Graduation: I’ll Be Ok

On Wednesday, I ordered my tickets for my College graduation. It’s crazy to think that in a month and a half, I will be a college graduate. But, here I am standing on the threshold of adulthood and adulthood. And people keep asking me, “What do you want to do after graduation?”

I don’t know what to say to them. So I tell them, “I’m not quite sure. I’ve started looking to see what’s out there, started looking to see what kind of jobs I can get with an English Degree. I’ll probably go to Grad school at some point, but that costs money that I don’t have. So I’m looking for a job, any job I can get really. I can’t afford to be picky: there are student loans to pay off, a car to buy, my future to save for. Everything’s being thrown at me all at once, and I can’t avoid it no matter how hard I try—I’ve never been good at Dodgeball.”

Except I don’t actually say that because, well, it’s pretty obvious.

The truth is, I have no idea what I’m doing after graduation. I know what my end goal is: to be a writer. But that probably, realistically won’t pay the bills that need to be paid (at least not right off the bat). I’m looking for a big-kid job that will pay the bills, but it’s a terrifying process.

And Depression isn’t helping.

Every time I sit down to work on my resume or work on an application, depression brings his cousins anxiety and doubt over for a visit.

It’s really hard to work on your future when the three cousins are interrupting you:

No one is going to want to hire you.

You didn’t do as well as you could have in college, and now you messed up your future.

Hah! English majors. What good job will that give you?

And maybe their right. Maybe I did mess up my future. Maybe I didn’t do as well as I could have in college because maybe I was too busy focusing on my mental health to worry about getting all A’s.

But maybe their wrong.

Because I didn’t necessarily do as well as I could have in High school, but I still got into college. And not doing well in College is not any indicator of how well you will do in life.

One thing I’ve learned for sure is that I’m worth more than my GPA. My GPA does not measure how many battles I’ve faced, how many battles I’ve lost, how many battles I’ve won. My GPA does not measure how smart I actually am, just how good I am at studying or BSing my way through essays. My GPA doesn’t measure my talents, my personality, how much I care for others.

My GPA can’t tell you how hard I am trying to be ok.

My GPA can’t tell you how bright my future is.

But my doubts certainly can. The harder I doubt, the stronger my belief is that I will do great things. (it’s counterintuitive, I know. But I’ve been fighting depression long enough to know that this is the case.)

I’ve been doubting a lot lately.

And all this doubting has made the world seem a lot heavier on my shoulders. It came to a head on Thursday night. If I was still self-harming, Thursday would have been one of those nights, without a doubt.

Instead, I wrote.

There were a billion and a half thoughts running through my head, but the only thing I managed to get out was “I’ll be ok.”

I’ll be ok.

I’ll be ok.

I’ll be ok.

I wrote that phrase 150 times, falling asleep half-way through the 151st time: I’ll be.

I’ll be (fill in the blank).

Amazing.

Strong.

Happy.

A world-changer.

But most importantly, I’ll be a writer. That’s what I am meant to be.

And it terrifies me.

I’ve started writing the same book three or four times. And every single time, I get freaked out and stop. But in the past few weeks, more and more people have told me that I need to keep writing. Some of these people have followed my journey from the beginning. Some of these people I don’t even know.

Somebody came up to me on Friday, told me that she read my blog because her friend showed it to her. She then told me, “Thank you for being my voice.”

Thank you for being my voice.

For a long time, I couldn’t find my voice. I lost in the midst of my fear and doubt.

But now I’ve found it, and I have so many stories to tell. Some funny; some sad. Some good; some bad.

And I’m terrified. But that’s ok because I’ve come to realize that fear is a powerful motivator. I’ve come to realize that words have power. Words can change the world.

My words have been my way of making sense of my struggles, and in the process, I’ve become the voice for so many who don’t know how to express what they feel.

And that terrifies me. I want to do myself and others justice. I want to express where I’ve been without losing sight of the future.

And the future terrifies me. My dreams terrify me. But if your goals and aspirations don’t terrify you, they’re not big enough.

I think fear is just your minds way of trying to protect you.

I’ve come to learn that no matter what happens, I’ll be ok.

I’ll be ok.

I’ll be ok.

I’ll be ok.

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Me of 2014, Here’s to You: A Year in Review

At the conclusion of every year, I like to make a mental list of things I’ve learned throughout the year. This year, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve also written a lot. So instead of making a mental list, I decided to write what I’ve learned down. What I’ve learned turned into a list summarizing what I’ve written about, what I’ve talked about with friends, and what I’ve thought about late at night. It turned into a list echoing a letter, partially inspired by a wonderful friend I went to Guatemala with. Do with this list what you will, but I’ve discovered the importance of reflecting on how much a year can change you, on how much you grow over the course of twelve months. Without further adieu, what I’ve learned in 2014.

