Among my roommates, the general consensus is that we are excited to be back on campus, but NOT excited for the classes to commence, and subsequently having to use our brains for thinking, calculating, repressing the urge to cry in a professor’s office when the going gets tough… etc.
I certainly share these feelings of hesitance and reluctant change. However, I know that as soon as I get a feel for each course, and hopefully get excited for the often zany professors that teach them, I’ll be much more eager to dive into the world of academia without fearing the inevitable homework load that surfaces in my wake.
I’m not sure how water imagery factored into my back-to-school assessment, but maybe it’s telling me something that I am not consciously aware of. One of my closest friends is a very earthy, hippie personality, and she firmly believes that we can often identify the urges of our subconscious selves by analyzing our everyday words and actions. Sounds just a bit hippie-dippie, but having spent so much time with this friend over winter break, I am more receptive toward alternative ideas surrounding spirituality and what it really means to be me, for you to be you.
Maybe the qualities of water – fluid, clear, crisp – are applicable to the start of a new semester, and really, a new year. I had a tough conversation with my dad two days ago on the drive back to school, and it has prompted a flood of strong emotions over the past few days. Guilt, sadness, frustration, anger… but also hope, a bit of excitement, faint but definitive readiness, and an increasingly strong will.
I’m ready to, and I need to, make the next leap into my personal journey of health and wellness. It’s so easy to pretend – and even start to believe – that your “personal problems” are solely affecting (and potentially hurting) yourself, and that you can continue to plod along silently as long as you’re not hurting LOUDLY – and therefore hurting the people you love, and who love you. I’m grappling with the guilt, the need to ignore the roots of this guilt in order to function as a college student, and the simultaneous need to address these roots if I have any hope of moving forward in a healthy, productive way.
This is where I’m at. Everyone is where they’re at. This seems obvious, but it’s something I’ve been reminding myself of repeatedly: I can’t blindly judge others, nor should I judge myself, because we are positioned – however precariously – at various peaks and cliffs along the tumultuous terrain that is life. My peak is not better or worse than someone else’s; it simply is, and my ability to accept it as such is the only way I can leap, hop, swim, run, or walk while listening to a podcast (my favorite mode of transportation) to a new spot, representing a new, different, and hopefully better period of my life.
In conclusion: I would love to hear thoughts on how you deal with change in life, and if you’re feeling antsy, excited, etc… for the new year, and the changes that tend to come with it!
Hope everyone is having a wonderful Wednesday, and ready to tackle any change(s) that might be underway. 🙂
I have uploaded and deleted Tinder twice in the last six months. The first time I uploaded the app, I was on vacation in Hawaii. My friend, whose grandparents live there permanently, invited me to come for an incredibly reduced price (free housing, hooray!!), so I spent about a week there last summer. My Hawaii friend is a fairly avid Tinder user, so inevitably, she swiped my phone from me during the trip, uploaded the Tinder app, and created my profile complete with provocative bio: “I can draw you like one of my French boys.”
I’m pretty inexperienced in the romantic realm, so I felt quite embarrassed over the whole incident. Quite quickly, however, I discovered the excitement of swiping right and the mysteriousness of messaging with attractive strangers. The fact that I had so much fun with it during that first week… I’m not sure if it’s cringe-worthy, or if it was about time that I delved into the world of flings and flirting without feeling guilty or unworthy. In all honesty, it felt so nice to receive compliments from guys that I found attractive, even if the compliments were limited to vacuous remarks about my appearance. I was pretty naive, however, in thinking that any of these short exchanges on Tinder could lead to anything more: to the kind of romantic relationship that I would want for myself, and for my future partner.
I am still a bit hazy as to what this “kind” of relationship looks like. If anything, I know my strongest relationships are founded on the ability to have authentic, intelligent, and vulnerable conversations. And, of course, the ability to embrace and love each other’s strange quirks. Tinder did not fulfill either of these criteria, unless I scheduled a date with one of my matches – something I was afraid to do, given my shyness and uncertainty regarding the actual intentions of many guys (and women – we are not exempt!) on Tinder.
