*Note: This post is super personal in nature. If you don’t feel like reading about trials and personal (internal) battles, then by all means, take a gander over to Explosm.net or any of my other buddies that are linked in my blog roll. You still counted by clicking this page. Thanks.
The problem with setting a goal that not many people around you has attempted or accomplished is that there is no one that you trust to tell you how hard it will be. You may have an idea but to experience it is something altogether different.
Many of my friends have said 2009 was a tough year for them and I can relate. The hell that I experienced in 2009 was just a continuation of the craziness that existed in 2008. Starting in 2008, my grandparents passed away (my final living grandparents) within 3 days of one another. I never thought I would take those deaths as hard as I did. Looking back now, I realize that my pain came from the fact that my Dad and his siblings were so fractured at the funeral. They barely sat with one another. I didn’t want that for my siblings and I made a decision to attempt to bridge whatever gaps existed between us. I quickly came to realize that we were all battling our personal demons (as it concerned our parents) and that there was no way that I could help them.
Beginning with that (the realization of those issues), I slipped into something worse than a depression and I reached out to the wrong things and other damaged people. The crazy thing about a damaged person is that they don’t realize how hurt they are and that even if you are able to offer some sort of clarity, they have to want to see it. The damaged people I knew did not want to see it. I clinched and held on anyway. Those relationships going sour, I also took that hard.
To deal with that pain, I started to party. I mean, I’d probably gone out more in my final semesters of undergrad than I had my entire 5 years at CMU (which really isn’t saying much because I wasn’t a partier). But I saw a trend. I drank. I started to hang with the wrong people. I allowed people to use me. And I used other people. I started to hate myself for who I knew I was becoming but because it felt “nice” to have all of those people around, I just continued down that road.
The first turning point came in February of 2009 (it’s sad that I’m realizing this mess went on for as long as it did). I was forced to move out of an apartment and even though I still had trouble coming up with the rent every month, I began to see the people who TRULY cared for me. The folks that let me stay in their rooms, sleep on their couches, use their showers, etc. See, that shit was humbling. It reminded me of exactly where I’d come from. But it did me a huge service. I graduated because of my period of “semi-homelessness”. I started to stay in the library more and I didn’t go out as much. I was also forced to take better care of my health because I had a serious case of pneumonia (felt the effects of that cold from Feb 14, 2009 – March 19, 2009). All of the time that I stayed in the library, I worked. I made better grades my final semester than I had the two preceding semesters.
I was also accepted to graduate school, which gave me something to look forward to. Looking back, I remember the exact emotion I had when I opened my letter saying that I was a student: relief. There’s nothing scarier than attempting to move forward in your life when you feel it crumbling around you. I felt like I had trouble with everything – family, friends, health, everything. But that letter gave me life. Granted, I was graduating in May and that was a great accomplishment. But in an odd way, it felt as though someone was nailing a coffin shut. I had nowhere to go (I felt). I had no job offer on the table. I hadn’t heard from any other school (and when you apply for early admission, that makes you question yourself). I had no money. I was on the verge of losing my job.
But that letter gave me life.
I finished out my final semester and graduation was really a celebration for me (I literally danced down the aisle…I kid you not). I was going on to something better. However, when I moved out to Providence, I felt LOST. All of the people that I’d come to know for the past five years were everywhere but Providence. That’s when I began to recognize my problems for what they were.
See, the thing about a damaging cycle is that when it goes on for so long, that’s what you want to return to. It’s what you know. And you can believe that I wanted to run back to dysfunction. I wanted to run back to arguing with my parents. I wanted to run back to fighting and being belittled by friends. I wanted to run back to drinking and partying (with others or alone). I wanted to run back to darkness.
All because I was alone and I had no clue how to face the world.
My program started in June. Not a lot of people know this, but I moved out to Providence for two reasons: (1) it was my goal to get into this program; and (2) I was defying expectations and what people thought I needed to do. The sad part about that was that I let reason two guide every move that I made concerning graduate school and I planned poorly for my transition. The result: having to ask parents to pay for a plane ticket out to Providence and moving with two suitcases of clothing and “housewares”. That’s right. I moved halfway across a country with a bookbag, a carryon and my large suitcase (from my set). Let me tell you how smart that is NOT…and it was 3 days before my program began, nonetheless.
