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The Graduate’s Blog

If I thought high school passed by in a blink… undergraduate was a whirlwind.


This morning I woke up in a dorm room, for the very last time. I sat on the edge of my bed and stared at the stark white walls that once held tapestries, posters, and Polaroid pictures. I closed my eyes and remembered the other rooms I’d lived in over the years, the ones with blue Christmas lights, window AC units, and bunk beds.

Professors can’t really prepare you for the moment you realize you’re walking out of a place that’s meant everything to you, and you’re not planning on coming back.

I pulled my graduation gown on, clutching my cap tightly in my hands.

I took a moment, standing in the doorway, to remember all of the late-night conversations that took place in crowded doorways and too-small dorm rooms. I looked at the empty bed to my right and pictured my friends and I cuddled together drinking too much wine and giggling until we couldn’t breathe. I looked at the floor and pictured a queen-sized blow-up mattress, my closest friends piled on-top, covered in quilts that my great-grandmother made, talking about our dreams until we fell asleep.

I closed the door, turned the lock, and stood in the hallway for a moment. This was my home. These damp, beige walls that held spiders also held secrets, laughs, and tears.

I bought waterproof mascara specifically for today. I walked down the stairwell hoping it would do me some justice as I thought of hugging my closest friends for the last time in a long time. They all have their own journeys to attend to, and they aren’t all from my city.

That’s another thing they don’t really prepare you for, saying goodbye to some of the best people you know. I can tell you first hand- it sucks.

I met some of the most influential people in my life in undergraduate. I met a redheaded, fair-skinned woman from my hometown that became one of my closest friends. I watched her grow into an amazing artist, and fell in love with her desire to travel and experience various cultures first-hand without reservations. I swear, she’s practically fearless. We used to go “urban spelunking” together, sliding under fences and walking on railroad tracks to explore abandoned homes, warehouses, and lots. The same year I met her, I met a small, quiet woman full of light and laughter and fell madly in-love with her ability to persevere through the hardest of circumstances. I watched her blossom as she took on leadership roles, volunteered nearly all of her free time to help others in need, and found personal strengths when she least expected it. We were the best of friends, and that’s what makes saying goodbye so hard.

When the ceremony started and I was so nervous that I was practically shaking. This was it. My family was here, I was processing in with my “exit buddy” for the last time. Tears welled in my eyes and I struggled to hide them behind my hair as we stood in the auditorium and linked arms to sing the alma mater for the very last time…

“Standing with open arms –
Standing alone –
Watching her children down through the years,
Watching and keeping them safe from harm,
Hearing their laughter and seeing their tears.
Converse! Converse!
We pledge our love to thee.
We’ll hail the purple and the gold
With love and loyalty.
Alma Mater, dear to every one.
We love you now, we’ll love you when
Our college days are done.”

I graduated.

I was ready but I wasn’t.

And honestly, it still doesn’t feel real.

Life, of course, doesn’t end when you graduate. In the weeks leading up to this fantastic and terrifying moment I felt so lost and concerned with how I was going to handle myself and my future. I planned for a busy summer, squeezing beach and mountain trips into my schedule, along with cheap concert tickets to see up and coming musicians. I’m not sure what my exact thought process was- just that I had to do things, I had to live and experience more. Whatever more means…

Sitting here today, surrounded by family, friends, peers, and professors, I don’t want to rush it. I just want to exist, with these people, in this life, until the wind sweeps me elsewhere.

I’m still not entirely sure how I got here, to where I am. But, I am loving it and living it with all of you.

Thank you.

To the Converse College Class of 2018:

We did it. I’m not sure how some of us got through it, myself included, but we did. We walked together across the Twitchell stage as sisters, friends, and graduates. I wish you all so much love, light, and positivity as you tackle the world and do so many amazing, big things. It was a pleasure growing up with you, learning with you, and living with you. I love you all. 

xoxo Gossip Girl (jk)

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Atlanta, GA: Down the Rabbit Hole

Today is a Monday. 

