they were about to jump out —

“Could you make me one of those?” my Abuelita asked. I turned to find her pulling out a chair, wincing in pain as she did so. I hid the pain I felt every time I saw her and smiled instead.

“Sure.” I took the toast, smeared the spreads, and gave it to her. She picked it up with the arm that wasn’t wrapped in…

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Sometimes I lay in bed, listen to music, and shut my eyes to daydream. An hour later, when I descend back to reality, I’m shocked when I see a cloudless blue sky staring down at me from my bedroom window. Oh yeah, I think. There’s a world out there.

I wasn’t raised to explore, have adventures, or wander outside of what I know. From the time I was ten years old until I was around twenty, my family struggled financially. Even affording gas was a challenge, so most of the time, we were stuck at home.

I’m twenty-three now, but…

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I didn’t pause. I didn’t hesitate. I recorded my message and sent it.

I didn’t realize at the time that it would be the spark that ignited the first argument between my girlfriend and me. I didn’t know yet just how badly I would hurt her when I said the words: “I don’t think you can fall in love with someone you’ve never met.”

We met because of Medium.
We talked through Twitter.
We bonded through WhatsApp.
We got feelings for one another through Facetime.
All in the span of four months.

I hadn’t expected to feel so much, so…

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There are a thousand whispers in my head that tell me I can’t do it. I can’t write. I can’t tell a good story. I can’t succeed.

But the thought that haunts me the most is: I can’t do any of it — live or work or learn — my way.

I have to do it the way everyone else says. By hustling. By sacrificing my present life for a better future. By telling stories the readers want and ignoring my creative desires. By time-blocking and meditating and taking twenty-minute power naps and ditching fiction books for non-fiction.

That’s what…

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I’ve tried just about every time-management hack. Calendar blocking. The Pomodoro technique. Time-tracking.

None of them worked. And it’s not for lack of trying or discipline.

Whether you’re a twenty-three-year-old living at home, a mom of three, a freelancer with an unreliable boss or unreliable emotions (or both), life always gets in the way.

As much as we pretend it’s not true, life is uncontrollable. And if you can’t control life, you can’t control time. You can’t hack or manage or bend it.

What do you do then? You flow with it.

The Complete Opposite Advice of What You Typically Hear

In his book Notes on a Nervous Planet

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Your life can always take a turn for the better.

You genuinely have no idea what you might spontaneously decide to do or what situation you’ll land in. Doesn’t make life feel exciting? Isn’t it worth keeping hope alive for?

No matter what kind of situation you’re in right now, anything great could happen today, tomorrow, or two weeks from now.

This Is the Reality of Being Human

Your hero — the one you sent a cold email to — might email you back tonight.

Your crush might tell you they have feelings for you.

After four years of waiting, someone might reach out with that opportunity…

Itxy Lopez

A self-help writer trying to be as honest as possible and hoping to make people feel less alone along the way.

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