You need to step it up.

This is something I’ve heard before. I’ve heard it across many aspects of my life in my almost-29 years and every time I hear it I already know it’s coming. Words like that aren’t surprise words; you don’t hear words like that without already knowing that you can do better than what you’re producing. When I heard them last week I was almost expecting to hear them, watching myself through the cloud of haze that engulfed me in that quarter moon. It doesn’t make them any easier to hear, expecting them, but it does mean I’d had time to prepare how exactly I’m going to meet and exceed that comment.

Step it up. Do more. Do better. Themes that permeate the life I create for myself; I push myself to do more constantly. Stay distracted. Falling into boredom isn’t an option I give myself anymore because when I’m not occupied with something then I’m engulfed in the past so completely that I can’t get out. This time last year we were planning Memorial Day, this time last year I was still reeling from my friends moving and he wouldn’t say three words, eight letters. But I can’t fall down that rabbit hole at all, and that’s why I stay distracted; the problem is I need to distract myself so heavily that I get stuck again, somewhere in the in-between, and as I try to stay distracted to get ahead, I end up falling behind. Step it up, L.

There’s a song by Lord Huron we all know from binge-watching 13 Reasons Why that I can’t stop listening to. I mean that figuratively, in that every time I turn my phone on I put that song on Spotify. And then I add it to my queue so I can listen to it twice more immediately, before moving on. Once I listened to it on repeat for 45 minutes straight and I loved every one of them. It feels personal, like songs are supposed to, and I can’t tell if I listen to it to help me heal or allow me stay hurt. “Take me back to the night we met,” he croons, and I’m instantly transported to dancing in sequin pants with a stranger who had never felt more familiar, refusing a kiss on the dance floor and then waking up in a tangle of bedsheets, hangover dulled by the sensation that something powerful had happened. “I had all and then most of you, some and now none of you.”

Step it up, L. It’s time to turn the song off and look forward; you can’t live in a moment alone anymore. Step it up, L, it’s time to shake off the layer of dust you’ve allowed to settle over your brain while you’ve been distracting the rest of yourself with work. Step it up, L, you can’t be the best if you don’t try your best. Dust off. Shake off. Move forward. Step it up. Step it up.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, haunted by the ghost of you.”

Take me back. Or take me forward. I’m stuck in the cloud. I can’t step anywhere.