How do I know that it’s a Monday?

I woke up early but somehow was still late to work.

I found a spider in my bathtub, while I was in it.

And, of course, I’m getting a flat tire.

But, Starbucks exists to fix the Monday Morning Moanies, I’m convinced, and I took full advantage of its resources on the way to work!

Today I’m taking a look back at this weekend and all of the wonderful new experiences  it brought my way!

I traveled to Atlanta, GA for a Comprehensive Energy Psychology conference bright and early Saturday morning.

Growing-up I was never allowed to visit Atlanta. My mother is an overly-cautious individual and she always portrayed the city as dark and dangerous, overrun by drugs and purse bandits. I will say, she’s not entirely wrong, but it’s also so much more.


Atlanta, GA

We’re in a tiny concrete building, in the middle of an apartment complex, about thirty minutes away from the comfort and safety of our overpriced hotel. We’d gotten lost twice trying to find this place, and it looks nothing like the pictures on Google. The door opens to a cramped and damp store full of metaphysical goodies. Crystals, books on finding your animal spirit guide, tarot decks, pendulums, and a menu of clairvoyant offerings clutter the walls and room- along with cobwebs, dust, and dirt. It smells mildewed and oddly like summer camp somehow. We’re greeted by a wide-eyed woman raving about her podcast.

Purchases in hand, we’re ushered into a room behind a curtain where many a character are sitting in old leather chairs around a different, much louder woman. I feel trapped in a manic’s daydream. Everyone is talking fast and loud and nothing that they’re saying makes any sense to us and someone mentions that the sangria is “kicking in” and suddenly a woman in a onesie comes around the corner holding a vegan taco and talking about how the highway in Atlanta is somehow relatable to watermelon. I look over at one of my friends; she’s smiling and nodding but you can tell she’s just as confused as I.

We’re texting each other.

“What’s happening?”

“I feel like anything you say in here really resonates with these people so I don’t think that we should say anything. Do you think that they all know each other or did some of them happen upon this like we did?”

Twenty minutes later we’re told to follow the other woman up a set of carpeted stairs and into a room for clairvoyant readings. I’m told that my spirit animal is a rabbit and that I’ll meet someone incredibly influential very soon.

When we finally leave, two hours have passed and I’m unsure of how.

Let me tell you, first impression: Atlanta is complicated. People crowd the streets at night and it’s uncertain where is safe and where isn’t. There’s an ice cream truck parked in front of a liquor store and young children on a street corner in front of a tattoo parlor.  I feel like I’m in a 90’s vampire movie where the dark corners of the city are enticing but dangerous unless you’re immortal or suicidal.

An hour later, we’re in a bar completely filled with cigarette smoke inside and out. All the waitresses are half-naked wearing leather and lace and ours has devil horns and a kimono that hides everything a body harness can’t cover. We’re tucked in a tight corner practicing energy manipulation with a soapstone pendulum. It doesn’t feel like a weird thing to do considering the city around us. The man standing two people over from us blows cigarette smoke into the face of the woman directly next to him. We’re glad we aren’t her. I get a beer and drink none of it but somehow leave feeling intoxicated. Is it this place? The smoke thickening in the air? A man wearing a cardboard sign that says “will solve rubix cubes for $1” stumbles past us.

We drive deeper into the pit of the city.

The parking lot is full of expensive cars. Music shakes the metal stairs that lead into the store and away from the busy roadway. IDs are checked and a young woman, seemingly too young, wearing platform heels and a barely-nothing dress, escorts us away from the door.

“It’s over here.”

We’re terrified, eyeing each other and making the “OMG” mouth motions behind her back as she leads us to a counter. Complimentary champagne is placed gingerly in our hands and I find myself wondering- where are we???

This is Tokyo Valentino.

