Here Be Dragons

Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to remind yourself that it’s okay, that you’re only suffering a minor setback and that life will continue on, as it indeed always does. You may not want life to change, or approve of it, you may desire it more than you desire anything else in the world. But at some point, change comes for us all and the only thing you have to do is be ready.I wrote a piece about driving a while ago, about how I just couldn’t seem to, and about how it was a source of great shame for me. I finished the piece by saying that my New Year Resolution was to drive more, to be free of the bonds that strapped me into the passenger seat. It has been a week since the year started and what have I done to accomplish that goal?

 

 A bit actually.

The second or third I drove to the store. I can’t say that I drove back from said store, but I darn sure drove there. And my husband and I talked about it and I realized that if I just kept to the quick and simple stuff, I would never succeed in my goal at all.

But I’m not going to lie to you. This is not easy for me.

Yesterday, I had work and I usually have my husband take me in, so that I can just focus on work and he can hang out at the school and get stuff done. We’re on break, which makes that sentence completely illogical, but we’re an active sort of people who quite like the academic scene. He hadn’t slept well and asked if I could take myself in. I immediately burst into tears, the panic having surged through me faster than a tornado. I felt woozy, nauseous and above all, I felt ashamed. Why couldn’t I just get over it? What was wrong with me? So on our way home yesterday, after he graciously picked me up, I asked him timidly if he wouldn’t mind coming with me either today or Friday as my passenger. He agreed, saying he wanted to start working out anyway and this would force him to do so. Last night, I went to bed nervous, exhausted and wondering what I’d done.

This morning, he again told me he hadn’t slept well and I let him sleep a little longer. I prepared my stuff, got my coffee and took the dog out. I looked over the parking lot and once again got the panicked sort of emotions and sensations. I knew that I would have a difficult time talking myself into it and an even worse time if I talked myself out of it. So I hauled myself up to our apartment and grabbed a few more things (let’s be real here- I grabbed a bunch of good luck charms), waited for my husband to finish getting ready and then marched myself down to the car. My hands were shaking, I felt sick and I started the car.

Wouldn’t you know it, rush hour was waiting for me.

I can’ tell you the curse words that streamed in my head. How dare other people be on the road when I was trying to get over my fears? I mean, didn’t they know that I was going to be driving?

And I realized that there was no other place, no other time, that could possibly make my journey more ideal. It was rush hour that gave me a headache, made me a nervous passenger. It was the highway that made my heart race. And that sounds like the settings for the battleground to me. 

I made it to the school, having managed to drive on two separate highways and through campus traffic. I didn’t throw up, pass out, or any of the terrible things that I assumed would happen. I didn’t crash, didn’t die and didn’t break down. I didn’t even say that chant from the previous post. I marched myself up to work with a smile on my face, saying hello to everyone I met. I know that I’m not done for the day-my shift has only really just begun and I’m still nervous about the drive home, but when I grabbed one of my good luck pieces from my pocket, I had to smile pretty fiercely. I mean, just look at how fitting it is.

  

One week down, fifty one more to go.

The Day I Was Honest

I’ve held onto this post, mostly becuase I couldn’t give it all it deserved. I had to be in the right frame of mind. I’m not entirely sure it’s today, but I think I’ve got a good grip on what I want to say and I think it’s a lovely way to open the new calendar year.
Last semester (and thusly last year) I had a lot going on, as we’ve discussed. I had just transferred to the big city, made new friends, was working on establishing myself in the ways of the world. And I began to blog seriously. I watched this video today of an interview with Jada Pinkett Smith, which I absolutely loved and the idea came bubbling up in the back of my head. That’s why I’ve decided to blog on it today.

In the interview, she was talking about how to balance your life. That’s something I really struggle with. I live too much in the future and not enough in the now. I think about how to fix the problems I may encounter and not so much on how to prevent them. So when she said “focus on yourself. Do what makes you happy.”I really felt like we were approaching a revalation. Her argument was that if you do not find a way to keep yourself in balance, to take care of yourself, you will look to others to do so. You will blame them for sacrificing your entire life for them and not getting happiness out of it. And it blew my mind (metaphorically, of course). 