Dear Me of January 1, 2014,

In 2014, you will:

  • be challenged, step out of your comfort zone, learn so much, cry, laugh, heal, celebrate, and mourn.
  • experience the healing power of forgiveness without expecting an apology.
  • be pushed to the breaking point (again) with one of the most physically and mentally exhausting semesters. You will learn from this and follow it up with one of your easier semesters. Thank yourself for this.
  • receive an unexpected apology.
  • experience God in new ways: through the first sunny day after a long, dark winter; through the cuddles of a toddler on Friday mornings; through the strength you find to get out of bed in the morning.
  • deepen old relationships, discover new ones, and cut ties with toxic people.
  • celebrate milestones marking things you’ve overcome.
  • rediscover yourself, redefine yourself, learn to love yourself.
  • make it through another year. Sometimes you’ll fight an uphill battle; sometimes you’ll walk on solid ground.
  • be knocked down, knocked down, knocked down, but you’ll get back up over and over and over again.
  • stop writing your book after a long period of self-doubt, and then you’ll start writing again after revamping and reorganizing because you have so many stories churning inside that sometimes you can’t sleep at night because the words inside your head won’t stop screaming until you give them live. And you learned a long time ago about the power of words–how they should not be silenced.

In 2014, you will:

  • realize it’s ok to ask for help, to be vulnerable, to let people in. You should not be ashamed of your past.
  • learn more about the world, and in doing so, your views and beliefs will be challenged, but in the process you will become more open-minded. What you believe may not line up with what those around you believe. Embrace this. The world in not black and white; it’s a complex amalgamation of issues that cannot clearly be defined. Life is not a math equation, no matter how many people try to define it as such.
  • learn that you don’t agree with the way everyone lives their lives. That is ok. Some people don’t have the same beliefs as you. Don’t push yours on them. Love is more important.
  • learn to appreciate the little things.
  • have a hard time getting out of bed somedays, but you will anyway. Although it may not be until after you have an argument with yourself in which you way the pros and cons: it’s safer here, but you won’t get to see your friends. It’s warm and I’m tired, but you won’t get to learn. You will learn to have faith that the floor will hold your weight, and when you feel like the burdens of this world are too heavy for your legs, God will carry you through it.

In 2014, you will:

  • come face-to-face with the ignorance of people. You will be forced to validate your existence to people who make jokes about your past. Look them in the eyes as you ask them to explain how the joke is funny. Watch them squirm as their face turns red. Do not apologize for embarrassing them. Do not accept their apology for cracking that joke. How else will they learn? Somethings are not meant to be joked about.
  • learn that some professors wil make insensitive comments. Next time you hand in a journal about a depressing poem, compare the poem to your own life.
  • learn that some professors are the most caring people on the planet and give so much time to their students. They will stop you on the sidewalk because they know you are having a hard time. You will pour your heart out to them. Tell these professors how much they are appreciated. Don’t take them for granted.
  • encounter people who make you feel insignificant. Don’t speak softly. Assert yourself. Make your presence known. Do not apologize for existing.
  • call people out on their behavior.
  • realize opinions and beliefs you previously held were wrong. That’s ok, because now you know better. You have matured and learned.
  • learn that people are the worst and the best. You will be horrified at the way people treat others, but in the midst of it all, you will realize the good of humanity: out of darkness comes light. Embrace the good. Learn from the bad.

In 2014, you will want to change the world. You will find strength you didn’t know you had. You will start fighting. You will continue fighting.

For 2015, promise yourself you won’t stop. Life is too beautiful to give up.

In 2015, you will:

  • graduate from college.
  • find a job.
  • learn to love yourself more.
  • ?

It’s a blank book, a blank slate. Embrace it. You’ve come so far in 2014, and 2015 holds so much more promise despite the unknown.

“How do you prepare yourself for another 365 days of uncertainty?”

  • pray
  • hope
  • trust.

Sincerely,

The You of December 31, 2014.

A Mile is Forever

A little over 4.5 years ago, I attempted suicide. I was young, broken, hopeless. There was a stigma attached to Mental Illness and Suicide. We, as a society, have gotten better at talking about it, on addressing it, on treating it. But this stigma is still prevalent, still attached to depression and suicide the way conjoined twins are joined at the hip. 

This has been a hard week. Robin Williams’ suicide has drawn a lot of attention, spurring media coverage and blog posts fueled with speculation and judgement, fact and fiction, horror and sadness. And for people like me, people who are battling depression and suicidal thoughts, this has been an emotional and triggering time. 

We try so hard to fill our lives with happy things, things that will (hopefully) try to help us forget all the pain, sadness, and despair we are feeling. We have to consciously focus our thoughts and energies on keeping us alive: life is no longer about thriving; it’s about surviving. It becomes a race against time, because we’re all going to die someday. But for some of us, the road to death is filled with shortcuts. Life is no longer “How many more years do I have before I reach the average life expectancy?” LIfe is now “How many more times can I pull myself back from the brink before I’m out of strength?”