Were surrounded by floor-to-ceiling adult novelties, and there’s a *club (wink-wink)* in the back. We consider going, but we’re all chickens so we decide not to. A magician maneuvers a cart around a display case and offers us a magic trick involving a fake wedding ring and three packs of bubblegum.

It’s after midnight.

This place, this night, is a fever dream- I’m convinced.

The next morning comes too early and even though it’s long over- I’m still smiling from the night before.

Initially I wanted this post to end with a deep reflection on myself and what I learned about myself in Atlanta. But, honestly I’m just feeling intensely grateful.

I’m grateful for the experiences I had, the friends that I made, and seat warmers (yes-seriously). I’m not sure that I could’ve maneuvered the city without seat warmers (jk but… yes- seriously).

Have a great Monday, everyone.

I’m going to get back to my normal routine of homework and decaf coffee before noon.

With love,

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Florence, and other things…

It’s been almost five months since I’ve had the urge to type all of my feelings out in one place, on this page, and share them with the world. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I would ever blog again.

So much has happened, I feel like I’m an entirely different person than who I was when I graduated undergraduate. I’m lucky, I’ve been faced with so many wonderful opportunities for personal growth and I can’t be happier that I’m growing, changing, in a positively wonderful way.

This is just an update so I won’t make it as long winded as I want to. I’d like to get back into the swing of things and sharing my experience with all of you; I’ve missed it.

Last month I gave-up social media for a graduate level class about addictions counseling. It turns out that I actually love it, addictions counseling. I came into the class with the idea that it wasn’t a necessary class and I was going to hate it but it honestly has just made me more aware of the need for people to be compassionate and empathic with others more often. I had this false knowledge about addiction being a choice, and it very clearly isn’t. It really opened my eyes and maybe I’ll share some more about it sometime.

Anyways, going without social media has been a real challenge for me and I plan to share that experience with you all in December when it ends.

In other news, Hurricane Florence is barreling towards North and South Carolina right now. At first I wasn’t afraid of her. I told myself, as I always do, that she would bring us rain and some wind but that we wouldn’t need to worry ourselves over her. Most every hurricane to hit us inland hasn’t made phenomenal damage, but Florence may change that. My family isn’t as prepared as I hoped they would be, but we have bread, apples, water, and hope that she’ll only bring us heavy rainfall to make our plants lively.

Those are the two biggest things going on in my life, but I’d love to hear about what’s going on in yours. Comment below or shoot me an email telling me all about what I’ve missed since I’ve been gone.

I’ll be back, sooner than before.

With love,

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To Myself, with Love

Life has been a mess of colors lately.

No day is exactly the same, but most days for me have ended the same way.

I sit on my bed and watch the sun fade through my blinds, as the lines of light dance on the wall across from me. I don’t think of anything in particular. It’s almost like I’m waiting for something to happen, watching the lines like they’ll suddenly change direction or grow brighter rather than dim and eventually disappear.

Recently I’ve been facing a great challenge. Those closest to me are aware of my struggles and have an inside look at the trials and tribulations that a somewhat grieving individual goes through to feel “alright” with their circumstances. I want to offer an explanation to others, but because of the sensitive nature of what’s going on, I can’t. It’s unfortunate, but it’s necessary.

Stay tuned, and be patient. I’m learning to be patient myself.

I’m also learning that vulnerability is okay. Being vulnerable is one step closer to making positive change. I could use some of that. We could all use some of that.


Jess,

You are so much stronger than your circumstances. I understand that you are feeling overwhelmed, burned out, and less than yourself. I acknowledge that the situation you are facing right now is emotional and raw. I validate your reactions; I validate your concerns.

You are in a position that you, quite some time ago, never believed you would be strong enough to place yourself in. Yet, here you stand. You are anxious and worrisome, but you are also bold and strong. You did not get to this place alone, but you did not have much help making the decision to move forward either. That decision was so difficult for you, but you made it based on the needs of yourself and the needs of others, and you made it bravely.

