Friday, May 25, 2012

Stand and Deliver

It’s crunch time here. Time to step up, to kick it into the next gear. The time when I become a man. The time when I leave cliché behind and, you know, do it right.

Except that the anxiety is crippling me and I am FREAKING OUT. It seems that when the pressure gets really bad I am not rising to the challenge but just folding like a cheap card table. I knew this time was coming and unfortunately there was nothing much I could do but try and be ready for it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got here, with this year and everything. It’s ten years since I started university for the first time and since I first made plans to do Honours in history. Back then I was planning to do double Honours – a thesis year for history, and another one in Italian. I thought that I would probably do post-grad law, probably not at the institution I was attending, and that when I did that my life would get better. Because university was letting me down.

I was the most miserable fuck at school you ever met. I know everyone says that, and it’s probably true more often than not, but I really was. I cried so easily and so often, I was that student in class that everybody hates because they know all the answers and never shut up, and the only people I was friendly with were in other years and I came to know through music. And that last bit only happened my last four years after I moved schools. The situation at the house (I never called it home) was untenable and often violent. Work was another ball game – for the first time I had friends, a couple of whom were close in age to me, but it was also the scene for some of the worst stuff that has ever happened to me.

I tell the school story only to illustrate that university, in my mind, was going to solve all my problems. I was told teachers who cared about me that university was where I was meant to be, that intellectually and emotionally it would satisfy me.  I came to see uni as a field of dreams, where I would be happy, where my classes would all be incredible, where I would have friends, where I would do well and be a success.

And of course it wasn’t like that. My subjects were either very difficult or not demanding at all. The grading scale at university was a shock to the system, I struggled with having to type all my work (I didn’t have my own computer) and I was working far too much for far too little. The trauma that happened to me two years earlier was coming back to haunt me and I was on the fence about my singing – I knew I had to make a decision about whether to continue or not. To top it off I ended up coming down with glandular fever (that’s mono to you Yanks). And I didn’t realise until after.

Uni did eventually get better. I found out in third year that it was possible to have great classes and make wonderful friends. But then my life came apart at the seams and I dropped out, never even officially deferring properly. The darkness consumed my life so completely that everything before seemed better by comparison, which of course was ridiculous. It was just that I couldn’t cope anymore at all.

And now I’m back (from outer space). And this year I am having the best classes I have ever had, mostly full of incredible people. I am making new friends and keeping old ones, I have a mentor who is making it clear that he is in my life for the long haul*, my relationship with my sister is mostly as I have always wanted it and I am getting the help I need for my illness.

So I’m trying to remember these good things even while I try to breathe again after a panic attack that I had to run out of class to give in to. I try to remember how content this work makes me even while the anxiety keeps me up for days at a time and yet prevents me from concentrating. I try to remember what my mentor is teaching me by example: that being soft and compassionate is a strength, not a weakness, and one that makes me better at what I do. 

So I’m going to do my best with what I have, in the time I have. This year is a privilege and I know how lucky I am. So as much as I hate these deadlines, I am working on things that are important and that have meaning. For the first time in a long time I have more to be grateful for than not.  I’m hoping that knowledge, and that gratitude, keeps my head above water.

*more on that another time.

This was going to be a bitchy post but I hope it became something better than that. Sorry for all the sad stories.