Looking Backward, Stepping Forward

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 

It has been 3 weeks  now since I have been home from college. I managed to get through my third year of college, and my first year at Ithaca. And I am very, very tired.

Going into Ithaca I struggled. I felt incompetent. My brain felt rusted-over from a perturbing semester abroad, and a distressing summer spent working jobs that well, I sure as hell didn’t love. I was hoping, dreaming that Ithaca would be my place, that I would find my people. The strain of the cost of college and being unable to find employment gnawed at me constantly, and I faced an immense fear that I would not do well in my classes and that I would not succeed. But in the end, I pulled through and managed to make Dean’s List. Twice.

While I  had at least come to accept that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, I was still living in denial. At midterms in October, I pushed too hard, stressed too much and had a painful flare that left me incapacitated. I couldn’t type, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t finish my midterm essay. At the moment, I was frustrated, but there is still an immense wave of frustration and shame. I can’t work the way that I used to anymore. I felt like an alien trapped in my own body.

But I made it and whipped my mind back into shape. I approached the next semester eager and ready for my second round with 18 credits. But within a month, I realized that it was way too much. The cold of CNY winter chilled me to the core. My body, already exhausted from engaging in RA’s driving my immune system into a warp speed frenzy of ‘cannibalistic’ practices tired so easily with the cold. I could sleep for 12 hours a day, and still be sleepy. My class load was more intense, wading deeper into upper-level classes that require more time, thought, and homework I found I had next to no time to socialize. Sleep and School. On top of this, I forgot how cloudy and dreary CNY is, and I felt the lack of sun in my productivity and my overall mood.

There comes a point in all of this that I suddenly realized that part of me regretted my decision to come to Ithaca. That perhaps, I made the wrong choice. As the semester progressed, I realized that while I was making friends, I was making more acquaintances than friends. I felt so incredibly lonely. As an old soul, non-drug/non-alcohol user, who is always incredibly emotionally invested in everything, and a painfully shy introvert posing as an extrovert, I felt like I hadn’t found my people. And I need my people for support. As I thought about reaching out to other friends in other places, I found myself hesitating and stressing over whom to turn to.

I felt super shaken still about grades and academics, and for a few brief weeks seriously considered dropping my second major in history down to a minor. Will I even be capable of grad school, or would my RA reduce me to a dependent, pathetic mess? Which rattled me enough that I became unsure of what it is that  I want to do.

On the brink of despair, I finally admitted that it was time to sit down and see a therapist. So I did. And I will continue to do so in the fall. I still have a lot of mourning and emotional processing to do with my RA. And the first step has been realizing no more  18 credits a semester. The second step had been accepting that I need to exercise and yoga consistently to keep my body strong but to also manage stress and keep it low. Thirdly I need to choose wisely where and into whom I put my time and energy.

I still feel lost, I still feel uncertain, I still feel alone. But I know that I must, that I can, and that I will endure. I know that I will make the most of my remaining classes, and next year will continue to cultivate the good friendships and things in my life. I’ve bought some books on RA to help educate me moving forward. So far this summer I’m already feeling recharged. I’ve been running with my mom and I have been significantly less stressed. I have spent some beautiful moments with some friends that have made me feel loved and supported and capable of taking on the world.

It is difficult some days but I have to keep thinking forward, to not let my pain and new limitations get me down. I can, and I will succeed if I put my mind to it.

Genuine Souls and Banana Ice Cream

I have learned a lot in Costa Rica. Not just Spanish and culture and another way of life, but things that are so much  less tangible. I have learned a lot not only about myself but about people too and life and perceptions and everything really. It is hard to put it all into words, even harder into a brief-ish blog, but here goes.

Everything is coming together as everything seems to be falling apart. Here I have seen my social life atrophy in my last month, and while I saw it coming I am okay with it. This last month, as I spend more time alone I have had a lot more time to think about things. I have barely done any journaling in the past four months, something almost completely unheard of for me. But good things are coming up. I find that I am crawling out of my sea of sadness and depression. I am growing stronger, and the world is becoming beautiful. Not to mention all of the opportunities that I have blooming in front of me. I am so excited for the fall, and the most annoying and hard part about getting a summer job is not that I am in short supply, but that I am not conveniently home to easily return phone calls and go to interviews.

I think what I have come to realize most and appreciate are the people who love and care about me. Being so far from home in uncertain waters you have to reach out when you are lonely, something I have always been terribly afraid to do. I have such wonderful Beautiful souls in my life, who love me, care for me, and seek to uplift me. Even though everyone home is 2000 miles away, I have still managed to have their support, love, and have deep and profound and sometimes downright silly conversations. Laughing and smiling with them, despite the distance, is so important.

In Costa Rica I have many a lot of different people. People I hate, People I find intriguing, and People I genuinely like and adore. I have met people who lead different styles of lives and who have different priorities than me. While I have always prided myself in being open-minded it has been difficult here. At times it has been overwhelming how much I have not liked, whether it is people, food, or things. In the process I have learned that it is okay to not like everything, in fact it is impossible to like somethings. What is important is that you try to understand, keep things in perspective, and be patient. We are all learning, we are all on different planes of existence, and all have different paths leading in different directions.

And, I too have come to realize that I am a beautiful, genuine soul too. That when I choose, I let it radiate out of me in my heart, words, smile, and confidence. The process of self love is a hard one, but I feel like I am making strides here. I will always find people with whom I connect and celebrate my life with. Sometimes, you just have to accept that they may not be in the places that you are looking.

In the end, in my opinion, you can always tell the true character of a person by how they treat a dog or by their favorite book. Dogs because well I love dogs. And if a dog doesn’t like you it is for good reason, they can sense your fear or hate or malevolence. And what reason could you possibly have for treating a dog with anger, cruelty, hate, and fear? Sure it is okay to experience them, but how you act and manifest those feelings is what counts. If you can treat an animal mean, what is to stop you from treating me the same way? As for books, choosing to give into helping create a post-literature society is alarming. I don’t care if your favorite book is “The Cat in the Hat” for the love of the world take the time to exercise your literacy. Choose to be educated and aware. With literacy you have greater control of your circumstances, of your fate.

My Experience in Costa Rica has really been a bowl of Banana Ice Cream. It sounded exotic and interesting at first, and while apprehensive I was eager to try. Then I came, nosed around and discovered that I didn’t like banana ice cream as much as I thought I would and had 3 more months of it. So I tried avoiding it, actively disliking it. But then, I discovered that I do like banana ice cream, with a hint of chocolate. Homemade and fresh. But I am dreaming of chocolate fudge brownie with dinosaur sprinkles.

[In case you failed to grasp or care for my explanation of above metaphor let me elaborate. I was really excited about Costa Rica, and for about the first month I was pretty okay, but then it wasn’t. It was hard, and I was bitter and critical. But in the end I found out how I like to travel(solo or in small numbers), that I liked certain activities and places, and how to cope with all of the drastic changes in my life (Star Trek, Reading, and Ice Cream). Even though I am excited to leave I am still a little sad to go.]

I really like solo travel I have come to decide. You meet new people, it can be incredibly uncomfortable, and yet all the same this solitude has made me that much stronger, that much more resilient to everything. Sure there is always going to be that flutter of panic, that edge of anxiety. But you can let it control you, or just roll with what things happen. You have to go out and take the initiative sometimes. In the end it can be re really rewarding, like learning your favorite type of bird is a toucan.

IMG_7253