You feel weak and confused at times, but you are standing across from your demons and you are not backing down. You question yourself and those around you, but you also stand firm and advocate for yourself and your needs.

You look in the mirror and see the exhaustion hanging off of your features, like a warn house full of secrets and forgotten memories, dull, hollowed in spots and blackened in others. I see you, the everlasting foundation beneath the peeling wallpaper.

I am proud of you. 

I am proud of you for diving deeper into yourself when you feel unsure of your emotions and regretful of your decisions. I am proud of you for waking up in the morning and taking that first, terrible step out of bed. I am proud of you for speaking up and speaking out.

Be confident.

Be confident in your decisions, in your process, in your life.

You are worth the results, and you know that.

I love you.

With love,

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It’s the Little Things

It is 3:00pm and I’m in my pajamas eating a dark chocolate orange and enjoying the silence of Jon’s apartment, aside from the steadily clicking keys on my computer keyboard.

I’m suddenly overwhelmed with this immense feeling of intense gratitude and contentment.


Guys, life has been crazy lately.

A few weeks ago I received news that a family member that sexually abused me when I was younger, sexually abused another child. That same week I had just started a new job and was trying to balance it with my other two jobs, stressing about affording Christmas, and noticing that some of my Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia symptoms were increasing.

Fast forward a week and my great-uncle passed away. My mother and grandfather had surgery on the same day (they’re both fine and recovering well). And, I’m still struggling to cope with the news about my abuser. My abuser contacted me while intoxicated towards the middle of the week and I didn’t really experience the full effects of speaking with him until the next day when I seemingly couldn’t stop crying and ended up skipping all of my classes for the remainder of the week.

I sat down and thought about writing a blog post about the reality of dealing with psychological symptoms that follow sexual assault, but I didn’t.

Instead, I sat down and I talked to my significant other.

Jon has been so understanding through everything. He has always been careful and kind and forgiving no matter the circumstances when I am going through something difficult. Over the summer, coming to terms with a new and scary chronic illness challenged our relationship in a multitude of ways. All of a sudden I was this terrified little girl that couldn’t leave her house for a meal or an adventure. We definitely struggled with communication, but ultimately, he helped me move past my anxieties about my symptoms and before I knew it, we were picnicking in the park on Sunday mornings and visiting the zoo on rainy afternoons.

I think the hardest part about confiding in anyone, especially those you’re close to and whose opinions matter most to you, is the idea that you could be rejected or misunderstood. That’s what stopped me from talking to him about how strongly the assault affected me, because I didn’t feel like my emotions or thoughts were valid. But, they are. For those of you that are going through similar things or have been there, know that what you are experiencing is real and valid and that you will recover and persevere.

For me, talking to him really helped, even though it took such a long time to work up the courage to. But, I’m so thankful I finally I did.

Yesterday was our two year anniversary. I have a stomach virus or something, not entirely sure, but we had to postpone celebrating until later this week. Last night wasn’t the most amazing night of our lives. We got into a disagreement about something trivial and I had to eat rice for dinner because my stomach is so finicky, and anyways, the night ended with one or both of us crying into the shirt of the other.

There’s something so beautiful and raw in expressing pent-up emotions, to just lay it all out on the table to be dealt with and to be understood.

This morning we woke up, he kissed me gently before he went to work, and he surprised me with Chic-Fil-A for lunch. I climbed back in his bed to study for finals, and to type this blog post in absolute appreciation for our relationship, for him, and for this life.

Our relationship isn’t perfect. We both have our faults, as humans, and we both have our faults, as lovers. It’s natural to have a push and pull in every relationship. However, it’s not so natural for the push to become a shove and the pull to become a tear (always remember that). I’m thankful that we’re able to communicate and find new ways to surprise each other. I’m thankful that we’re still in love after two years together. And, I’m hopeful that we’ll be in love and living in happiness for much, much longer.

