Why am I Grieving if I didn’t lose anyone?
My new years resolution for 2018 was peace. That’s all. Find some peace in my chaotic life.
When the year began, I did not know just how much I would need to find some peace in my life. Or how much I would feel grief. If someone had told me a year ago today that my life would look like this on January 13, 2019, I wouldn’t have believed it. That would never happen.
The year began the same way every year had before. I didn’t do anything to celebrate the new year.I tried my best to make it feel like just another day. School started back up, I started my new classes, I went back to work, nothing was different. The semester came and went just as every one does, and when May arrived I made the last minute decision that I would never return to that school.
I found myself spending most of my time in the months following May grieving. I had a life and I left it. I had a life with my own home, my own job, my own friends, my own life, and I left it. I had friends, a good job, a good home, good teachers, research opportunities and was content spending my free time in dance club and writing for the paper. I loved my school, but it had its share of problems. I had all of these wonderful things, and I left them.
Everyone told me that college was supposed to be better than high school. To be honest, I had set myself up for failure. I was living in a shadow. I had very few friends in high school. I wanted to be happy in college. I wanted to be someone who was popular and funny and smart and perfect. But there were, of course, people that did not like me. I didn’t have a strong sense of who I was, and all I knew was that I was not good enough. I was not smart enough to be here. I was not a good enough friend to find the best friend I had always wanted to have. I was not confident enough to take on new roles or challenges.
On top of that, I couldn’t escape the 5 years of memories of the toxic relationship that shapedwho I was when I enrolled my 17 year old self into college. I had spent the years I was supposed to find myself becoming who someone was telling me to be. So when I was ready for the freedom and to find myself, I was stuck. The person who spent the past 5 years teaching me that I was inadequate in every possibleway would cross my path every day. I couldn’t avoid them, I couldn’t avoid the memories, and there was no room to rebuild my life when I was surrounded by the monsters who created me.
It felt like a defeat to leave because someone succeeded at making my life miserable. I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction. Eventually I realized that enduring pain just to spite someone was not going to get me to where I wanted to be in life. It became clear to me that if I wanted to find any kind of peace or happiness within myself, it couldn’t be in the place where I lost every part of myself.
I was left with most other parts of my life in shambles. Friends I burned bridges with because I was told to do so, dreams I threw away because I was told they were stupid and impossible, parts of my life that I had completely given up on. Parts of myself that I had abandoned. I was ready to put it all together, but I quickly realized that it was going to be nearly impossible to find myself, and the life I had been yearning to have, in the place where I threw so much of myself away.
I spent a weekend at a retreat focusing on coping with grief and loss, and I spent most of my time silent. These people had lost loved ones. All I lost was a life that I decided to walk away from. I created a life for myself that I did not belong in, and then I left it. And then I grieved for the loss of the life that I wasn’t even happy in. I’m sure I could have made it. It may have even been easier to suck it up. I wouldn’t have to spend every day wondering if I did the right thing. What if I overreacted, or just acted in a moment of weakness.
It felt silly to be feeling so down about this decision I made, one that brought me a sense of joy and freedom. So, silently,for a while, I grieved. College was not going to be what I wanted. My time of normalcy and independence is long gone, and It’s unlikely I will ever return tothat place in my life. My hopes of doing research had to be set aside. The school I loved so dearly was not enough to sustain me.
Sometimes I feel like I made the wrong decision. Sometimes, I feel like I failed. Maybe I made the wrong decision. Maybe I went backwards. Maybe my life is just not meant to be this way. Whatever “this way” was.
6 months and somedays later, I sit in my childhood bedroom where my life has been since May, with an associates degree and a few hundred dollars in savings, and I feel a familiar emptiness. Only this time, there is no grieving for the end of whatever it is I just did with my life. I have a college degree, I get to begin working on another college degree and a certificate in surgical technology while trying to figure out how to take care of myself. I no longer feel like academia is not for me. I don’t spend hours every week feeling too stupid to pursue the dreams I’ve had for so long. I can focus on the things I love, and not feel guilt or shame for preferring to study on Friday evenings, or taking longer than my peers to master math that I never learned in school. As much as I wish for a do-over button, or for something to have gone differently, I have found a peace within myself. I am exactly where I need to be, and that is not something I have ever felt confident in until now.