Although I had lengthier conversations over text with some guys, and briefly basked in the flirtations of pure physical attraction, I stopped using the app soon after I returned home, and deleted it after school started back up. In the period that I still had the app but no longer used it, I kept my profile card “hidden”, slightly paranoid that someone from my hometown or university would uncover my secret identity: a sexy artist person with an affinity for French boys. My predominant persona, typically clad in sweaters and cat hair, was slightly terrified of this newfound sexiness.
I certainly felt a degree of shame about having ever downloaded the app, let alone having flaunted a bio that was far more flirtatious than I could ever be in reality. Nevertheless, Tinder receded to the back of my mind for the majority of the fall season. Fast forward toward the end of last semester, and with all three of my suitemates engaged in some form of romantic relationship or fling, I was feeling quite lonely and borderline romantically incompetent. I guess it comes as no surprise that I decided to re-upload Tinder. Once again, I experienced the initial influx of matches, compliments, and GIF/emoji-governed text exchanges. Fun? Yes. But after that short rush of excitement, I stopped responding to messages, and really just read the various compliments and pick-up lines that fell into my inbox.
Herein lies the problem. It’s not like I was trying to be an unresponsive jerk that fed off of the (usually) kind remarks that guys sent to me. But on Tinder, an unresponsive jerk is who I became. In addition to sweater woman and sexy artist woman, I adopted a new persona: one of profound insecurity and selfish dependence on compliments from others, with no urge to reciprocate their kindness. I’m not saying that there aren’t creepy people – male and female – on Tinder, but for the most part, I found that most guys were just young and eager for romance, not unlike myself.
When I felt crummy about myself in reality, I could rest assured in the fact that someone on Tinder found me attractive or intriguing, even if the basis of that person’s attraction was composed of my best Facebook photos and a bio that may or may not be representative of the “true” me – whoever that is. Generally, I’m one to discuss women’s issues, but guys on dating sites and apps certainly have a crummy deal. They’re burdened by the societal implication that they have to initiate the conversation, date, hook-up, etc., and don’t have the luxury of uploading Tinder and waiting for the compliments roll in. After a few days of doing just that, I had to stop the madness. Sure, Tinder is probably very trivial and low-stakes in the eyes of most, but I still felt like a bit of a jerk for leading guys on to uplift my self-esteem. I would never do this in reality – so why did I feel momentarily immune to my own jerkiness while using Tinder?
I’m still a bit ashamed to admit to this side of myself that I experienced on Tinder. However, I think it was an important experience for me to have, and over time, the feelings of shame seem to be shifting toward self-understanding and gratitude. I now have a better understanding of how I want to start a relationship: organically, with mutual concern for each other’s needs, desires, dreams, and insecurities. In “real life,” I am the Queen of bemoaning relationships that are not mutually fulfilling: I have a much lower tolerance for these relationships than I did during high school, and have since sworn to drop the sense of obligation I once felt to sustain unsatisfying or unhealthy relationships. As an innate people-pleaser, this is still a work in progress, but Tinder reminded me how integral it is to intentionally cultivate relationships that enhance the lives of all people involved.
Tinder is not inherently bad, nor am I saying this is the end of my Tinder usage. When I can recognize and believe in my worth as a strong, smart, and – God forbid – SEXY woman, it may be a useful platform to initiate dates with interesting people, particularly if I have a stronger and clearer idea of the kind of relationship I want. Right now, I certainly would not reject the idea of having a boyfriend, but I also know that I’m pretty busy, uninterested in short-term hook-ups, and still working on improving my mental health. A romance might actually help in the mental health arena, particularly in terms of my confidence – but only time will tell. For now, I am grateful for the relationships that I do have, and am looking forward to the next semester to strengthen these friendships, strengthen myself as a friend and partner, and hopefully fall into new relationships.
I am super curious: what do you think of Tinder?
Do you have any strong feelings about it or memorable experiences – good, bad, or in-between?
