What I Want

I want to be okay. That’s all. I want to be healthy, happy, unconcerned. I want to wake up in the morning and be excited to get out of bed.

I want friends. I want people who like me and understand me. Not a lot of them, maybe – just one or two would be nice. One or two who stay. One or two who don’t move away or find other people or just stop talking to me all of a sudden. I want to sit in a group of people and not feel like the outsider for once. I want to be with them and not feel like I have to keep trying for them to like me.

I want to fall in love. I want to meet someone who is attracted to me and who I am attracted to as well. I want a relationship that goes beyond an exchange of phone numbers and maybe an awkward kiss or handshake. I want someone who understands me.

I want a job that I enjoy. I want to spend the majority of my day doing something that makes the time go by, and yet I still make money nonetheless, at least enough money to survive. I want a stress-free place to stay in and depend on. I want the opportunity to feel free, like I can grow and change and become who I was meant to be. I want to be in the light and the earth, growing tall and new and green like a vine, rather than stunted and ugly like a weed.

I want a mind that remains calm in the storm. I want to face difficulty with a carefree smile and a shrug, rather than the question of whether or not this is it, the thing that breaks me for good. I want confidence in my ability to weather the hurricane, rather than the fear that I will be drowned in it. I want arms that are clear and soft and free of cuts or claw marks. I want hope and thrill and contentedness.

I want little, I think. I just want to be the way people say I should be – a happy, beautiful, well-adjusted young woman with my whole life ahead of me. That’s what I want. That’s all.

I Need To

I need to write a post. If I write a post, I’ll feel better. I need to write need to write need to write need to-

No. There are other things I need to do. I need to study. But I already have studied. But if I don’t study I’m going to fail. But I’ve already studied and I think I have it under control. But I haven’t even done all the reading. But I’ve done most of the reading and the stuff I haven’t won’t even be on the test, I’m fine. But I need to study need to study need to study.

I need to write a post.

I need to fix my life. My life is a mess. My life is in shambles. I have things to do and I keep fucking up. I need to get a job. I need to keep applying. I need to keep looking and I need to keep trying and I need to find the best job. I need a job that will pay well because I need to be an adult. I need an apartment of my own. I need to move to the city because that’s where things happen. That’s where I’ll meet people. That’s where my career will take off if it ever does. And if I’m going to move to the city I need money and to get money I need a job, a good job, a job that pays. So I need to keep looking. I need to find a-

No. I need to study.

No. I need to write a post.

I need to write a post because I need to get my writing out there. I need people to read it and no one’s been reading it and I can’t let that happen because I need to get my name out there. I need a foundation, a start, so that my writing can get out there and my life won’t be a total waste. I need to write a post. I need to try harder. I need to I need to I need to-

And if I’m going to, I need life experience. I need to get out there and do stuff. I need to talk to people. I need to make friends. I need to date.

What about the girl from the party? She was nice.

She wasn’t right.

Why wasn’t she?

She was exactly like all of my friends, but she wasn’t interested in being friends. She wanted to go on a date, and she’s not like the sort of people I date. She wasn’t right, she wasn’t- what’s the word… ambitious. She wasn’t ambitious and that’s the thing I like. She needs to be ambitious because I’m ambitious. I’m going to study and I’m going to write and I’m going to move to the city and I’m going to write a post.

Are you sure you aren’t being too picky? Are you sure your standards aren’t too high? How many ambitious people will look at you, with your life in shambles, and actually want to be with you?

I can’t lower my standards, not again. Because when I lower my standards, I end up with people I don’t like and then I end up hating myself.

You hate yourself anyway. And if you don’t lower your standards, you won’t date and you won’t make friends and you won’t get experience and you won’t write and you won’t move to the city and your life will be a waste.

I need to write a post. I need to apply to jobs. I need to study. I need to I need to I need to

Four Years

Four years ago, I showed up at this massive, foreign campus with the understanding that this was to be my home for the next long while. It didn’t look anything like I expected, with its blocky, grey buildings occasionally covered in bad graffiti and the endless multitude of posters discussing the possibility of rape. It looked like something from a dystopian novel – big, looming, threatening, empty at the time, and I didn’t think that I was going to make it. I thought, for sure, something was going happen before I graduated.

A few of my friends from high school dropped out along the way, and I figured it was just a matter of time before I did. I couldn’t do this. I wasn’t ready for this. This was too daunting, too much, and staying here would kill me. Oddly enough, the only thing that pushed out all thought of dropping out was an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that I watched around the same time, wherein Buffy struggles to adapt to post-secondary life in much the same way I did. I saw myself in her then, and I decided that if Buffy could stick to it (later seasons notwithstanding) then I could too.

The next four years were strange and difficult, to say the least.

After my first year, I realized that I had both anxiety and depression. My first year was characterized by emptiness, nothingness, simply getting from day to day and passing all my classes but not really doing much else.

After my second year, I hesitantly began to hope that things might get a bit better. I still hadn’t made any friends at university, but I hung out with a few of my friends from high school from time to time, and though they didn’t know it, they taught me a few things about myself. They taught me that I spend a lot of time trying to please other people. They taught me that I’ve been maintaining this ideal of what my life should be – that I should be partying, sleeping around, getting drunk, behaving (the way I saw it) like a normal twenty year old. But none of that was ever me. It made me feel uncomfortable, unhappy. It was a role that I was trying to force myself into, and I just couldn’t do it. I needed to start putting my happiness above that image.

