Friends, Happy Valentine’s or Galentine’s day to all of you. I think it’s important to remember that we don’t have to take on board the traditional meaning of a holiday- we can make it special to us. Here’s your cue to remember that your way of doing things is valid, whether you’re acknowledging romantic love, friendship or family! On that note, what did you do yesterday or what are your plans for today on depending on time zone?
More thrilling yet is that my room is officially taking shape! I’ve moved in my dresser, bedside table, plants, hung up some decorations and am focusing on perfecting the layout! I won’t know how everything will look for sure until all the furniture is here but it’s no problem. It does make me think that I’m a very visual person though- it’s hard to envision everything as clearly as I’d want to without it being physically here! We’ve scrapped the idea of getting plantation shutters put in as the window is quite wide and low down the wall and the French doors wouldn’t suit it anyway. The quote we got back from our local homemaker store was incredibly expensive and just not worth the fuss. I went online in my search for suitable curtains and found out to my shock and surprise that urban outfitters have gone australian as well! no more crazy conversion rates just to buy something cute and trendy.
I officially start college tomorrow and oh boy, am I feeling the whole spectrum of emotions, as one does during all experiences that mark a first or last time. It’s been one hell of a roller coaster ride getting to this point in time, that’s for sure. I just feel the exact same way I did starting high school, only now I’m going from being the mum of the grade to the youngest student on campus. I don’t quite feel prepared but I don’t believe there is always a perfect time to pursue what you wish to. There is only the present and that is the position from which we can effect change.
I know in my heart that all that’s required of me is effort. I resonate with that because it’s something we can all put forth, regardless of strengths. A good teacher will not only recognise the difference between success from hard work and success from natural talent but know that each are worthy of praise and understanding. Progress over perfection always. Sometimes the best way to feel comfortable in a situation is to dive right in. It’s just like making the first splash in the pool on a day that’s only semi warm. You’re only consumed by that intense feeling, the initial shock, for a short while. It wears off once you make that plunge.
I once heard someone say that the proper way to love somebody is to see them through a thousand different versions of who they were, who they are presently and who they are yet to be and accept each and every one as being part of the evolution of that person. Just like the sun rises in the morning, peeking out of silver lined cloud, the moon wanes at night, shedding its form in favour of a crescent, an eclipse. Sometimes it is full bodied, other times it renders itself almost invisible. When I was fourteen, it was impressive to know what you wanted from life. At seventeen it is still fairly so but I’ve learnt that I’d rather pluck my dream from magical skies and make it happen. I will stop wishing on higher beings and show up for myself as fully as I know how to. I realised it wasn’t enough to know what you want but to be prepared to fight tooth and nail for what you deserve.
My younger teen years brought with them a significant mental health crisis. The trials and tribulations I overcome became my backing, my footing and my foundation. At first though, are what I hung onto, clung onto, gripped onto for dear life. I was able to see eventually that they had indeed broken me, but only for long enough to let the shine through. Then I’d be bound shut, woven together bittersweet like a tapestry and rendered whole once more. For a period of time though, I disappeared. I didn’t recognise the girl in the mirror. I never saw myself becoming a woman. I just didn’t think I’d make it that far. I don’t know if the people closest to me at the time understood what I was going through but I hope they saw me and through my pain. I hope they knew that I was more than that. At ten years old, I had sunk slowly into a depression. It breaks my heart to think back on this because my condition and the severity of it wouldn’t be recognised for another four years and after the fact. Inevitably, I hit a wall at one point and attempted to take my life twice within the span of a month.
It rocked my world and everything spun out of control. This facade I’d weaved together so intentionally fell away. I very literally became my own undoing. One night, my gravitation towards our medicine cabinet became too much to handle. I see it as a balancing of scales. Up until that point, I’d had equal or more reasons to stay as I was than I had to make a drastic decision. Beyond that, I had fear still in my heart. I was clinging tightly to life, despite feeling so beaten down by it. I knew the most dangerous point I’d reach was that where I felt nothing. Where I became numb and no longer reasoned with myself. This was the middle of ninth grade. I’d taken two terms off of school at the beginning of the year to rehabilitate myself and keep my mental health balanced. I liked to see myself as a high achiever and found my worth externally. I was placed in the top class for my grade and felt immense pressure not just to keep up but to excel and be a leader. I hated that I always felt average and not quite good enough.
In some ways, I see the world in very black and white terms. It can be all or nothing with me when it comes to certain matters. I felt I had no place at the top if I didn’t have complete mastery and full knowledge of every concept. Beyond that, I didn’t believe I should have to work for anything that I was truly skilled at. I felt it should come easily or it can’t be considered a natural talent of mine. This led to my breakdown. I left school, a battle won after many arguments where I felt misunderstood, judged or frowned up. It was perhaps the wisest choice I’ve made so far because it allowed me to get in touch with myself once more and realign with my purpose.
