this might be my very favorite photo from college. it’s horrible quality (how did we ever exist before digital cameras?) and the lighting didn’t help either. these girls were my everything. we were being silly on a group camping trip, as was often the case, after little sleep, too much wine and secret rendevous that had yet to be divulged. my smile is so big – i think i still had myself convinced that everything was going to work out just fine…
(deep breath – this is going to be long and rambling…)
10 years ago today, i did not graduate from college. i should have graduated from college. i looked like i was graduating – you know, cap and gown, family assembled. dinner parties to celebrate 4 great years. everyone assumed i was graduating. everyone also assumed that my life was not a freaking disaster on wheels held together not by super glue but by an ancient elmhers glue stick that had dried up and didn’t have enough stick left to keep two pieces of tissue paper together, let alone me. i was the only one who knew the truth – as hard as i had tried to ignore it and stuff it deep down inside – the truth reared its ugly head during my dreams (which, logically, is why i quit sleeping). and so i knew eventually the truth, all of it, would come out. and that not only would i break into the inevitable million little pieces that i knew i really was, but that the people who i cared about the most, would be pretty broken, by me, as well.
it’s amazing that all of this was 10 years ago. because it also means that 10 years ago (give or take a day or two) i started to rebuild my life – with life-saving support from my parents – the two people i had hurt the most. it was time to move forward from a past that only i was to blame. learning to rely on others to support me in the same way that i for years, carried so many of them. it has been one long and winding and often cliched road. i am a work in progress. and on days like today, and this weekend and probably next – when large groups are joining together to celebrate, in caps and gowns, i tend to itch and turn red and retreat.
i don’t think all the details are important and in truth, whether it be as a survival mechanism or just…time passing…i don’t remember them all. i can tell you that i am 100% responsible for not graduating when i should have. and for not asking for help when i needed it (help is a loaded word…no?). i am grateful for the friends and family who supported me at a time when i had given up on myself (it was a dark few months, once all those walls i had built up came crashing down) and for doctors who listen and provide medication when the going gets really tough. i’m grateful for the jcc in manhattan who stuck by my side holding my job for me for a month so that i could go to summer school and then presenting me with a complete life once i arrived on the upper west side. i’m thankful to hunter college for providing me with a chance to take creative writing classes and to one completely forgettable journalism teacher who allowed me to take a final exam two weeks early – so that i didn’t miss a wedding back in california (it might be hard to understand but when you are really broken – and i was really broken – something like a wedding becomes your everything). and i’m grateful to brandeis – the institution that i did, eventually, graduate from. it’s hard for me to think back on college with great fondess (more on that below)…it’s just complicated now.
in finding myself – and my truth – i lost a lot. while in college, building my walls and creating my fantasy world, there were countless moments of pure joy – often around my own dining room table, drinking ridiculously cheap wine and sweet red cocktails. cuddling on my bed with a life-sized rainbow trout, singing while sitting cross-legged in a circular classroom, kissing behind tall trees, meeting jewish rock stars and creating life long friendships with roommates, and classmates and indians and orthodox jews. but it is just so difficult for me to think about these moments now because i’m no longer able to ignore the chaos that was going on with me – behind the scenes.
i have no idea where this post is going (not my typical style) except to add one more thing – i am not the same person i was back in 2003. i’m stronger, i’m gentler, i’m more thoughtful, i’m quieter, i’m consistent, i run from drama, i crave alone time and family time and while i still try to do it all – i realize i can’t and i make an effort to slow down. sometimes it takes an extra push (or 2) but i ask for help when i need it. i’ve worked really hard to get where i am – it continues to require constant effort. it is not my natural way. sometimes i get closer to slipping back than others.
it’s thanks to ABN that i’m here today at all. at my most broken, long before we became us, he was the one person who was able to get close. as he carried my boxes into a dorm room i didn’t recognize – after my friends had made the reverse trip only days before – he was the first person i let help me, the only person i let hug me. at a time when i had completely given up on myself – and shut out everyone else – this guy who was kind and gentle reminded me that it was okay to smile and to hope for a future.
i like to think that all of this happened for a reason. i’m not sure where my “issues” came from, or if there was a trigger or whatever. but i’m pretty sure that if the shit hadn’t hit the fan when it did, i wouldn’t be sitting in pacifica right now. and i wouldn’t be loving on my sweet family. and, even though i’m a bit itchy this week, and a bit anxious, and a bit on the edge…there really is no place i’d rather be.