Now that you’ve had some background info, on to the actual point.

Last semester is by far and away not the first time I’ve had to take sick days. I’ve had bronchitis, strep, the stomach flu and a host of colds throughout my life. But I don’t skip irresponsibly. I take pride in my ability to attend school and work with punctuality and integrity. But last semester was the first time I was honest with myself. As I was crafting my email to my professors for the day, I began to reason out what my excuse for missing class was. Was I suffering from a 24 hour bug? Had I awoken with a flat tire or a low battery? Had I merely slept in? And I realized that I needed to stop kidding myself and respect myself as much as I respected the professors.

 

 

Good morning!

I will not be in class today. I need to take a mental health day and will return to class tomorrow. Thank you for your understanding.

Best,

Michelle BB.

For the first time in my entire life, I used that excuse. I’ve always been ashamed to, like it was some sort of cop-out excuse for being lazy. But it isn’t. And in fact, when I returned the next day, my professors went out of their way to make sure I was alright. Two of them even stopped by the office where I work and made it a point to see if I needed anything. They didn’t see me as a lazy, incompetent student. They saw me as an individual who responsibly needed a day to regroup.

  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at their reactions. Mental health has been quite a large topic lately, and I was taking a bunch of anthropology classes, so they all understand the value of psychobiological health. And as I said, I do not skip irresponsibly. There is always a reason-a real reason. But it got me thinking. How can I stand here (or sit) and tell you all that we need to take steps to mental health help and then be ashamed of the fact that I have to use that reason myself? Why was I ashamed in the first place?

Because it still carries the connotations. I don’t want anyone to see me as weak, unbalanced, incapable. I fight hard for people to see the bright, driven, passionate individual that I am. But I guess I got caught up in being a super heroine, without flaw or needs. And I viewed my own mental health as something along the lines of an excuse to be used as a cover up for the fact that I didn’t have the motivation to do something. That isn’t even the case. But I’m glad I learned that. Because mental health isn’t separate from physical health. It’s a facet of the same diamond. I was scared that my professors would use that against me in the future. But all that happened was me finally letting go of the fear and replacing it with the statement “I have to take care of myself-holistically.” And once I did that, I think I managed to do just that.

  So thank you, Jada Pinkett Smith, for reminding me that I do indeed need to find my balance and stop sacrificing myself away. No one else is responsible for my happiness and health.

But what then?

  For what it’s worth, I have a growth curve, a very noticeable learning curve of sorts. I know that I do not know everything, and that is okay. But I do not see it as a stopping point, as an acceptable place to just stop my curiosity and settle into the routine of all that I do not know. But what I know that I know is that I am but a single drop in a wide ocean. 

I’m reading over lectures, looking at notes for classes I attended and I have a feeling my finals will not be so bad. I like that feeling. I like that there is a little uncomfortablilty, a little stress and then it is all I can do not to check my grades every 30 seconds to see if there’s a possibility that they’ve been updated. I will then embark on a break, being able to do as I please (watch Netflix in my pajamas and drink coffee all day) and then carry on as usual. I live on an eternal clock of semesters and breaks. I sit in classes for 8-9 months of my life, split up with breaks ranging from 3 day weekends to 3 weeks to the entire summer. It’s cyclical and represents the entirety of almost 2 decades of my life.

One day I will leave the academic setting (perhaps). But what then? 

All my life I have been a student. In my earliest childhood, I was learning the faces and smells of my parents, of food. I was learning how to sit up, crawl and then walk. I learned how to hold things and get into trouble. I learned how to emote. In preschool, I learned how to get along with all manner of people, whether they were of different ethnicities, or abilities or had medical conditions. In elementary, I learned how to make friends and be polite. In middle schoool, I learned how to do homework and respect my elders. In high school, I learned how to procrastinate and drink coffee, as well as learning how to unlearn things (like procrastinating). In the first half of my college experience, I learned how to change my life. In the second half, I learned how to be comfortable with not knowing. As I look into the future, I have limited vision. I can only see so much and that’s okay.

So maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe I’ll be a student forever. And that’s okay.