Wednesday, April 23

more than survival...

"You're always so happy." "You are always smiling! How do you do that?" "It's impossible to not feel loved by you." "Dang -- you just have life figured out!" "I wish I was more like you."

I get comments like this a lot. I smile and nod and say thank you, then rush to encourage the speaker or point out their good qualities. I appreciate their words. I can tell (most of the time) that they're sincere. And I'm grateful for their kindness.

But -- I don't feel like I'm any of those things at all. I don't have life figured out. I know for a fact I'm not always happy, nor always smiling. People say they want to be more like me, yet I'm constantly wishing I was someone else.

I'm not "that girl." I don't have everything under control. I'm insecure and vain and shallow -- I worry about dumb, petty little things. My thoughts are often obsessive, focused on tiny issues that probably don't matter to anyone but me. I want things I can't have -- I do things I shouldn't do.

Honestly, I feel like I'm always the girl who is struggling with something. No matter what I do, something is going wrong that's outside of my control. Either that, or the internal struggles become so intense that I can barely function.

It's a miracle that I hauled myself out of bed this morning. Part of that was because I know need to work so I can pay for graduate school -- fear of massive debt or financial strain is a huge motivator for me. Part of it was because I knew I'd be more bored if I stayed in bed -- and I felt guilty for feeling bad.

I don't feel like I smile very much. I don't feel like I'm a very happy person. Often, I'm shocked that I have as many friends as I do, particularly after I was told that I'm "an incredibly negative person and no one really likes you, which is why you have no friends. People don't like you; they don't like to be around you." Comforting sentiments, let me tell you.

The happy compliments and this absolutely devastating remark swim through my head on an almost daily basis. I hear "people don't like you," and fight back "but she said I'm nice!" And it comes back, "Yes -- but you know it isn't true. Because people don't like you. You don't even like you. Even if everyone in the world liked you, you'd still be like this."

I have no reply.

Whether surrounded by friends or in the comfort of my small bedroom, it's dark. So often I find myself begging to just make it through the day, or even the next five minutes. I'll sit with my head bowed over my desk, willing the tears to go away; I'll lie curled on the floor of my room, physically trying to hold myself together until it passes.

Each time I make goals or attempt new things, I suddenly feel paralyzed. My motivation to progress and do something, anything, is overturned -- and then I'm in survival mode. Just wake up -- just roll over -- just walk out of the room -- just brush your teeth -- just make it back to your room -- just survive.

I don't want to simply survive life. I want to live life actively, passionately, maybe even a little aggressively, meaning not as someone who has things done to them. I want to be the one doing things.

i feel lost...

I never understood why people get so emotional about graduating. In the past, I've listened to coworkers, classmates, and friends express everything from anger to paralyzing fear about leaving the undergraduate realm. Honestly, I can't tell you how many times I've been the shoulder-to-cry-on or the assistant job seeker for people.

When I say I never understood, I mean that I never felt the way they did. People would say things, "I'm just not ready to leave," "I've got nowhere to go now," "I'm so scared that nothing is going to work out," and the like. Out loud, I was supportive, and I could both logically and empathetically see where they were coming from. It's a big step, leaving the campus and people that have become so familiar. Life once again becomes uncertain. On the other hand, I internally wondered why they weren't jumping up and down for joy at the chance for freedom -- for real adulthood -- for graduate school or job opportunities -- for bigger and better things -- CARPE DIEM!! Get me OUT of here!!

With my own graduation ceremony looming less than 72 hours away, I suddenly feel a rash of emotions and sentiments that previous students have expressed. While walking across campus today, I couldn't help but utter a noise of disgust and say, "I hate this place." Surveying the grounds and the pretty pink tulips, I thought, "Well, it's not so bad. But still -- I can't wait to be finished with all of this." Then, as I received my cap and gown, I trudged slowly across campus in tears, thinking, "They're kicking me out. All I did was what they asked, and now they're sending me away to who knows where doing who knows what with who knows who! How could they do this to me?!"

It's quite the rollercoaster. I don't recommend it.

Lately, I've been having nightmares. I mean, I usually do, but these are different. Often when I sleep, I dream of a void: me suspended in empty, crushing darkness. There is no up or down, no point with which to orient myself and determine where I am, or even who I am. Nothing is familiar, and I am alone. I've had these kinds of dreams before, but never with this intensity or such lingering effects.

Waking from these dreams leaves me in a fog of uncertainty. I go throughout the day as though still stuck in that dark, cold emptiness. I felt it again as I unwrapped my wrinkled, too long, navy blue graduation gown and untangled the gold tassle strands. Running my fingers through the tassle strands, it suddenly hit me -- the dreams and lingering feelings come from my feeling of placelessness. It exists so strongly in me that it manifests itself in my dreams. I truly feel lost, along with a decent amount of panic.

As I've thought more about this, I've concluded that this sort of anxiety speaks to feelings of displacement based on my changing position in the world. Though I do have places that are important to me, none of them are permanent. Everything in my life is transitory right now: graduation this week and finishing school in June; leaving the university I've grown to know well; acceptance to graduate programs that I'll never actually go to because they're online; leaving a student job and needing to find other employment; even my housing situation is in flux. My present places are quickly becoming my past places, and future places are presenting themselves -- though some are not really places; more like virtual experiences.