What do you look for in a romantic relationship, and how is it different from a friendship? Do you have any relationship goals for the upcoming year?
I’m finally sitting down and cranking out a blog post: the first one of many more for this year, I am hoping! When I’m in “the mood”, writing/aggressively typing has proved to be a great outlet for me, and I’ve decided that I just need to take the plunge and do it: that is, write/post on a weekly basis, even if it’s just for me. Now, it’s just a matter of sticking to this resolution of sorts – although I am hesitant to label it as a resolution, given that I rarely make them for fear of falling short. Perhaps my chosen theme of this year is to quit feeding into this fear – not of failure, necessarily, but of clearly articulating my goals. When I slap a label on my objectives, on the things I want to do and the skills I want to improve, I get excited by the clarity of my vision, but I often find myself more disappointed when I clearly “fail” (in my eyes, at least) to meet these goals that were so clearly laid out for me in the beginning.
This probably all ties back to my fear of criticism. I am the kind of person who scrolls past my professors’ feedback on my work and solely focuses on the grade. BAD! But I do this. As long as the grade meets my expectations, I often will not read any of the feedback. Or, if the curiosity is killing me, I will just briefly glance over it, and as soon as I see a quasi-constructive criticism – AH! I tend to shut down, close the email, or recycle the feedback sheet – whatever it takes to kill those criticisms dead.
This is certainly a self-protective mechanism, and in some situations (i.e. in courses that aren’t as critical to my majors), I think it is a good practice for someone who is already quite self-critical. But with regards to most courses… I know I should be more receptive toward criticism, making this a goal alongside my continuous aims to improve my artistic skills and academics. Summing all of these thoughts up, I think I have a fear of clarity: that is, clearly articulating visions for my future, and being aware of my strengths and weaknesses as they relate to those goals. And, of course, these attributes are thoughtfully articulated by my professors who I am paying to teach me and improve my skills. So, I might as well buck up and incorporate their feedback in a more meaningful, receptive way.
This is not a very exciting post, but I hope that it serves as a segue into a year of sharing my thoughts and growth, particularly as they relate to my artwork, career, college life, and health. I am also excited to be more involved in the blogging world, and join a community of people who are invested in understanding themselves and others through writing. I follow a lot of blogs as a silent admirer, but I want to be more vocal this year. 🙂 So, here’s to the beginning of a fabulous new year, and for pursuing our aims with fearless clarity.
I have been settling into the hustle and bustle of college, so while I have been writing a TON for classes and just for my own reflection, I haven’t doing a great job of actually posting anything on here… but I’m back!
Although I have quite a few of them, one of my main goals this year is to become more active in the blogging community. I love reading the ideas and insights of others, and I hope that I will have an opportunity to share my own by keeping this blog fairly up-to-date. 🙂
So, to begin this: I have been thinking A LOT about personality traits lately – both my own characteristics and those of my loved ones.
One of my closest friends sent me a postcard from Denmark over the summer. She’s been traveling across Europe for over a year, but we have managed to stay fairly updated on each other’s lives and occasionally crazy exploits. The front of the postcard is emboldened with the words: “Skal vi ses I virkeligheden?”, or “Shall we meet in reality?”
This friend is one of the few people who can really, truly see me: the one who recognizes that beyond the apparent seriousness and diligence of an overly-anxious student, there lurks a closeted goofball who is known by her loved ones as a maker of funny noises, a devout podcast listener, and best friend to her nearly eighteen year-old brother, who happens to be way cooler than she is.
In this postcard, my friend writes how she is looking forward to getting to see me “in reality again – where we can act half our age or have inspiring life talks all within the course of an afternoon.” I think this dual capacity for goofiness and authenticity is the essence of my relationships with the people I love and trust. I am able to understand myself and others best when I allow myself to be myself: an unapologetic reveal of who I am in reality.