You can’t say I didn’t have guts. But remember, I’m still operating in a frame of mind that’s dangerous. With no money for books, clothing, food, or any other real simple shit, I started to play the “everything will be fine” game. It was pretty similar to the one that I played in September of 2008. Summer goes by without much incident (if you don’t count the whole fiasco of finagling money for school or the fact that I got sick) and it hit me hardest that I was alone on our summer break. We had an entire month off from school and most of my cohort (most as in ALL) went home or somewhere else. So, I was stuck. Feeling alone. And decided in my mind that I wanted to go home. I didn’t need a degree, I needed to feel like I was around people who loved me (even if we were damaging each other). Anyway, I never raised enough money to go home for the summer and I really only made it through with the help of two “counselors.” After my money was situated and I felt like I had a chance to succeed (really succeed), I began the Fall term with high hopes and (dare I say it) happiness.
However, when you have issues that you fail to deal with, they find ways to pop up. And pop up they did. I don’t think I’ve experienced so much illness or depression in one semester. I found myself hating (that’s a strong word but most appropriate in this situation) everything about myself and the people around me. I found myself questioning whether or not I deserved to be attending an Ivy League school and I felt fraudulent. I found myself wanting to drink and/or take a pill to help me sleep because that was the only thing helping me sleep at night. I found myself becoming that same person that was showing up the previous September.
I also questioned if that person was the real me.
Was I really damaging? Was I really evil? Was I really spiteful? Was I really the person that everyone dreads to be around? Did I really suck the life from others?
That person. The one that people despise in fairy tales and real life. That person that can’t be trusted. That person that will always hurt you because they hurt themselves. That person that I didn’t want to be.
My moment of clarity came while I was sitting in a library lobby and on the phone with my Advisor this past Friday. I had gotten behind on my work and I felt swamped. I had been sick and missed important classes. I was behind on some of my work for my internship and I felt that I’d let them down greatly. I was lonely. I was tired of moving forward and I wanted to leave. After sending an email to my Advisor, she called. First time that a person had done that. Called instead of communicating electronically. She calmed my fears and offered me encouraging words. She let me know that I deserved to be here, otherwise I would not have been accepted. She told me to take one day (one task, one assignment, one minute, one moment) at a time because I could only accomplish so much. She helped me (there were others too, but in that moment, she was instrumental to my peace of mind).
She gave me a piece of myself back. The part that was shut up when the caskets closed at my grandparents’ funeral. That part that I started to give away to other people who were hurt because I wanted to help them so much. That part that I needed returned to me, yet others held onto it or threw to the side. That part that was often forgotten. She reminded me of why I was here in the first place. Why I decided to do all that I had set forth to do. She was a voice that reminded me of a whisper I’d heard once before. She reminded me of all of the people that care and aren’t here to hug me today. Her words were a salve, a balm that I needed immensely.
See, in my troubles, it became too easy for people to offer a cliché response to what I was going through. I thank them for all of their responses for I’m truly grateful. The thing that was hardest to deal with was that I knew other people had been told the same thing before. I’d been told the same thing before. And those words were just band-aids to my soul and I felt that my soul was still seeping away from me.
The most painful experience in my mind was to be within myself and still feel as though I was losing my essence.
Anyway, I sit here. December 7, 2009 at 12:44 am and I type these words. I had a moment a clarity.
I know why I chose to continue on this road. Each day that I work, I may have to relive many painful things, but I’ll do it with the hopes that no other person has to go through similar situations. I’ll have to remember being belittled for being smart by peers that looked like me and then going on to being belittled by peers for not looking like them, and I’ll do it so that other smart children who may or may not look like me don’t experience that. I’ll have to remember the homeless shelters, the degradation for going to a school that failed to educate its students adequately, and the long trips home after school, and I’ll do it so that other youngsters don’t have to do it. I’ll remember wondering where my next meal or the next month’s rent payment while I was an undergraduate student, and I’ll work so that no other undergraduate student has to experience that.
I know what I feel. I know why I’m here. I know who I am. I know what I am.
In my moment of clarity, I remembered that I’m all things good. I’m hurt, yes. I’m damaged, yes. But I’m all things good. I’m not my circumstances or what happened to me. I’m all things good.
I can feel it. And it feels good. I haven’t felt a thing this good since before September 2008.