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On life-changing risks, and going back

Almost five years ago I boarded a plane that took me 3,457 miles away from home. I did it to study, I did it to explore the world, I did it to get away from the mundanity of my hometown. I embarked on this crazy adventure filled with both laughter and tears; I felt on top of the world and felt deep sorrows. I’ve lived, sometimes not well, sometimes I didn’t leave the house from horrible anxiety and depression, in these five years, and have gone from hating where I lived to now feeling like it’s the only home I have left. Five years ago I took the biggest risk of my life. It was a stupid one. But all the great risks are a little stupid.

And now I’m facing the possibility of leaving London, and it’s the scariest prospect ever. A few have asked me why I wanted to stay here, and I’m honest in my confession that London is my home now. London is a deeply imbedded part of my being. But what I don’t say to many people is how scared I am to go back to New Jersey. This prospect of going back, of moving ‘home’, feels like the worst thing that could possibly happen. And I know that that’s melodramatic but it makes me sick.

Because going back, in my irrational head, means going back in time. I am so scared of having to go back to New Jersey and live as if the last five hears haven’t ineffably changed myself and my life. Going back will mean my risk was for nothing, I’ll just go home and go back to the same life I left. Going back denies the impact of every place I’ve been, every lesson I’ve learnt, every hurt that I’ve felt, and every person I have loved.

And so I’m petrified. I’ve built a life here, however small. I’m not prepared to leave it behind as simply another chapter of my past, slowly lost in time.

I’m not sure how to end this, because I guess there really is no way to end it. It’s an ongoing anxiety without conclusion, at least not until it gets sorted out either way. I guess it’s just always worked out for me really, but I’m not sure it will work out again this time.

One year on

This has been a strange year. I don’t think I ever could have thought that so much could happen in a year, that a year could be filled with so much agony and then so much happiness. I went through a break up that took me a long time to get to grips with. In a day my future went from filled with so much promise to feeling like it was blank and empty. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.

But it came at the right time. My future wasn’t blank, I was about to start a dream course at a dream school and live in my dream part of London. And I started, and now I’m nearly finished with it, and I’ve had an amazing time. I’ve made life-long friends and learned so much, both in lectures and seminars as well as from all the incredible people I’ve met. I’ve had crazy nights, nights that never ended, fulfilled parts of myself that I had always wanted to but was too scared to try.

That’s not to say I’ve had the best time ever. My mental health has been horrendous, though I’m better now. I struggled a lot with hopelessness, self-loathing, and suicidal thoughts. Those things still stay with me, as they always have done since I was a teenager. But I am handling them now, though I wasn’t in the winter.

And I’m not over everything. I still live my life primarily in the past. I often take one step forward followed by two steps back. But it gets easier every day, even if it’s slow going. I need to go at my own pace. And one day I’ll be completely free of the shackles of grief and actually be sort of okay. I look forward to it.