This is part 1 of my contribution to the June Carnival of Aces, the topic being Then, Now, Tomorrow, focusing on personal growth, growth factors, set backs, and where you see yourself in the future.
I rode the bus nearly every day I was trapped in the hell colloquially referred to as high school in the U.S., and most days were the same. I blasted my music to preposterous levels to tune out the raunchy chaos of conversation around me and would take a twenty five minute nap before getting off at my stop – yes, I missed said stop more than once because of my napping habit. The last day of my freshman year I rode the bus home as usual, but that trip began quite atypically. My driver that year was a gentle, white haired woman nearing retirement, and before we set out that day, she asked us all to visualize ourselves five years in the future. Five years from then, I would be nineteen. I pictured myself attending Washington State University, confident, outgoing, and a published novelist – I turned twenty two just over three weeks ago, and none of those things have yet to occur. I am living in the same house, in the same tiny, rural town, and yet little to nothing is the same about me.
My most recent birthday was a difficult one. Three days prior, I wrapped up my fourth year of attending community college, having earned an associate’s degree in double the amount of time it is “supposed” to take. Since April, I have been bombarded with pictures of my friends graduating from their dream colleges, and I have been fighting a self destructive voice asking, “What the hell’s wrong with you?! You’re half way to where you should be!” I combat it by telling it how much money I’ve saved by going to community college and living with my parents – the average university in the U.S. is easily two to three times more expensive than the tiny college I’ve attended since graduating secondary school – and by reminding myself of all the personal growth I’ve undergone and all the personal demons I’ve battled. I may not have earned a bachelor’s degree, but in the past four years I have:
- Discovered I’m asexual
- Gone half way around the world
- Admitted my romantic attraction to women and fallen in love – twice
- Experienced my first real romantic heartbreak
- Started a blog
- Finished the second draft of the book that I’ve been writing for roughly a third of my life at this point.
- Gone from a highly confused Christian to a Christian passionate about the queer community and confident of her God’s love for everyone in it
- Come out as not straight to my parents on multiple levels
- Admitted to myself that I wasn’t just shy, I had social anxiety
- Realized I was depressed, and that depression is far more than just feelings of sadness
- Finally ignored the heavy stigma society and my family places around medication and started undergoing treatment for mental illness.
It often feelings as if these past four years have been an exodus of beloved people and things, sometimes as if I was even destined to lose everything, but when I look at all my new experiences, all I’ve gained, the amazing people I’ve met and how I’ve grown, the idea seems ridiculous. This last year in particular was one of extreme gain. In the past twelve month alone, I
- took a chance and explored a dating app – where I met an amazing woman, completely unbothered by my lack of desire to have intercourse with her. I feel confident in saying that I love her.
- Spent six weeks on my own in a foreign country
- Finished the second draft of the book I’ve been working on for seven years
- Got all As for the first time in my life
- Had my longest lasting job
- Moved out of my parents’ house
I remember thinking at some point the summer before last when I was battling the fiercest bout of depression I had ever faced that if I was a phoenix, I had been in the burning phase for most of my life. Every time I started to rise from the ashes, the flames would start up again. The last four years have been fiery ones full of loss, but in the past year the ashes have been shifting, and feathers have been growing more quickly than flames could consume them. While I may not be where I want to be academically, the amount of personal growth I have undergone in these past four years is worth more than a bachelor’s degree. My inner critic is a vocal and nasty one, and lately I’ve been shutting it up by focusing on all the things I have done. Yes, my fifteen-year-old self would likely be cringing at the fact that I’m not at my “final destination” yet, but she would also be amazed at all I’ve learned about myself and the person I’m becoming – more on that in part two. She would be dumbfounded that hard times are still not over, not yet being able to fully comprehend that stars are only visible in darkness – hard times make bright spots all that more radiant, illuminating things and people often taken for granted. Everything is temporary, the good and bad.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,
Keep on Aceing It