The following year, in better spirits and with much counselling and trials of antidepressants behind me, I started a new school a completed year nine through and through. Being at a public school was a better fit for me, perhaps not in regards to the environment and socially but that’s a matter for another time. At this point I was a fairly average student but living big in other areas of my life. Everything seemed to come together and I allowed myself to cruise right through it all without many cares in the world. I no longer felt at competition with others and turned my focus to personal growth. I rebranded and turned my blog around completely, making it a suitable go to for a broader range of people. I started my Instagram page again, took on paid influencer collaborations and shared the pretty and the poignant parts of my life as authentically and honestly as I knew how.
I had reached a point where I watched other people thrive in the traditional school system but never stopped to wonder why I couldn’t do the same. I knew in my heart that it was too limiting for a creative, let alone somewhat of a rule breaker and rebel. There was no freedom to be different and break away from what’s considered normal. Life had gotten in the way and blocked my path too many times for me to be willing to push for a future that wasn’t mine. I had no hold over it and I couldn’t change or shape myself to fit that narrow box of being.
Towards the end of ninth grade and throughout tenth grade, I became annoyed at the pace of my journey. I was in a hurry to grow up and emerge fresh and revitalised into a time and place that allowed for my talents to be put to use and not wasted. I was greatly irritated and felt embarrassed. I always felt the need to explain myself and why I was the black sheep of the flock. I reminded others around me constantly that I’d been here before, done such and such before. I knew what I was doing. At the same time, I liked being further down my road than my friends or acquaintances. I liked that I’d hopped into the driver’s seat for long enough to have pushed past the repetitive, dreary miles. As is human nature though, I was ready for something scenic.
Now another year has rolled around and my old circles will graduate this year and the next. I will never don the customary black graduation gown or cap in a having completed high school capacity but I’d be lying if I said I live with regrets. Choosing not to continue into my senior years was a fear based decision. That was my primary motivator and selling factor. I was terrified of not trailblazing, of failing to live a big, juicy life. Of committing to hard work and dedicating myself to a string of years where I’d bury my head in a textbook and fall asleep in that very position. Of listening to droning lectures that I’d never be able to figure out how to apply in life. I could see this situation through a lens of being cowardly but it took a lot of strength to choose differently. I came from having given up completely, crying on floors and reacting erratically to medicines that didn’t agree with me to finally doing right by myself.
This is what runs through my head when people ask me why I left school for college. I’ve yet to give many people the long answer. Most get the short half truth. In the spirit of welcoming this new coming of age stage of my life, I want to open myself up that bit more and invite you to know me more fully. It is a pleasure, an honour and a relief. I can’t say I feel entirely ready for what’s to come. Although, as it goes, readiness in life is not the same as readiness in school. I can’t sit down and memorise facts and revise lines. I know I will have to chance things, risk them and be open to learning experiences that will either go my way or not. I’ll have to do it the old fashioned way where no shortcuts exist.
There is no truly feeling like being assured in the next step of your journey. Of being filled with lightness to your very core as you feel your passion and willingness to be something more take over once again. This natural drive is what I’ll follow and I can be sure it’ll take me places. At the end of the day, it took the potential to stop living to inspire me to start living again. To pursue something more meaningful than just an existence devoid of everything that makes my heart sing. When I finally allowed myself that authority over my destiny, I spoke to the mountains in front of me and they crumbled. I spoke to the giants I faced and watched them flee. I’d like to leave you this week with another of Morgan Harper Nichols timely and heartwarming emails. This particular one ties in well with what I’ve discussed here. This time she debunks failure and all its’ facets.
What I have learned about failure is that while it is inevitable, grace is inevitable too. Sometimes, I learn from my failures and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I see how it’s made me stronger and other times I feel neutral about it. Perhaps what matters is that even when I can’t see the silver lining, I do see the horizon that fills the morning sky with sunlight. I hear the chance to start again in the sound of neighbors leaving their homes to start the day.
Perhaps, what matters is that even when fear lingers, we notice how grace lingers too. Filling up the room with music that reminds us, “even here, there is more to you.” When it comes to failure, two things can be true: one- you are free to feel whatever you need to feel. Whether it’s grief, embarrassment, disappointment or a mixture of feelings, there is no shame if the feeling does not go away. Two- at the same time, there is grace: unmerited favour that reminds you are loved and seen even when you’re not succeeding or winning.
Continue to do your best while also knowing you are not defined by what you accomplished. You are also not defined by the times you’ve failed.Even when you’re worried that others might stigmatise your failure and cause you to feel fear or shame for not winning like you’re supposed to, this remains true. You matter just by being here. Even if no one has ever said those words to you before, they are still true. If the people you look up to make you feel like you need to succeed more and fail less, it’s still true that there is so much more to you than who you are when you are at your best and most accomplished. Of course, this is a part of your story and it’s beautiful and I hope you celebrate every mountain top moment. You are worthy of love and support when you arrive at those peaks. And you are also worthy of love and support when you are in the valley, or somewhere in between. Failure will come. Success will come, too. But it is never just the mountain or the valley that will define you. May you learn to embrace the entire landscape of who you are.