Every year on my birthday I write a letter to myself. Here’s what last year’s said.
I told Jen today — in a letter, because that’s how I keep in touch these days — that 22 feels like I’m trying to cram too much into too little; 21 felt like a much more balanced number. It didn’t try to equalize itself; it just descended. But now I’m 22, trying to balance myself, and failing more often than not. I feel like I’m crammed onto a ledge, trying to move forward and having to stop every five inches because the ground beneath me is crumbling.
It hasn’t been so bad, though. This was a wonderful year. Well. The fall sucked. I was depressed, and there were a few times I caught myself thinking about suicide, but I never came close to doing it. I haven’t told anyone I thought about it. I’m not sure I ever will.
As hard as the fall was, the first four weeks after graduation were harder. I thought I was going to die. At one point, I seriously considered killing myself. Again, I haven’t told anyone. I don’t want to burden them. But I know I shouldn’t be afraid to tell them things — I know I need to be better about reaching out, asking for help, admitting that I have weaknesses. But it’s hard.
This isn’t how I wanted this letter to go. I’ve been thinking about writing it all day, but have stalled by writing letters to other people instead. It’s hard to sum up this year because so much has happened. I’m a different person at 22, the same way I was a different person at 18, 19, 20, and 21. I reinvent myself each year; in this case, I’ve reinvented myself twice since last December. I’m slowly coming to even ground, at least in terms of knowing myself. I don’t have a clue what my life will look like this time next year, but I know I’ll be writing and reading, and that’s really all that matters. Things like a car and health insurance are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, or so I try to tell myself. It doesn’t always work.
The first two weeks after graduation were an exercise in misery. I cried almost daily, thought about [the English department] at least fifteen times a week. Now it’s evened out to a few times and fondly. The pain has faded to an ache that only surfaces on weekends when I slow down long enough to realize I’m not going back.
They do miss me, though. Dr. Q’s goodbye hug made me realize I wouldn’t be the only one shedding tears that day. She hugged me so hard and so long, told me to come back. Dr. E was crying when she walked away. They all kept telling me not to be a stranger, to come back and visit, but also to stay gone for a while first to give myself time to adjust.
Overall, it’s been a year of definition. Of deciding for myself what I do and don’t believe. Dad always warned me this would happen, but I thought he meant things like “will I or won’t I go to church” — as in, “will I or won’t I fight my lazy human flesh and make myself sit in a pew for three hours.” I always assumed I would choose the right thing, but now I realize that the “right thing” is much more complicated than I was raised to believe, and sometimes staying in bed on Sunday morning is the best, most spiritually healthy thing I can do.
God has done good things this year. I have close to a dozen pen pals, I’m writing every day, I’m reading more than ever. I know who I am as a person more than I did a year ago, I’ve learned my triggers and a little bit of how to handle them. I can’t read my Bible yet, but I can listen to worship music, and Laura and I have started a Bible study. I don’t know what I’m doing, where I’m going, but I know I want to write, that I am writing, and that I want to make a difference. God showed me that making a difference doesn’t have to be a big and monumental thing — it can be as simple as showing up to eat lunch every week with the English department or paying attention to underclassmen or not letting first impressions get the best of me. Younger girls look up to me in a way that scares me, but also in a way that encourages me to do better. To be better. To love them and encourage them and help them in any way I can. The trick is finding out how I can do that — find my niche — in Memphis.
Then again, it took me four years to make a difference at school. Maybe I should start by giving myself the grace to grow.