I’ve been trying to write this for a while. And by trying to write, I mean it’s been running in my head over and and over again. Words fly by in a whiz of anxiety, sometimes excitement, but always overwhelming. The central themes revolve around satisfaction in my life so far, trying to be optimistic in the future, confirming and reconfirming (and re-reconfirming) that “I am no one’s runner up”, and realizing that I have come so bloody far in the past year, no matter how deja vu this all “september 1st is rolling around” feels.
When I was still a little girl, and my mom would come lie with me to help me go to sleep, she’d often have to help me quell my anxiety. What is hilarious to me now is that even as a 10, 11, 12 year old kid, I cried at night with the question “What am I going to be?! What am i going to do?!” ringing in my head (and the walls of our house). I didn’t take well to the standard responses: we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, everything is going to be OK, YOU’RE ONLY 10 FOO’, and anything else anyone would tell me. And so my mom, ever the patient saint, would lie with me naming occupation after occupation, stopping to explain the words that were still foreign to me. Starting with the A’s like archeologist to occupational therapist (I still can’t understand what they do) to social worker, my mom would move through the alphabet as I was near hysterical about what the future would hold. I can’t say now if it was truly just my anxieties starting to take form, or if even then I had begun to feel the responsibility of the world on my shoulders. I know that the feeling of not being enough, of needing to be more, had already rooted itself in me. It’s almost palpable through the memories how much more faith I had in my peers (what, from their handball skills?) than I had in myself.
Despite all the question marks, some things were certain. I was brought up with my two role models having completed both undergrad and graduate school (my dad’s favourite line, after ones in Hebrew for “that’s how you learn” and “life’s hard, kid” being “I spent 11 years in university!”), and so before I even understood what they were I knew that that’s what my path was too. I thought that’s just what people did, end of story. It honestly didn’t occur to me that there were alternatives, nor did I think to look. I guess my anxieties were gripping with white knuckles the certainty in that path, even if I’d have to fill in all the other blanks as I went along.
But, of course, ha!, try as I might, that wasn’t to be my path. I took a year off before even starting my undergrad, and I hardly finished it in one piece. I literally crumbled a few months after graduating, and after dedicating myself to my GPA so that I could get into any grad school I wanted (although I had no fucking clue what that was), I decided, to hell with it! that wasn’t for me! I met really lovely people who were making it work without a master’s degree (say what?!), and that was powerful.
That didn’t pan out so well, if only (and definitely not only) because I was too sick to even watch movies for much of this past year. I can break the year down into a few distinct phases, or states of mind, but the most important of which being the two I currently capriciously rotate between.
There was the sick, unable, hopeless Maya that when answered what I was up to I would sheepishly answer anything from I don’t know, Nothing, or sometimes in moments of hysterical honesty I would own the list of diagnoses that had become my shadow. I became almost comfortable, although maybe complacent is a more accurate but also unfair descriptor, in these diagnoses, in the “what was wrong with me”. It was my self-perceived identifier. My new Path, illuminating where I had been and where my feet were to be planted next. Instead of these conditions being something I had, I let them become something I was. The running dialogue in my head was overrun with “I am Maya and I am tainted.” This occupied a lot of space, a lot of time, and a whole lot of energy. And still, in my weakest moments, it roars its ugly ass head once more.
But a powerful thing happened the other day. I can’t remember what the context was, or who it was with, or even what I had just eaten. I was probably talking to myself, to be honest. Something provoked me to describe myself, in my head or out loud, and my first response was no longer “I am Maya and I am trying (and rarely succeeding) to get better” but instead “I am Maya and look at this bright future and all the baller things I’m going to do!” That’s right, there was a fucking exclamation mark. There are baller things that I am going to do. ME. My path had yet again changed course. This time, though, it didn’t have a predetermined destination or mapped out route. It. Just. Was. Inhale. Exhale.
Ten year old Maya would still be unsatisfied–I haven’t answered any of her questions. I don’t know what I am going to do or how I am going to get there. I still have to reckon with the fact that I have spent my whole life following the equation I wanted so badly to exist for how to live a happy life. I still have a long ways to go before my physical and mental health are up to par. But for tonight, for right now, I can be OK with not knowing what I am doing and if my current path is the capital R Right one, or if the Right one even exists. In this moment, I am not seeking perfection. I finally (sometimes) have optimism for the future and a hope that things will get better. That all the work I’ve put into this year will realize its rewards eventually, in time. And, fittingly enough, the ability to see that is the result of all the personal work I’ve done this year.
Someone recently told me, “I’m busy enjoying being happy”.
So maybe this new grad school won’t be the answer, and maybe it won’t land me my dream job or make me feel like I am the morning and the evening star.
But maybe, hopefully, I can be busy being happy (with my deepest sympathies to ten year old Maya’s frustration and anguish)