Four years building a life
Having taken great pains to keep details of my personal life out of what I write, these words are difficult for me to express to such a large audience. However, because I know what I have gone through at this school is not a unique story, I want to share it with everyone that is in the process of writing their own.
Coming out of high school I was extremely depressed, due mostly to the stingy love of a single-parent family and suffering under a bowl-style hair cut for so many years. My fantasy of leaving that part of myself behind when I left for college was quickly dashed – the change of scenery provided no mitigation for how achingly hollow I felt. I had no sense of wonder towards college because I was too busy struggling with my depression, and I limped into my first year with nary a lick of dating experience or self-confidence. Yet, I was adamant that I was going to start enjoying all the things I hadn’t been for the last eighteen years. Within a month of starting school, I started seeing a therapist.
The reasons I decided to get help must be commented on, as this was the most difficult step for me. Although I had for years made excuses to avoid the shame and embarrassment of a public display of my struggles with depression, I had finally become fed up with being sad every day. I began to think I would rather be dead than live another year, let alone four more. The unyielding force of that thought was what got me to change. I accepted that I knew nothing about how to be happy.
My search for meaning showed me that people rarely disappear from life, in the sense of losing all their connections to society at once. There are so often moments in life when you can stand in the background that, after a while, you start to think you’re supposed to keep your head down and not have anyone to hang out with on a Friday night; that this is your lowly place and you deserve it. Your emotions become landmines that you force yourself to walk upon because the pain is all you know how to feel. After reaching this point, any attempt at dating or maintaining a small circle of friends becomes a mess of overcompensation and forced effort. You learn to keep to yourself, because at least your crappy life is familiar and manageable. And you slowly fade away.
After two difficult years of piecing myself together in therapy, I slowly began to find that life hid pleasures behind its rough edges. Smiling, something I had never done too much of, began to fill the little spaces in my life. This became an area I had to learn to control as well – because I had never done it before, I had so much energy to put into living happily that it freaked people out. I wanted to experience everything I had missed out on, but I didn’t know where to start except by loving someone. Because of this I lost a friend, Meredith: although I knew the rough outlines of what love was supposed to look like, love requires stability and an unselfish heart, skills I had not perfected when I started my junior year. Learning these rules cost me a close friend, but I never expected love to come easily. I had learned that lesson from my parents a long time ago.
As I settled down and searched for friends, lovers, and meaning to my life, I was shocked to find them all so easily. I discovered that the same places I had previously marked off as bereft of enjoyment now provided me with everything I had been longing for my entire life: people actually wanted to be my friend now that I had lightened up; I was comfortable when alone instead of feeling anxious; perhaps most importantly, I had a deeply satisfying relationship with a woman I am proud to say that I truly loved, Sara. I did these things, and they were hard, but I am not special. I just wanted them bad enough, and worked hard to get them.
I want those students who desire a life worth living to know that you don’t have to wait – you can start a good life at Washington University. I will not end with my personal understanding of life. After all, meaning is easy to find – you just have to do it yourself. This was one way a life was built at Washington University. I wish you luck building your own.
Popularity: 1% [?]