“Authenticity” is a buzzword in the leadership and service organizations that I have been involved in as a college student, and rightfully so. In some form, I think many, if not all of us are pursuing relationships in which we feel comfortable with being “real”, both with ourselves and with others. As an artist, I have the opportunity to capture, refine, and share my conception of reality through art. I express my opinions subtly, but also with vibrancy and certitude, in keeping with the “silent-yet-deadly” style that characterized my leadership as a soccer player during high school. Regardless of the roles we play and the identities we assume, I think we all embark on a similar quest for “real-ness”, or a collectively defined reality – but does such a thing exist? Even if it does not, we seem to be constantly grappling with the nitty-grittiness of what it means to occupy these small human bodies, living with other small people in a comparatively ginormous world.
Still, I don’t think we should be frightened by the notion of our insignificance. Rather, I think the finitude and frailty of our human existence should inspire us to live freely, to speak honestly, and to lead powerfully, because who the heck cares if you royally screw up a few times in the process? Really, it’s only a handful of people, if you’re comparing your span of influence to the entire world population. Fear of failure is an obstacle that has plagued me as a Myers Briggs-defined “Idealist”, specifically an INFJ, but I feel that my love of ideas ultimately keeps me afloat. Ideas are my soul pancakes: they drive my art and enable me to express myself authentically, even if I feel confined by outward constructs and expectations.
Granted, some of these expectations are self-imposed. According to a strengths assessment that I took for a leadership class, my other strengths include “Intellection” and “Responsibility”, so I am well aware that I can be a bit harsh on myself. Over the summer, however, I feel that I improved in my ability to give myself (and others!) grace. I tend to ruminate on past failures and become internally frustrated with myself, as well as my friends and family members when they fail to understand me – but how can I expect them to understand if I am not transparent and real? Going into the summer, I repeatedly asked myself this question, and made an effort to simply move forward from failures, experiment with new artistic methods, and be a little more spontaneous in terms of spending time with family and friends. I also tried to verbalize any frustrations I had with family members instead of bottling them up inside. While it can be hard to get a point across to my sassy pre-teen sister or my excessively macho brother, I think I succeeded in being real with them, at least more so than I have in the past.
Ever since identifying as an INFJ, I feel as though I have a better understanding of my past, particularly my childhood quirks and occasional awkwardness. I spend a lot of time musing about various issues and future possibilities, and I often struggle to articulate these thoughts to others. One of my close friends recently remarked that I was an enigma to her, to which I responded, “Same.” Given that my enigmatic nature may be rooted in my personality rather than a character flaw, I want to utilize my natural tendencies to share ideas and create meaningful change. Specifically, I feel that my reliance on feeling and intuition, combined with my preference for order and planning over spontaneity, gives me a unique opportunity to lead others through art, writing, and discussion.
Although I have only a few extremely close friends, I still want to treat others in the way that I approach an empty canvas (sans out-of-tune humming and occasional angry muttering). With drawing, I cut to the raw and real; when I have an idea, there is no time for dilly-dallying and uncertainty, lest that idea dissipate into thin air. You just gotta get that shit down on paper (excuse me), even if it’s the crappiest effing drawing that your pencil has ever had the misfortune of creating.
This is similar to the point in a relationship when you simply need to be real and honest, and determine based on the other person’s reaction whether that relationship has the potential to progress to the pinnacle of awesomeness. If not, so be it. But, suppose this is my relationship with someone, and it does have potential: I want to continue to be real, instead of withdrawing for fear of rejection. I want to trust my intuition, and share my world, ideas, and thoughts accordingly, but I also want to listen and support my friend as they attempt to do the same.
