On days when I open my eyes to the rays of sunlight gleaming through the window of my apartment bedroom, I get a certain sense of serenity — almost like everything is okay. And even if it’s not now, it will be okay. The sunlight bounces off the mirrors in my room, making small rainbows in the corners where the walls meet the ceiling. It makes the hardwood floors seem a lighter shade of oak brown and fades the scuffs and scratches that once marked my bedroom walls. It makes the 16th floor that I live on no longer seem so daunting. On mornings like those, I feel happy.
To me, the sun is no longer an objective term — a burning ball of fire, the center of our universe, the source of our light. It has become synonymous with happiness and a certain sense of nostalgia. It reminds me of the three-bedroom ranch home where I was born and raised for half of my life. The home where I learned to love chaos, noise and laughter. It reminds me of my four siblings and I piling up to sleep in one room despite the plentiful amount of space for all of us around the house. It reminds me of the trampoline in our backyard and the days when the sun made it warm enough for us to jump on it until nightfall. The trampoline that I slowly watched lost springs and nails and nets and eventually, its guests over the years. It reminds me of afternoons spent with my two older sisters; one with a flat iron in her hand straightening her bleach blonde highlighted hair and the other at the vanity in our shared room pressing blue glitter eyeshadow all over her eyelids. As Britney Spears played in the background off the sticker-adorned hot pink stereo, I would watch from the corner in awe. The sun shined so brightly in that home — it made me feel safe, it made me feel light and it made everything feel euphoric.
And my love for the sun is what fuels my hatred for winter. Winters have always been the harshest time of the year for me — especially Michigan winters. One would expect that I would be used to the bitter cold of the winter months by now. After all, these winters are the only winters I know. But watching my days get shorter and shorter, feeling my nose sting the moment I step outside and hearing the birds slowly stop chirping never gets easier, no matter how many times I’ve lived it. The sun stops showing her face as much this time of year. And runny noses, gloves and jackets have just never managed to become my forte. I only trudge through the winters so that I can make it to the time of the year when everything is reborn. When the sun comes back out and gives myself and the world around me life again. When the grass turns green and the flowers bloom and everything begins to sparkle.
But me and the sun’s love is complicated.
And the sun can be cruel.
I remember the first time I fell asleep in the sun. For days after, I watched as my olive skin reddened and blistered. It stung and shriveled up and eventually peeled off.
How could something I love so much be so bad to me?
It was sunny when I fell and broke my wrist in the second grade. It was sunny when I got rejected from my dream university in high school. It was sunny when I experienced my first heartbreak. It was sunny as I walked home with tears in my eyes convinced I failed my accounting exam (for the record, I didn’t). It was sunny every single time I received news of the loss of a loved one.
It was loss that forced me to see the sun in a new light — a much bleaker light. I watched the sunrays bounce off the walls of my bedroom that once brought me so much love through sobs and teary eyes. I watched those same sunrays bounce off tombstones at the cemetery. The irony.
So sometimes I question how I can love the sun. On one hand, I love the sun because she represents everything good. But the sun has not always been good to me. And that makes me a living testament to the fact that we love the things that sometimes hurt us the most.
I often wonder what that says about me. As humans, our love is intrinsic. Our love has no barriers and sometimes happens without us realizing it. And that’s exactly what happened with the Sun and I. When we love, we allow (and some may even say force) ourselves to put down a wall and accept vulnerability. It’s scary, but in turn, we sometimes let that love blind us from seeing the bad.
But that’s just the thing about the sun — sometimes it burns you.
MiC Columnist Reem Hassan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org