There are a lot of things that I’m uncertain about in my future. I’m graduating college in about five months. I’m not sure where I’ll go to get my Master’s degree, where exactly I’ll be living, or how I’ll be making ends meet. But, I know that I’m capable and I’m excited to see what happens next, preferably with him by my side.

Earlier today an older gentleman holding a vase of red and white flowers knocked on the door to Jon’s apartment. The note read “no message,” and I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle at the endearing gesture after calling him and hearing that he’d left a message after all.

“Happy Anniversary, I love you.”

It’s the little things.


After a few weeks of dredging through emotional sludge, I’m feeling more mentally grounded than I have in quite some time.

I’ve been focusing on mindfulness and it’s really getting me somewhere.

When I start to feel anxious or out of control, I tell myself to stop and breath. I take in my situation, my surroundings, and realize that I’m not out of control at all.

It’s this mindfulness that’s getting me through finals week, and bringing me into Christmas break.

It’s this mindfulness that’s allowing me to express gratitude even in uncomfortable situations like disagreements, fighting this stomach bug, and knowing that my abuser is still out there.

It isn’t a cure-all, but it’s a start to feeling better and doing better.

I think, considering, I’m doing just fine.

A reminder: Be gentle, kind, compassionate, and caring to yourself and those around you this week and every week. College kids, be strong and determined as you conquer your finals and know that academic stress is temporary. I love you all, and I want you all to succeed.

Best,

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Fearless

It’s a cycle, this life.

If you pay attention to the minute details, you’ll get a glimpse at the cyclical nature of it all, constantly repeating itself like the falling leaves of autumn, seemingly stuck in an infinite loop until no further leaves are left on the tree.

Are we the leaves, or the tree?


Yesterday it happened again.

I felt the familiar chest pain, digging into my rib cage, settling in next to my tired heart.

I took a deep breath and I moved on.

Then again, on the couch as I studied next to a friend, I felt the familiar warmth creep up my neck as my head began to spin.

Recovering from last January took eight months. I went to counseling. I saw numerous doctors. I was poked and prodded by needle after needle until I feared my skin would turn purple indefinitely. I peeled countless heart monitor stickers off of sensitive skin and placed new ones on top of red blisters and small patches of mild bleeding.

I was terrified then.

Over an eight month span I taught myself that my body is my friend, that I needn’t be afraid of it or its capabilities. I stopped drinking caffeine. I was selfish because I needed to be, for my mental health, for my physical health.

The time I took to recover was so incredibly necessary, but so very time consuming.

I’m a senior in college now, staring my final semester in the face. I’ll be done in six months. That’s it… just a measly six months are standing before me and the end of my undergraduate education.

Yet here I sit, terrified again.

I’ve been feeling this way for two weeks, felt the symptoms start to slowly appear again like they’re as frightened as I am for their return.

Are they returning?

Is this it? Am I damned to live through the cycle of symptoms every year? Over and over?

I’m waiting.

I’m not sure if I’m waiting for them to fully set in, or if I’m waiting for them to fade, but nonetheless I’m present for them. I’m prepared for them this time.

On Monday in class I took a personality quiz that required me to select adjectives that describe myself. I scanned the page, not struggling with selecting quite a few until I came upon the word “fearless.” I paused for a moment and I took in the word, reflected on its meaning. I thought about the obstacles I’ve faced in my young life thus far.

As an eight year-old, I adopted the word “brave” as a descriptor for myself after having broken bones set without anesthetic. After reporting childhood sexual assault to a counselor when I was twelve, I adopted the word “strong.” In high school, I struggled with coming to terms with the sexual assault, leading to promiscuity and a handful of bad decisions related to marijuana, older men, and my academic integrity. I was described as “wild,” “courageous,” and “capable,” because I put effort into changing my habits and turning around bad decisions, so that I could succeed in honors courses, maintain healthy friendships, and continue with my academic extra curriculars.