These are some of the thoughts that send me into the Wikipedia vortex in the wee hours of the night. In this winding and topsy-turvy pursuit of the “real”, I often refer back to my personal philosophy of leadership that I identified last year: “silent badassery.” To be a “silent badass”, I wrote, is to speak and act according to what “lights our minds on fire and causes our voices to tremble,” and to “uphold our corresponding beliefs, despite the potential for disapproval, misunderstanding, and (gasp!) controversy.” I think I possess some qualities of the silent badass, such as independence and a fierce commitment to my goals, that I can develop throughout the remainder of my college experience. While “silence” remains a defining characteristic of my leadership style, I have often conflated my silence with permissiveness, hindering my ability to work with and lead “in reality” others. The issue isn’t necessarily blatant inauthenticity, but rather, a fear of stirring the pot, throwing my opinions into the mix, inviting others to do the same, and ultimately challenging one another’s beliefs. In large group situations, where it is inherently difficult to make one’s voice heard, I find myself feigning permissiveness and neutrality in lieu of social conflict. This is problematic, particularly in today’s political environment. I want to be respectful of others, but I also want – and need – to be myself. I owe it to my friends, family members, and my classmates to be my completeself,so that I may tackle each day with realness, awareness, and a healthy dose of silent badassery.
As will often be the case, I feel the need to apologize for the length of this post, and commend and thank anyone who read it all the way through. I would LOVE to hear insights on this tricky and complicated topic, likely made more complicated by yours truly.
Hello, friends! As I tuck away the last few items into my suitcase and cram a few more stuffed animals and boxes of cereal into my van (surely, these are all necessary for adulting), I am truly starting to get excited – and nervous – for the upcoming school year. I guess the nerves are warranted: new living situation, new and old friends, more classes, and more “big life decisions” to be made. But for right now, I really want to focus on the things that will bring me excitement and joy this year – one of those things being FALL!
I love leaves. And pumpkins. And listening to Christmas music in October.
Since most of my brain energy has already been spent remembering last-minute-things to bring to school before I leave tomorrow (razors! leggings! Random desk chair I found in my basement?!), I’ve decided to just make a list of things that I’m excited about, because that just seems easier on my brain right now. So please enjoy the following cathartic release of all my fall-related joys!
The pumpkins and the plants.
There’s a ginormous park with hiking trails and beautiful gardens by my school. It has an entire greenhouse devoted to succulents. These days, it seems like succulents and borderline-millennials like myself are becoming more and more like the classic PB&J combo… and I embrace this with no ounce of shame. 😉
Anyway, at this park… long, gravel paths intersect at grassy junctures with benches and rose gardens, and there’s one wide path that leads to a gazebo and fountain. It reminds me of the garden in Princess Diaries. Sigh.
It’s also a fabulous place to take photos or just unwind before major events (insert: finals and midterms). My friends and I visited the gardens about a week before finals, and we didn’t even talk to each other while we were there. We just wandered around like lost souls, stroked flower petals, and took photos in the succulent greenhouse.
Like this one.
And I whispered all of my hopes and fears to a turtle in the Japanese Garden.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture, but the little critter was a great therapist! Finals came and went, and when my friends and I returned to our normal human selves, we all agreed that we would visit the gardens before our next round of finals. I am SO excited to see some of the seasonal plants and the pumpkin patch – hopefully before finals so that I’m considerably less stressed! Although I’d be down for some turtle therapy any time.
Listening to Christmas music is finally “socially permissible”!
…Controversial, certainly, but I’ve been known to break out the Michael Bublé Christmas soundtrack in late September. Apologizing in advance to my roommate.
Pumpkin Spice flavored Special K, Life, and Cheerios!
I love Pumpkin Spice, and I love cereal, so naturally, my mom sent me all of the pumpkin spice-flavored cereal she could find in my first care package last fall. Yes, my mom rocks. 🙂 My personal favorite is the Special K… who can resist those yogurt clusters??
Getting to see my family in November.
At my school, there’s a special weekend in the beginning of November for families to visit their students, hang out for a bit on campus, and stock up on much-needed supplies. I was very silly last year and only brought about half of my closet from home. So for me, the weekend was basically devoted to bringing the rest of my clothes from home to my dorm and buying more clothes from TJ Maxx. But I love my family and was feeling some major homesickness at the time, so shopping with them (even though I am not a shopper!) and being barraged with “I told you so”’s was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
I spend Thanksgiving with my immediate family, which is honestly so nice. No need to dress up and have awkward conversations about politics – we just wear our pajamas all day, play soccer on our front lawn, and watch movies after dinner with pie and tea. It doesn’t get much better than that.
