Today was the first day back of a new semester, at least, the first real day as a student. I was worried about many things going into today, the greatest of those being whether or not I remembered how to be a successful student. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I did. I know that I’m supposed to have confidence, but I let that get taken away from me and I lacked the nerve required to take it back. I had a choice.
This quote from Cheryl Strayed’s Wild sums where I was at well:
“The thing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the thing that was so profound to me that summer—and yet also, like most things, so very simple—was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay. As I clung to the chaparral that day, attempting to patch up my bleeding finger, terrified by every sound that the bull was coming back, I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go.”
Last semester was rough for me. I reached a point where I couldn’t handle things anymore, where the thing that had to go academically was my voice as a student. (Or my voice in general—really, I just stopped talking about things). My brain was still there; I had ideas. They just adamantly refused to come out of my mouth. I remember numerous occasions where I would leave a class and wonder what the heck I was doing or why I was even there. I remember feeling like I didn’t fit in anymore and didn’t have a place. I didn’t think I belonged anymore. I remember wanting to quit, and sitting in one of my favorite professor’s offices telling her just that.
I am SO glad I didn’t.
I, like Strayed, had a choice. I was bleeding internally, letting the things I had worked so hard for get away from me. I was juggling a lot; what happened pushed me over the edge. There were two ways that I could go—the way I had come from or the way that I intended to go. I could stay in my circumstances and wallow in self-pity, or I could push through it. I could let myself drown in the things that had happened to me, or I could learn how to swim. I have never been bothered by a good swim; I made myself a life preserver and took off with the goal of just holding on. I did that, and I did it well. But it was merely holding on and coasting on life’s waves, nothing more. I was taking no initiative to step forward and out of where I was.
What I did do, in my efforts to process my life, was begin writing my memoir. And write I most certainly did. The work is now several essays long and over 200 pages of pure me. I have tackled the experience I was struggling with last semester, and while I still don’t know how to process everything, I have pushed through it. I have reached the other side. But the memoir has been missing an ending. I didn’t know how to signify the finish to something so life altering. It really doesn’t end. It never feels “better.” It doesn’t go away. It simply becomes a little easier to think about day by day. I know that things have happened to me, and I’ve gotten through them. I’ve survived. I did not quit. I won’t. I’ll be okay someday.
Today was a test for me, and I passed with extra credit. I exceeded my own expectations for myself and the day. I’m learning to articulate my thoughts and my needs on my own, without having to use someone else as my mouth piece or apologize for the things that leave my mouth. This manifested itself in two ways today. In my first class, I opened my mouth without even thinking about it, not giving myself the chance to overanalyze my answer and shut down what I was trying to say. What came out was good, making me wonder about everything that I gave up on last semester because I stopped trusting myself. The second moment was when I went to my next class and quickly realized that classroom positioning and being completely blockaded from the door was going to be an issue for me. I go straight from one class to the other, and by the time I get to the second class, all of the non-blocked in seats are taken. The real ticket here, the real notice to me that I was coming back, was that I was able to calmly and matter-of-factly explain my need to the professor in her office after class, a professor that I have never really conversed with much, and she was able to easily come up with an accommodation. She will save me a seat towards the front and by the door with a book. And it will be my seat for as long as I want. Speaking up about what I need to be successful was really not so bad. Admitting that I have a need? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I don’t believe that she looks at me any differently now. As a matter of fact, I think she found it admirable that I was able to be so upfront about things. This experience with her has changed how I view my interactions with the people around me; I’m excited at all of the news way in which I can approach things. I’m reintegrating, putting the old me back in with all of the things that I’ve learned about myself. I’m glad that I took time to write this summer, to work on myself through putting things down on paper.
This is what I do. I write. I survive. I keep moving forward. While this may seem small to many people, it’s deeply important to me. I’m incredibly proud of myself and the way that I handled the events of the day. Up until today, I highly suspected that good-brain me, for lack of a better term, was gone. But rather than receive confirmation of that fact, I received confirmation of a different sort. I know now that I’m overcoming. Real me is coming back; I’m getting there. But really, I suppose I’m already there. I’m back.
I can write the ending to my memoir now.