“I grew up seeing things a little differently,
appearing, disappearing, hardly innocent,
nor tied down to the ground.
I learned to roll and tumble with the punches,
glory in my stripes and spots,
walk by invisible and never make a sound.”
In one of my recent posts, I referred to myself as something very specific: an “English teacher in training”. This was only a few weeks ago…and yet I can no longer refer to myself as that. I’ve left the LMU Education program to focus solely on English. Why? Quite simply, I don’t want to be a teacher.
This may seem like an “oh, duh” statement, readers, but I assure you that it’s something I’ve been struggling with nearly the entire time I’ve been at LMU. Only recently did it come to the surface – in fact, these past few weeks have been full of all sorts of self-discoveries.
“But heavy is the crown that’s always hidden,
and tender is the heart you never see.
Hard and fast shines the grin we flash,
But there’s a vulnerable stripe or two on me.”
When I looked around my social circles, both constant and rarely seen, both at LMU and outside of it, I saw one thing very consistently: people who have it all together. I mean it. No matter how chaotic others’ lives were, they were all more well-adjusted than I was, obviously. They were emotionally stable, they had solid social lives, they were financially secure, and at the very least they had plans for the future or had already carried those plans out. Of course, not all of these characteristics were true about any of the people involved in my life, but I couldn’t see that at all. The more of these “epitomes of well-adjusted human beings” appeared, the more I doubted myself. By the time I had taken one step, everyone else was a league ahead, and it felt like that’s how it would always be.
So what was I going to do about this? The answer that everyone around me seemed to be hinting at was to try and stabilize. And so I decided to try just that, starting with financial stability. Since English degrees were apparently useless when it came to employ-ability, my only avenue was to become qualified to be a teacher.
It was only when I began to bawl my eyes out a few weeks ago while planning out which classes to register for next semester that I realized I probably wasn’t on the right path. For the first time in my college life, I didn’t want the next semester to come. In fact, I really just wanted to lie down and never get back up again. Something was horribly wrong.
“Maybe anyplace outside of Wonderland
is not for me, my friend.”
Eventually, I realized that this went far beyond me not wanting to go forward with a program that I felt, for some reason, that I had to stick with. With the help of daily journaling, I learned that what was wrong wasn’t even anything too complicated.
Readers, I am terrified.
I’m afraid that other people won’t approve of me. Afraid that I’ll never be good enough, that I’ll be left behind in the dust of “better-than”s forever. I’m afraid that I’ll never figure out what I’m supposed to do, or even what I want to do. I’m afraid that I’ll never get the hang of how to “adult”.
I’m afraid that I’ll have to go through life constantly tiptoeing over eggshells, always hearing the video game boss fight music but never actually seeing the threat. I’m afraid that I’ll keep having episodes like the one I’m telling you about – that my depression will keep coming back, that this anxiety will keep getting worse. I’m afraid that I won’t ever be able to see who I really am under all the layers of nonsense I’ve been buried under. How can I “just be myself” when I don’t know who I am?
Which begs the philosophical and strangely comforting question…do any of us really know?
I think the answer is no.
“If I leave my grin behind, remind me
that we’re all mad here, and it’s okay!”
I’ve come to the conclusion, after talking to many wise people, that a lot of us are in a perpetual state of “fake it until you make it”. What are we even doing? We don’t know, but we’ll keep doing it in hopes of making it to an invisible goal of maturity and self-awareness somewhere off in the distance. Will we ever truly get there? Who knows? And why do we feel like we have to get there in the first place?
“In Wonderland, nobody knows the way…
We’re all mad here, and it’s okay!”
I’m just now realizing this, and I’m going to have to remind myself of it for a long time: anywhere we choose to go, choose to be, is okay. And if we don’t have it figured out yet, that’s okay too. Because hardly anybody else does either.
Readers, right now I am terrified, and that fear isn’t going to be a walk in the park to work through. But, keeping the mantra of “we’re all mad here” firmly in mind, I’m pressing on and will continue to update you on my LMU adventures. They’re certain to be interesting ones.
(Lyrics: “Cheshire Kitten (We’re All Mad Here)” by S.J. Tucker)