In addition to family Thanksgiving, there’s the additional benefit of “Friends-giving” with school and work friends! Hopefully my friends and I will be able to cook in our new apartment this year, as opposed to smuggling food out of the cafeteria. 🙂
Painting/ drawing by myself in the art studio at my school.
I love my friends and family, but I definitely need a lot of “me time” for art and generalized thinking. When the main art studio on campus is empty on Sunday mornings in the fall, I get ridiculously excited. Despite the huge windows (helloooo world), the studio was a cozy autumnal hide-away for just me, my pencils, and unrestrained Christmas music. This year will be similar to last fall, although I’ll be replacing my pencils with paintbrushes. I’m excited, anxious, and hesitantly hopeful for my first painting class ever!
This is certainly not a comprehensive list. I sacrificed a bunch of other fall favorites, in the interest of time and with the knowledge that I tend to ramble – so a sincere “thank you” to any of those who stumble upon this list and decide to read it, or at least skim!
For me, this a great way to get pumped for school (which can be hard to do), slowly shift from summer to fall, and begin this school year with gratitude, hope, and motivation.
The title of this post is so terrible but I just had to. Basically, I am feeling very ambiguous about my return to college-land in less than a week.
Some days, I’m like “boo-yah!” I get to see my roommates and few other close friends in less than a week. We will dance in our apartment, dive into the decorating process, and dine at the sketchy but delicious Mexican restaurant just a few blocks off campus. I’ll get excited for my painting class, my first class of the year (and simultaneously terrified – I’m not a painter… yet). I’ll stroll along the path through our campus, alone or with a friend – or maybe just a podcast – and think about the upcoming year.
But some days – or just fleeting moments – my thoughts fall more into the category of “boo-nah.” In a lot of respects, I’ve had a lovely, restful, reflective summer, and I am not entirely ready for it to be over. I’ve had meaningful conversations with my younger sisters, brief but precious moments with my brother – soon to be a senior in high school – and nostalgic talks on the phone with my two best friends from high school, one of whom I haven’t seen for over a year. I miss that closeness – geographically and emotionally. My struggle with anxiety really intensified last year, and I am scared that the impressions I left on my peers will prevent me from deepening some of the relationships that I had begun to develop. I experienced panic attacks for the first time (one occurred in front of my speech class…), and while I know I “shouldn’t” feel embarrassed about it, I sometimes feel like my mind betrayed me in that moment. Embarrassment came before the sense of betrayal, but now that I’ve had time to reflect (and borderline-ruminate) about it, I feel like my anxious self was wholly separate from my “typical” self, leading me to become way more vulnerable than I would have ever been comfortable with. Particularly in a room of mere acquaintances.
But why were these people just acquaintances? I’d had classes with them for almost a year. They were in the same program as me. There were only 13 people in that class. I want to let them in, but I also don’t want to be seen as fragile, unpredictable, overly-emotional, difficult to be around.
How much of “it” – this struggle to connect, to open up, to be vulnerable and to be honest – is me, and how much of it is them?
I talked to my best friend on the phone today and got a good cry in (the kind where you can still verbalize so that the other person probably wouldn’t know that you’re crying, but she knows me so well that she knew I was crying and told me to just let it out… from 5,000 miles away). It hurts to think about some of my struggles from last year and the potential for them to recur this year, but it is also a beautiful thing to know that you have people in your life who will be there forever, regardless of distance and time and mental health issues and wrinkles and weight gain (the latter two are especially dumb, dumb, dumb things to exert mental energy worrying about… but I am guilty).
A synopsis of my rambling: this year, the most I can do is to “zoom-out” and focus on these greater truths, rather than zoom-in on the trivialities that might otherwise steer me away from kind people, sweet friendships, romance (?), and damn good peanut butter.
