At thirteen years old, I dreamed of the day that I could go to college, because I wanted the freedom of having no one there to watch me eat. I figured that I would no longer have to suffer the pain of purging if I could simply restrict to the point of no return. So I counted down the days until I could go, and I could wither.
At fifteen years old, I dreamed of the day that I could go to college, because my dream was to be a division one athlete and run against the best of the best. My running had become a new form of an eating disorder, one where the lines were a tad more blurred, and one where the taste of success was replacing the taste of any other sort of processed, sugary, or even remotely enjoyable foods. I figured that I could eat merely kale and watermelon and spend hours upon hours running, lifting, working out to the point that I didn’t have a spare minute to think about how depressed I really was. So I counted down the days until I could go, and I could hide.
At seventeen years old, I dreamed of the day that I could go to college because I wanted to get away more than I wanted to breathe. I felt trapped in the confines of abuses past; every road held a new memory that caused me to crumble at its sight. I figured that if I wasn’t in the place where my traumas occurred, I could rid myself of their repercussions more easily. So I counted down the days until I could go, and I could feel safe again.
At eighteen years old, I dreamed of the day that I could go to college because I was sick and tired of feeling the way that I felt at thirteen, fifteen, seventeen. I was sick of longing for safety and for comfort. I was ready to move on. So I counted down the days, but this time, for different reasons.
This time, I was counting down the days until I could kill the person that I used to be and replace her with the silvermist shimmers of the person that I’d always yearned to be.
I wanted to be able to start over, from the inside out and the outside in. I was ready to let go of my mazed and messy past and to focus solely on the future. I didn’t want to be the girl who went to treatment and the girl who had to leave class because she was having flashbacks anymore. I didn’t want to be the girl struggling with her mental health; I didn’t even really want to be the girl who wrote about her mental health. I was burnt out on vulnerability and imperfection.
The new person who I would be, I decided, would blog more about travel and fashion and less about anxiety and depression. She would be involved in every activity, she would be bubbly and outgoing, she would have tons of friends and be unconditionally happy.
None of these things were really out of reach. In fact, they were all things that once personified me.
But I’d lost them, somewhere between the expectations of others and the standards of myself, the infamous rock and hard place scenario that ultimately ended up crushing me. When I left for my freshmen year of college last week, I was nowhere near reminiscent of the person that I was when I strode confidently into my freshmen year of high school. I was more timid. Mildly terrified. Mostly tired.
And for some reason, I thought I would have the power to change all that with this breath of fresh collegiate air. I planned, truthfully, on confiding in no one about my rocky past.
One week in, and I had already landed myself a weekly mental health column on the school newspaper, shamelessly plugged my blog to anyone and everyone, and confided in multiple new friends about the realities of my struggles.
Moral of the story?
There are parts of us that we just can’t escape; there are parts of us that are so deeply ingrained in our purposes, in our destinies, that we can not rip them from our stories any easier than we could rip out our heartstrings. And for some people, these are the “pretty” parts: artistic ability, a sociable soul, a linear passion.
For me, it’s the “ugly” parts that make my story. It’s the eating disorder. It’s the PTSD. It’s the loss of my best friend, the decline of my father. It’s the power struggle between the poetry I loved and the linear essay I ached to assemble. It’s all of these things, but it’s also the resilience. The bravery. The resurrection. The authenticity.
I wanted to flee from them, craved the wind in my hair as I ran into the woods, away, away, away. I wanted this for as long as I can remember, and I wanted this mere days ago.
I have found self acceptance in the place where I most expected to lose it.
I have found joy in the place where I most expected to suffer from anxiety.
I am clinging to the broken bits and using them as peace offerings to my future self.
THIS IS WHERE I HAVE BEEN AND IT DOES NOT DEFINE WHERE I WILL GO.
I’ve realized that I can be the girl that goes on to make a difference in the world despite being the girl who once tried to leave it.
I’ve realized that I can be the girl that is a shoulder to lean on despite being the one who could once barely support herself.
I’ve realized I can be good despite the bad.
And maybe, sometimes, I can be the good because I’ve seen the bad.
So as far as your college update goes, I can truthfully say that I’m thriving. I’m happier than I have ever been. I love my classes, my friends, this beautiful city that I am now blessed enough to call home. The place that I once believed would be my downfall has been this miraculous sip of holy water.
And I am doing all of these incredible things without abandoning the road that I took to get here; I am simply following it, taking the days as they come, using the stars that I shattered once upon a midnight to find my way back to the place where I was always meant to be.
It is possible to start over without hiding where you came from.
I am the girl who writes about the bitter and stands among the bold.
I am not ashamed of her anymore.
I am proud to be her.