And we don’t want life to be this way. I firmly believe that life is a gift, and as such, it’s to be enjoyed. For some of us, that’s harder than for others. I would like nothing more than to believe that all people are good, life is always beautiful, nothing will ever hurt, and love will always win. But, I can’t. I’m not that naive. I’ve seen enough news, been through enough pain, experienced enough of life to know that people aren’t always good, life isn’t always beautiful, things will hurt, and love isn’t always enough.

But I still try to enjoy life. Some people are good, and some people are bad. Life is beautiful, and life is ugly. Things will hurt, but some things can heal. Love is powerful and beautiful, and it can win some battles, but it’s not always enough to win the war. Yet, I still want to fall in love, with life, with a person. I want to enjoy life and put 110% into everything I do with what time I have left. I have hopes and dreams. I have great friends, a great family, and a strong relationship with God.

I had all these things 4.5 years ago, too, and it wasn’t enough to stop me from swallowing pills. The love pulling me to earth wasn’t enough to counter-act the need I felt to be free. Love isn’t a fix-all solution. Boy, do I wish it was. It would solve so many problems, and it would have caused my life to play out so much differently. 

If love were the answer, I would have never gotten to my darkest point. I would have never had to force myself to consciously think about what I was doing: using scissors was dangerous, taking medicine was dangerous, walking to the store was dangerous, going up high was dangerous. I discovered it’s all to easy to not think and put yourself in harm’s way. Which is how I ended up taking pills and slicing my wrist. I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing; it wasn’t a choice I made. I stopped thinking for a moment, I momentarily stopped plugging the holes in the dam, the guards stopped forcing the drawbridge close, and the darkness attacked. The flood-gates opened, and every thought of inadequacy, hopelessness, and fear–the very thoughts I had been trying to surpress–came back all at once. 

I was drowning even though I was standing on solid ground, and all I wanted was to breathe again. So I took the pills, and I sliced my wrist. Time seemed to slow down; it was a race agaisnt the clock, and I was running out of time. You’ll be ok. I got up. Threw up the pills. Bandaged my wrist. And continued on with life as if nothing happened.  But it did happen. And I couldn’t pretend that it didn’t. 

It didn’t kill me. And I was angry. I was angry because fighting every thought that comes into your head is exhausting, and no amount of sleep will help fight the tiredness I feel. I was angry because I felt too weak to fight, and I’ve never liked the idea of being tortured. I was angry, but I was also scared.

I was scared that I’d let my guard down again and be back to that place of inescapable hopelessness and darkness. Fear is a powerful motivator, just like love.

If love were the answer, I would have never gotten to my darkest points. But then I would have never gotten to my heights, either. I would have never felt the joy of leading a child in Guatemala to Christ. I would have never felt the relief of breaking the surface of the waves and coming up for air; I’ve learned that no matter how hopeless I feel now, I won’t feel this way forever. I would have never be able to find happiness in the little things; sometimes the little things are the big things.

 

Next week, I start my Senior year of College. I never thought I would make it this far, and I’m terrified. But that’s ok. Because 4.5 years ago, I had one dream. Today, I have another. I’m still young, still healing, and sometimes I still feel hopeless. But I took that step forward, and now I’m looking behind me at all the shattered dreams, shattered hopes, shattered innocence left scattered in my past’s path, and I feel a sense of hope. 

Because, yes, life is still rough. My soul is still fractured to its deepest corners; depression is still my constant companion. And right now, it hurts more than ever because healing means getting up and moving, and sometimes moving hurts more than just lying there. Life is pain, and I’d rather take it standing up than sitting down, moving forward than lying down. 

And I hope you do the same, whatever’s happened in your life. I hope you take comfort in the fact that even on the darkest night, your eyes can still see the flame of a single candle a mile away. Right now, a mile may seem like forever, but I’ve learned that even the smallest steps are progress. 

 

Dear Daddy

Life is fear. And lots of it.

When I was little, I was scared of the monsters under the bed, Santa getting lost and missing my house, and spiders. Now that I’m older, I’m scared of the future and spiders.

I have a rose from my Grandfather’s funeral to remind me that death and sorrow are real. This was the first time I cried at a funeral, which was the same day that I realized that there would be one less hand to hold mine when I needed someone there.

The most painful thing I’ve learned so far is that no matter how much love I wrap my family members in, no matter how many ropes I weave from their hearts to mine, they cannot stay with me forever. The ones that I hold most dear to me are growing older as I am. And it terrifies me. Because one day, the wind will carry them home, and they won’t be here with me to dry my tears, to hug me and tell me it will be ok. Even though a heart can be the home of memories, a home can’t be a heart.