Looking back, this summer has been wonderful by all accounts. I went to Hawaii, bobbed up and down in the waves, tried poke, and tanned my body to crispy perfection (which makes me sound like a piece of bacon, but it’s true – I learned to take my friend’s warnings seriously about the intensity of the sun near the equator!!). After I returned, I finished up a commissioned color portrait of three dogs that had taken me approximately ten light years to (1) confront with my eyeballs, (2) actually touch, and (3) finally FINISH! I get a bit overly-scared about messing up my drawings, so much so that I will go for extended periods of time without even looking at them… needless to say, I have quasi-defeated this fear! In late June, I began to tune into my more creative, whimsical, childish side and painted colorful wooden blocks with fun characters, creatures, and puns (!!!) drawn/written on the fronts. I sold them at the farmer’s market with my dad, and although I didn’t sell a ton, I was actually very happy with the work I produced. I also loved standing in the booth with my dad on a sunny day, interacting together with the eclectic assortment of folk that grace our Sunday market. Gotta love the Pacific Northwest. Also gotta love the fateful positioning of our vendor’s booth: our tent was assigned to a spot right across from a kettle corn seller, subsequently imbuing my blocks and my dad’s handmade leather bracelets with the sweet scent of glazed corn (Or is it korn? I tend to side with grammatical creativity over correctness…:) ).
I was also blessed with an awesome job, one that I was not expecting to enjoy as much as I have. Thank God for these little (but much-needed) surprises. I began working in early July (and will wrap up this week) as a camp counselor at a day camp for special-needs children. Last summer, I worked at a day camp for elementary schoolers in a nearby school district, and although I enjoyed the kids there (mostly), I didn’t really have a strong relationship with my co-workers. Part of the issue was that there were so few of us. With forty or fifty kids coming from a pretty rough school district with few resources, the ten of us basically morphed into a disconnected lot of stressed out, zoned-out, and utterly camped-out counselors. I was VERY ready to get out of there by the end of the summer. But this summer is different. Although I haven’t necessarily had time to become “close friends” with my co-workers given the nature of our work and the needs of our campers, I feel that they’re truly good and supportive people. I am so excited to return to this camp next year, and hopefully will remain in touch with at least some of the other counselors throughout the year. And the campers themselves are incredible. Goofy, fun, sweet, sassy, smiley, spontaneous, stubborn, vivacious, and resilient as hell.
It’s kind of been the theme of my thoughts this summer. Upon realizing the gaping hole in my life that had been left by athletics (silly me, realizing this a year and a half late!), I have discovered how much sports have contributed to my identity, and to my developing – albeit shaky – foundation of confidence. I went back to an email that I left in my Draft folder back in February, which was a rougher time for me, addressed to one of my closest friends who’s currently abroad in Germany:
“If there’s anything I can appreciate about myself, it’s my resilience and work ethic. I think this a big part of why I miss athletics: I stood my ground in soccer and defied people’s expectations, and it made me feel amazing. I don’t have that any more, and I’m not sure how to develop a better relationship with my body when I lack the outlets to challenge it and showcase its physical strengths. That sounds weird, but it was sort of a way for me to affirm that I was a strong and capable human being, and maybe it also made me feel more physically desirable. I didn’t necessarily love my leg muscles, but I knew why I had them and I knew what they could do. I now have this weird mental dynamic in which I don’t necessarily miss those muscles appearance-wise, but I miss the competitiveness and strength and speed that they once facilitated. I still have my mental grit that drives me to stay up until 4am in the school art building working on an 18×24 charcoal drawing, then trudge back to my dorm through the snow like a crazy person, but I really, deeply miss pushing my body and fueling my body to compete and perform at its highest level.”
In writing, this is the closest I’ve ever been able to get to what sports meant to me. It was this moment of epiphany in February – interrupting a futile attempt to finish an entirely unrelated lab report – that produced the paragraph above. But I never sent it to my friend. A part of me was just worried about the response, I guess, and also unsure about being so vulnerable. And this is probably my closest friend – I tend to avoid the term “best friend”, but she essentially has that title in my life. And yet I chose not to share this with her.
