At our last (LAST?) PTP session of the year Monday, we were supposed to write reflections. That's rather unsurprising. Last Events usually involve some kind of reflection. I wonder what about us makes us want to look back so much, and forward so rarely, (oh, and what about that Present Tense everyone is always talking about?), but human beings LOVE nostalgia, that's for sure. I think we tend to look back at things in black and white instead of shades of gray -- "That hike was miserable;" "That relationship was perfect in every way;" and not, "That birthday party seemed a little long but I decorated a nice paper mache plate and felt very accomplished in that."
So we were supposed to answer any number of generic questions: "What are two things you are proud of?" "What are two things you would have changed about your first year teaching?" "What have you learned about yourself?" And then we were supposed to share.
So I picked to share on that last one. What have I learned about myself?
In Chicago, eons ago, my answer to this question was:
"I have learned how to be okay."
FALSE. I must have felt pretty good about myself in that moment. Oh, Sophie, you are going to be non-crazy, homeostatic, and OKAY for the rest of your life. Congratulations, 19-year-old self! You WON! You finished growing up.
Last summer, one time, Alex didn't call me back for like a day, and I decided that he had jumped off a cliff with another woman and that I would never hear from him ever again, and I threw up all over the floor in my dorm room while sobbing like I HAD CATEGORICALLY LOST MY MIND. I can't believe Marianne still wanted to live with me after that.
This was a complicated situation, of course. As always, as anyone, I was trying to control something in my life because everything else was a big whirlwind. More than usual, existence had become a proverbial dust storm of four-hour-sleep nights padded with COMPUTERLABCOMPUTERLABCOMPUTERLAB and nightmares about car wrecks and bad food and 120-degree dry heat and far-away-from-everything-that-meant-anything-to-me-ness. I very rarely got very deep under my own skin because there was too freaking much going on on the surface, but when I did, it was uuuugly.
Excuses, excuses. The point is, I was NUTS, and totally, completely, utterly, indescribably not okay. Oops.
Now I can look back at that like a nice little closed book of events. Water-logged, disheveled, but closed, and gone, and done with. And I look back at all that and say, "That was miserable." Of course, there must have been more to it than that.
I assume the reason we see everything in black and white and not shades of gray is because if we didn't, everything would be waaaay too overwhelming, and we don't have the capacity for that what with our 20% functional brain use. I'm still pretty embedded in My First Year Of New Orleans to Look Back yet, but that's what we were supposed to do on Monday.
So I wrote,
"I learned I didn't have as thick a skin as I thought."
To me, this was an enormous revelation. Let me just say, I used to think I was about the strongest, toughest human being in the whole world. I used to think that if you shot me with a bullet, it would bounce right off, because THAT'S HOW FUCKING THICK my outer layer was.
I used to say things like, "Whatever, I'm used to it;" and "I'm not a crier." In my mind, this was a huge selling point to my person.
Well our seminar leader started LAUGHING.
"Really? You thought you had a thick skin? You are the biggest softy I think I have ever met. And it was clear the moment you walked in here."
Flinch. Really? No Rambo suit? No bullet-proof vest? I was feeling peeved, but didn't mention it because I didn't want to get into an argument.
Soft, huh? Did I not get punched in the face and bleed all over the GEE tests in November? Did I not see someone get shot under stadium lights? Did I not get surplussed and unsurplussed and surplussed again? Did I not get peed on and shit on and menstruated on and otherwise bodily functioned on every day? And I'm still here, right? That's got to count for something.
But at some point, after brooding for a few hours and feeling bad about myself, I let that go and decided to adopt it. Okay. I'm soft. I'm a crier. I melt easily. I'm delicate. I can't really stand up to anyone. I was starting to come to terms with all this already, honestly. It was time for a full-fledged embrace.
Still, "still standing." Still standing. Kinda. Limping, maybe, or hobbling around on that decrepit bike that's gone through more than I have. And now I'm about to turn 23 and I have this feeling that maaaaaaybe I'm finally learning how to be okay. But I won't be so presumptuous again, like in Chicago. At least I can sleep without "Gilmore Girls" now, and I can (sometimes) kill my own cockroach (although, anecdote: last night I cut a termite in half because I was mad at it for creeping over my papers, and the front half stayed alive and the back half died, and then I had to smash in its brain, and I cried because I felt bad for it, and then I felt pathetic, and then I ate a popsicle).
Instead of feeling full like I did leaving Chicago -- a false feeling, I now realize, and fleeting -- I feel half-empty. I feel like there is still a lot of space for a lot more STUFF. And one day (one can hope) I'll be able to look someone in the face and say all the things I really need to say.
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