After my third year, I came to the conclusion that I needed to put my past behind me and start focusing on my future. I’ve always prided myself on my ambition, but it’s hard to climb upward when you have all of these insecurities, doubts, anger, and fear from yesterday weighing you down. So I decided that what I needed to do was cast that off. I needed to be a little bit selfish, I needed to focus on myself. I needed to actually start making my life better.

And now here I am, almost finished my fourth year. Almost at that graduation that I never saw in my future, and I only made it here by being so preoccupied by what I needed to learn that I didn’t even really see how far I’ve come.

In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve learned that there is no ‘normal’. I’ve learned that just because society says that I need to do something, like, say, drink and party, that doesn’t actually mean I need to do it. Normal is a pointless standard, especially when the alternative choice is happiness.

In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve learned that life is occasionally going to be terrible and difficult to get through, but that doesn’t mean that you just stop trudging through it. Even when you’re just getting by, just doing the little that you need to in order to survive, someday that’ll change, and you’ll start doing things because you actually enjoy them again. It just takes time.

Hell, in the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve even learned to love it here. I love my classes. I love the reading and the lectures and my peers who usually have some pretty insightful things to say. I love these blocky, grey buildings with their bad graffiti because, for one reason or another, I’ve always been drawn to broken things. I love those posters warning against rape because now they’re less of a threat and more of a call to action, an attempt to make people realize how prevalent rape is in university campuses and how we all need to do our part to make that stop.

In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve started to identify loudly and proudly as a feminist, not caring what anyone has to say against that. In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve gained an appreciation for Victorian literature and medieval Arthuriana, while still maintaining my old love for comic books and bad movies. In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve learned that just because someone is older than you and paid to know more, that doesn’t actually mean that they do. I’ve learned to question, to think, to empathize. I’ve learned a lot, and as much as I never thought that I’d say this when I first showed up on this dystopian campus four years ago, I’m really going to miss this place.

But even so, I still have so much to learn. I’m not a perfect person, not even after four years of post-secondary. There are lessons I’m trying to teach myself even now, and lessons that I’m sure I’ll stumble upon in the next, unknown chapter of my life. And I can’t wait to find out what those are.

How Anxiety Has Made Me Stronger

Some days are better than others.

I can’t really say what distinguishes the bad days from the good. Sometimes, it’ll just seem like a thought strikes me when I’m in a bad mood or when I’m hungry, and then my mind will refuse to let it go, clinging tight to it.

You’re directionless, and you’ll never amount to anything unless you change that.

Oh my god, you’re right, I realize, and suddenly the next few weeks are spent in a mad rush to get things done – even if there really isn’t much to get done. Especially when there isn’t much to get done.

Then, sometimes, I can go for days, weeks, even months without even remembering that I have anxiety. I’ll be relaxed, happy, driven but not to the point that I’m causing myself stress over it. I’ll think hopefully to myself, I’m cured! but even at the time, I’ll know it won’t be true.

Because at the end of the day, I know what I am; I am a person with anxiety, whether I like it or not.

I first discovered that I had anxiety when I was about nineteen years old, though I know that I had it long before that. I simply hadn’t attached a name to it yet, because I was still frantically Googling “why am I stressed all the time” to figure out what was wrong with me. Putting a name to the problem was a huge relief, but even still, I elected not to use medication. I wasn’t entirely opposed to the idea, but I wanted to find out if I could learn to control it on my own first.

After reading about the problem and coming to understand it a bit better, my first attempt at controlling it was through diet and exercise. I tried to eat healthier, tried to keep myself active, and with time, I did find that it made a bit of a difference. I was less prone to stress when I ate a good, healthy meal every two to three hours. The only problem with it was whenever I couldn’t depend on that level of regularity, whenever the third hour drifted by and my stomach was left empty and yearning, I got just as bad as I had been before. I have been known to go into panic attacks simply because the person in line behind me at Shoppers Drug Mart was just a tiny bit rude. So, yes, eating healthy and keeping active most certainly helped, but in no way did it cure me.

My second attempt at controlling my anxiety was through a simple change in thought. I tried to be more mindful of my condition and take things slower, recognize when I was getting bad. If I felt myself going into a panic attack, I’d try to talk to myself, remind myself that I was alright and that it was only my anxiety. If I felt like I was going to fast, hurdling toward a brick wall that I knew would break me, I’d remind myself that I needed to slow down. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes I simply forgot about it.

My attempts at controlling anxiety have, as you can see here, been flawed – but effective nonetheless. Regardless of their moments of failure, they have, nonetheless, made me a much stronger person. When I discovered that I had anxiety, it was only because I was crippled by it – I had no other choice than to confront it. That most certainly is not the case anymore. I’m a functioning, self-aware person who is striving to meet my goals – not despite my anxiety, but regardless of it.

My anxiety will always be a part of me – I will never be cured of it entirely, but maybe I don’t have to be. Maybe my anxiety is less a disorder, something that stands in my way and mars me somehow, and more just a part of me – a character trait. Just like some people have to learn how to function in this world regardless of the fact that they’re abrupt or stubborn or self-absorbed, I have to learn how to function regardless of being frequently anxious. I’m a person with anxiety in the same way that I’m a person with red hair, and a person with an affinity for pop culture.

It is nothing for me to be ashamed of, and it is not something that holds me back. It is something that I have learned how to control and live with. It is something that makes me stronger, not weaker.