Such is the dilemma of my life. Sure, I may very well share this with my friend in the future, and I could blame the distance between us and my desire to confide in her face-to-face, but I kind of suck at being authentic because of my eating disorder. It’s a deceptive and stupid and fooooking frustrating disease, and I haven’t even told my “closest” friends at college. This leads me to re-evaluate the depth of my relationships: do my friends need to know about my eating disorder to truly know me? At first, my response was “I would hope not!” I don’t want to be my eating disorder. I don’t want my eating disorder to become me, to eat me up and spit me out as a distorted replica of myself – whoever that is. But throughout freshman year, the associated thoughts of anxiety and self-hatred threatened to envelop me at times. Academically and socially, I was functioning fairly well, but on the inside, I was really struggling at times. So it was no surprise to me when, upon opening end-of-the-year notes that my roommates had written for me before leaving for summer break, one of my friends told me that, while she loved getting to know me this year, I was still a “complete enigma” to her.
At first, it made me cry (truth… we all have to cry it out sometimes, by ourselves, I’ve decided!). But then it made me think. Is there any way my friends – both at college, at work, and from high school – can truly know me if they don’t know about my eating issues? Some know about the anxiety, but they don’t know how much the anxiety stems from issues with food and body confidence.
I’m interested to hear other thoughts on this. Vulnerability is a slippery slope for many – I know it’s hard and not always smart to share all aspects of your life with others, and I am particularly adamant about not letting my mental health issues “become” me and steal my identity, but I am also keenly aware of their capacity to do so – particularly after ending that chapter of my life as a full-time “student-athlete.” So how much – and how little – do we share? What do we share, when do we share it, and why do we share it?
Perhaps the main reason why I have not shared much of my history with my college friends is due to the “blank-slate” mentality I adopted upon entering college last year. It wasn’t like I had a poor reputation in high school, but I wanted to start fresh in a place of health and authenticity. Looking back, it didn’t quite pan out that way, but I think it may have been my delayed realization of the importance of sports in my life – and the vivid manner in which they testified to my resilience. Now, I wish that my college friends could have watched one of my high school soccer games or cross country meets or tennis matches. Sure, I was small and scrawny, but also fiery and scrappy as hell – a complete antithesis of the pale, downcast, and anxious figure that stole my name and trudged through campus last year.
Sports reminded me of what I was capable of. They reminded me to eat wholesome foods, and to eat enough food. They showed others that I was multifaceted, that I had depth, that I had some little gremlin inside of me that told me to run and jump and shove and yell in ways that my-quiet-little-artist-self would never deem appropriate. For my high school friends, my teammates, and myself, sports offered a clue to the enigma that, even after nine months of living with them, I appear to be to my college friends and roommate.
Last Friday while cleaning up after work, I attacked a garbage can. I tore off the lid with my spider-monkey arms, which seem to be opposed to any kind of musculature regardless of the number of Quest bars I consume and the number of forty-pound children I carry around on a daily basis. The bag inside was swollen to maximum capacity with paper cups, plates, and saliva-coated cucumbers spat out by veggie-hating campers throughout the day. Angered by this cucumber waste and the momentary stupidity of my coworkers for not filling another bag, I shoved the trash can against the wall, pressed one hand on the brim of the can, and wrapped my other hand around the very top of the bag. Pulling with all of my might, I shook and shoved and rattled and swore under my breath, and the bag finally burst from its cramped quarters and skidded to a satisfying halt on the ground. I was suddenly conscious of my “Angelina Jolie vein” (coined by my younger brother) that bulges from my forehead whenever hot and/or stressed, looked around the room, and noticed my co-workers gaping at me, completely distracted from their own chores to watch my unexpected feat of strength. Honestly, I was a bit disoriented, surprised by myself, and still mildly annoyed by the overflowing trash can. But now, with three days worth of retrospect, I think I was also overcome by a sense of déjà vu: a physical feat followed by a satisfying sense of exhaustion, an amused audience, and a visceral reminder of my own resilience.