And I’m scared of growing up and moving on.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Daddy, I miss you. And I know break just ended, and I saw you a lot; but I miss you. I miss our talks, your hugs, cuddle sessions on the couch. And even though I’m in college and still live under the same roof, I never see you. And it’s hard, and it’s painful.

I’ve given this whole “growing up” thing a shot, and I’ve decided that it isn’t for me. I want to go back to when I was five. I want to go back to the days of playing airplanes, back scratch wars, sitting in your fort, curling up next to you and falling asleep. I want to go back to the times when putting a Band-Aid on a cut was enough, because now there’s pain that you can’t fix even though you try so hard to do so. I want to go back to the days when you held my hand to cross the street, and to teach me to walk. I want you to hold my hand forever, because I’m scared of tripping and falling. These shoes of adulthood are too big for me.

And I can’t help but think if this is how I feel now, how am I going to feel when I don’t live with you? How am I going to feel when you’re not there every day for a hug?

And while I’m sitting here trying to figure it out, the world keeps spinning. People keep breathing, and while my mind is stuck in a corner, refusing to let go, I’m getting older and closer to moving on.

I know I’m only 18, and I have my whole life ahead of me to ‘figure it out,’ but that’s what scares me the most: not figuring it out.

Because life is a mystery. Life is pain, fear, and love. And when you love someone, pain is involved.

And Daddy, I know I’m growing older, but I’ll always be your little girl.

Right now I’m just confused about why life must hurt so much. Right now I’m just scared about what the future holds.

And I don’t know if I’m ready for it, any of it.

I want to be five again. Then I can say “tay me bit more,” and it might actually work.

 

Continue Reading: A Father’s Response

The Only Thing We Have to Fear…

…is fear itself. So said Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States. So, what is fear? Fear, according to Dictionary.com, is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; that feeling or condition of being afraid. As humans, we are programmed to have fear. It acts as a survival instinct.

So, what do I fear? I fear a variety of things. Some are intense phobias, and others are just mild disdain. My intense phobias vary. Some are common, while others are not. I have an extreme hatred of the following things:

1. Heights:   I can’t even get 5 feet off the ground without my heart beginning to beat rapidly, my palms becoming sweaty, and my head beginning to spin. I can distinctly remember going to Niagara Falls in 8th grade and waiting in line for the Maid of the Mist. In order to get on the Maid of the Mist, you have to cross this bridge above the water. Not only was this bridge too far above the river for my liking, but it was also see-through. As soon as I stepped one foot on the bridge, I froze; my friends had to literally force me across the bridge.

2. Closed Spaces: There’s something about being in a tight space that makes me feel like the walls are moving together, squeezing me in. It reminds me of the scene from Star Wars when the trash compactor walls are moving, and Hans Solo says, “Well, one thing’s for sure, we will all be a lot thinner.” When we went to Washington D.C, my family all wanted to go inside the Washington Monument. Not me. It wasn’t just the height that bothered me, it was the thought of the tight, enclosed stairway that had me hyperventilating.

3. Spiders:  Enough said. Who doesn’t hate spiders? They’re creepy, and yucky, and gross. If I lose one in my room, I sleep downstairs. If there’s one in my shower, I stealthily throw something at it to knock it down, and then drown it.

4. Clowns:  They are one of the creepiest things on the planet. I’ve never had a bad experience with clowns that I recall, but it’s something about not knowing what the person looks like behind all the makeup that freaks me out.

Now for the lesser fears, or the things I disdain.

5. Brooms: As I child, I was terrified of brooms. We have on video, my reaction to seeing a broom in a book. Although I have outgrown this fear, I still prefer not to use brooms, which means I can never be a Janitor!

6. Snakes: They creep me out, especially the big ones at the zoo. Yuck.

As much as those things terrify me and freak me out, I can honestly say that those aren’t what terrify me the most. What terrifies me the most is being judged and not being taken seriously. When I’m around people, I’m afraid that every whisper, every finger point, every laugh is aimed at my direction. I’m afraid that silently people are judging me. And I know it’s a ridiculous thought because I also know that many people don’t notice me. So to think that every person I see is judging me is pure nonsense.

As for the not being taken seriously, that one has some value. I am at this point in my life where I am really struggling with my views on the world, my views on life, religion, God, society. And being that I am struggling, I also have a lot of opinions and thoughts on just about everything, which terrifies me even more. I fear that people don’t take my thoughts seriously, or give my questions much value because I am 17. I haven’t experienced enough of the world to have such questions and opinions. About 2 months ago, I wrote a note on Facebook containing questions that I have had about life and the universe and God and free will and just about anything that you can imagine. I got no feedback. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

I still wonder about those questions everyday. I still wonder. And it terrifies me.