Recently, my friend and I were commemorating the end of another school year. As another school year ends, we return home and are distant from college and its stresses and beauties. It becomes easier to identify the personal growth we have experienced, which is usually tainted by pure proximity. As my third year of college comes to an end, I am struck by the impact the past nine months has had on me and my personal growth. I believe that by recognizing and thinking about this growth, that I am honoring the people who guided and inspired me to finding it.
One year ago, I was lost in my mind. I was not well and let myself (and my friends and family) churn in a dark hole my mind was collapsing into. I was not myself; much of my confidence was crushed and my trust in friendship was severed. I wasn’t abiding by my values. I had lost myself in a toxic relationship, which did not fulfill me personally, and even worse: I did not protect and defend myself as the feminist I knew I was. Fast forward one year to May 2017. I knew going in to my junior year that things needed to change, and that I needed to be in control of them. I could choose a healthy lifestyle. It was in my control.
I took advantage of the mental health services of my university. For the first time, I began to open up to those around me and to those in my social circles about what was once my battle, and is now my relationship, with my anxiety. I found courage in my friends who dealt with similar struggles and related to people I did not know were struggling. I made friends from my newly opened mindset and for that I am so grateful. I was able to cut toxic relationships out of my life by choice. I explored what it meant to find both a partner and friends who fulfilled my expectations and which were relationships I felt I deserved.
A huge lesson, with the help of some beautiful and soulful people in my life, I began to learn is that of embracing my emotionality. I stopped feeling so ashamed for simply FEELING. I feel a lot, as do many of my dearest friends and family members, and that is good and normal. Those who make you feel badly for how you express yourself most naturally do not deserve to be in your life. With embracing my feelings, I began to feel like I was in better control of them. I established a better routine for handling life when I felt like I couldn’t or when I hit a low. I found solace in meditation, which saved me from some intense mental battles I had last summer. I began reading more Buddhist-related literature, which reminded me the crucial lessons of forgiveness, gratitude, and the present. I re-learned how to breathe (this is a thing, trust me). And most importantly, I found my most happiness in my solitude. Being alone with myself, like solving a life-long phobia, cured me because I was confronting my biggest fear: my constantly buzzing and rushing anxieties. I don’t believe in self-care books that try to sell you how to be happier (and consequently be skinnier, prettier, healthier, more well-rounded, etc.). The truest remedy for happiness is finding and ultimately accomplishing ways to take care of yourself. To some, like me, that means being alone and for others, being surrounded by people provides the same comfort.
The newest chapter to my life, and the second half of my junior year, has been studying in Dublin. I was nervous to go abroad, especially because of the recent calmness I had found on my own. I thought starting a new life in a different country would resurge my anxieties and my insecurities and potentially propagate my failed relationships. These past 5 months in Ireland have been some of the most incredible, rewarding, special, spiritual moments of my life. Ha- you guessed it. A cheesy study abroad experience. But seriously, falling in love with a new culture, a new people, and a new city has made me a better person. I think it’s really rare to be able to see yourself in a new place. Change is always really difficult. But when you are able to reach that feat and are able to truly embrace your present state, then that is noteworthy. I am forever grateful for Ireland for its grace, charm, honesty, and pride, and for the people I have met here and along the way elsewhere. I took a risk and I came here. Parts were hard and I struggled to put myself out there. I was intentionally negative. I took the lessons from my past year of gratitude and confrontation and went forward. The result? I have a new home of a people who are not like me (in the religious sense at least), yet I feel completely and utterly welcome. I found a culture with values I shared, and an incredible semester of intellectual inspiration. Thank you junior year- and mostly the amazing people I surround myself with- for forcing me to push myself and to embrace insecurity. It’s the only way to keep on moving.