I circled the word, “fearless.”

Because… why not? Aren’t I?

I’ve been fearful at times, but I’ve conquered so much of that fear with perseverance, optimism, strength, courage, and determination. And, while I’m still not 100% confident that I consider myself completely fearless, it’s something that I’m working up to feeling, believing, and ultimately being.

In the words of Poppy, Princess of the Trolls:

“I’m not giving up today. There’s nothing getting in my way. If you knock, knock me over, I will get back up again. If something goes a little wrong, well you can go ahead and bring it on.”

The cycle continues; overcome and become.

Leaves. Tree.

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ps: Please remember that while your education is important, your health is more important; take time to take care of yourself and focus on your needs.

For more information on Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia, my eight month break, or to see my most recent posts, check out the links below!

Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia

Living with Tachycardia 101

The Reality of Taking a Leave (from Uni)

 The Fish Bowl Analogy

The Fish Bowl Analogy

Yesterday I peed in a plant pot, on the side of the road, next to a church.

#NOSHAME

Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

Apparently I had to do that.


Next line of business…

 

Lately I’ve been dealing with this uncomfortable feeling of belonging. Like I’m somehow at this stage of my life where I don’t really care what others think of me, because I feel like I fit into life just fine. It’s uncomfortable because it isn’t my norm. I’m so used to being on my toes and feeling like I needed to do everything to the expectations of everyone else. I’m not sure when that changed but it did, suddenly it seems.

I’m less afraid. Whoa, that’s a big one.

That’s not to say that I’m fearless, although I’d like to be. I think I’m finally just at the point where it’s like, this is what you feel like every day and it isn’t changing but you are so buck up or get off the ride. I feel settled. Like magically this heart feels somewhat like mine again, and these bones fit my body better somehow. I’m less afraid of myself.

Less. That’s the keyword there.

Sitting in my dorm room, away from my family and in this awkward transition period of my adult life feels natural and still so foreign. This place, this college, the college that I once dreamed of returning to after each summer is now a place of both solace and discomfort; if those are emotions that can exist together simultaneously. I love the rose gardens, tall brick buildings, and promise of better futures for those around me, but it doesn’t feel the same this year.

It reminds me of that time. That night I sat in the emergency room that I’d driven by over and over before and never thought of. I was shaking, frightened, clammy, fragile, in an overly-large wheelchair, next to a bunch of strangers. A man with a buzz-cut that smelled like car oil was tackled by a police officer on top of my mother and I that night, around 2AM. I hid behind her as best I could as his pants fell to his ankles and he was handcuffed.

When I think of this campus I think of that night, and I hate myself for it.

How does one accidentally ruin something important? That’s how.

Wait, let me check myself before I wreck myself. 

Everything happens for a reason Jess, you know this. You literally live by this. 

In other news…

I’m so tired of being told not to let anxiety control my life. It’s like I’m a fish in a fish bowl and people are constantly feeding me BULLSHIT FLAKES until I die. If telling someone to mellow out and stop letting anxiety run rampant on their life was actually effective, mental illness wouldn’t be one of our nations leading killers. Honestly.

It does more damage than it does good to use anxiety and other mental illness as a catch-all for behaviors, ideals, and emotions that may be completely unrelated.

 

*mic drop*

In all seriousness life really is like living in a fish bowl. Like a tiny goldfish, we often feel trapped and confused. But, also like the goldfish, we feel content and even happy. Have you ever stopped to think, for us the world is our ocean quite literally in that we have the whole world at our fingertips. Whereas for a goldfish, the fish bowl is its world. It doesn’t care because everything beyond the fish bowl is unreachable and therefore unattainable. I know people that look at life the same way. Goals and aspirations are at their fingertips but still so far out of reach that taking a leap for them doesn’t feel worth it.

I suppose it’s all about character.

What does a goldfish have to lose?

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