It's an unknown -- it's a feeling of anxiety that occurs even before losing an important place. Facing graduation, loss of employment, and an almost place-less form of virtual graduate schooling creates that anxiety in me.

Of course, changes like these aren't a bad thing. They're actually very good things; things I've worked for and looked forward to for a very, very long time. The emotional effects, though, are incredibly real. Being displaced from the undergraduate experience, employment, and people is a lot to handle all at once. It's kind of like when someone is forced into homelessness or made into an exile through war or foreclosure. I don't mean to minimize these events by comparing them to my current transition; losing a home or a familiar place because of such traumatic events is without a doubt much worse. I use that comparison because it's the only one that makes sense to me, that I can understand.

Graduating is turning me into a school-less (and somewhat reluctant) migrant student -- an exile from everything I have known for the last three years. While my exile is partially by choice, and the graduate program I've chosen to attend does provide a new place to go, I'm still being displaced. I have met the requirements for graduation, and my diploma becomes both a celebration and a pink slip.

I don't like change. I don't like losing the places and the people I have come to know and appreciate. However, I am human, and so my body must move. It must change and move and go new places, do new things. I of all people understand this now: after spending nearly a month in bed recovering from a surgical procedure, I've learned that staying in a room too long really can make a person go crazy. I wanted out! I wanted to move and change and go to other places. And I could not.

It was hugely frustrating.

None of us is meant to be stationary; movement of some sort is necessary. Still, the emotional distress that occurs from losing place is real. I'm feeling it in a big way now. I feel a mixed bag of loss, excitement, anger, sorrow, anxiety, betrayal, anticipation. These places have been critical in forming who I am and where I will go in the future. It's probably universal: places affect us and shape us. Perhaps the fact that places are key formative elements is what makes the displaced feeling distressing. We know we must move on from certain things, but letting go is difficult due to the ties to the place we grew and changed in.

For me, my feelings of loss over my current state and place are helping to spur me on to the next experience. I mourn the loss of familiarity and worry over the new places I must find, yet these familiar places help me realize that I can't stay. Current places have shaped what I do, who I am, and where I will go. My experience as an undergrad student, while coming to a seemingly abrupt and frightening end, has created that desire to move to a new place because of the experiences I've had in the place I now leave.

It's a strange, almost cyclical phenomenon: loss of place creating sadness and anxiety over the loss, while silmultaneously pushing us to find new places, which also creates uncertainty and grief. This constant shuffling of place is what makes us grow and change. Memories of old places shape our interactions with the new. Both types of places directly influence who we are, how we think, what we will become, and where we will go in the future.

Thinking about it in this way is helping to turn my feelings of terror (yes -- terror) about the coming changes into excitement. I won't lie. The fear is still very real, as is the deep loss I can't quite understand and never expected would occur. However, it's being tempered with curiosity and excitement for the experiences and places that lie ahead of me.

Though don't expect me to be all hopeful all of the time -- I'm desperately hanging on to any happy thoughts to keep myself from falling apart!

Monday, April 21

yawn...

I've never been a super huge fan of hardcore exercise, but I've never been too keen on being a total couch potato. Walking and slow jogging, dancing, and weight lifting were great for me. Running, though? Nope!

When my health went south, so did exercise. The chronic pain and other medical problems made it really hard to find any sort of balance, and reluctant couch potato became a standard for a long time. I'd try and do the things I liked to do, but I'd end up in bed for days recovering. That is, until I found yoga. For almost a year, I was able to do yoga sessions at home every day. Then it all changed when the pain became so debilitating that I could barely walk. And so, as some know, I had surgery!

Because of the surgery and long recovery, I haven't been able to do much in the form of physical movement. For several weeks, the most I could do was take a shower before collapsing back into bed. Now that I've started feeling quite a bit better, I decided to try some type of exercise so that my muscles don't totally atrophy. That's more worrisome to me right now than weight gain, seeing as my jeans are actually quite a bit bigger on me than they were back in March.

I didn't want to hurt myself or push my body too hard, so I recently got back into yoga exercises (and by recently, I mean about two hours ago). Here are some things I forgot about this form I like so much:

1. I have not been nor shall I ever be as flexible as I am in my dreams -- because I do dream about being able to do incredible feats worthy of Elastigirl in the Pixar film The Incredibles.

2. Relaxing my neck is ridiculously difficult!

3. A yoga mat is probably a good investment, one which I should have made a long time ago but have never gotten around to doing.

4. Every time I finish a session, I'm suddenly exhausted and feel like I could sleep for hours. In fact, I'm reminded of how often I've fallen asleep at the end of a routine -- 'cause it happened today.

5. 40 minutes goes by incredibly fast when I'm not timing laps at the gym. I like this way better.

Now, if you'll excuse me. I'm going to go study for finals -- and by that I mean I'm going to take a nap, because I can barely keep my eyes open!