Dear College, Can I come back?
So. I’m back! But not really. Ha.
SOME people have been especially naggy about me posting another blog, and honestly with all that med school entails there’s a likelihood that my brief blogging career is already dead and in the grave. However, with all the holiday breaks and such I felt rather obligated to make good use of my airplane travel time. The question was: what to blog about? I have like 18 Dear Abbie questions sitting in my inbox- but at this point I can’t seem to choose one over the other. Instead I’ll try to provide you with some of my more memorable moments over the past few months since I’ve left the beautiful state of Georgia.
August- I’ve learned a lot about myself since then it seems. One thing I now know very thoroughly is that I don’t do well alone. Not well at all. I was so homesick! After my parents moved me in and I dropped them off at the airport- I was one big sappy ball of tears. It is quite honestly a miracle that I did not have a crash coming back to my apartment from O’Hare. I was sobbing. And not that cute little cry thing that people do in the movies- or the kind of tear that trickles out of the corner of your eye when you watch an episode of Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Soldier Homecoming.” No, I was snot dripping down nose, couldn’t breathe because of the heart wrenching sobs- all the way home from the airport. I could take the blame for this obviously hazardous driving, but I’d rather pass the buck onto my Mom. Yep. I have claimed since about the age of 17 that I’m turning into my mother. Slowly but surely its happening. I used to think going to bed at 9pm sharp was the lamest thing ever. Now I see the wisdom in a good night’s sleep. I used to think my mom was weird for hording the Halloween candy corn from all the trick-or treaters. Now I too shop the candy isle on November 1st fighting with all the other candy crazed moms for the best bag of corn or pumpkins. And I’ve now realized that I clearly have inherited the ability to spontaneously squirt liquid from my eyes at the slightly provocation. Thanks Mom. Love you too… *sob*
September- In a nut shell I was homesick still- but worse. But quite truthfully I had it made in August. Yeah I was away from home- but I had the advantage of not being school yet with orientation and such. Also, since I had just left, my absence was more noticeable back home. I think my former roommates might have had a schedule those first two weeks on who was going to call me. Because one of them did- every single day. I ate it up. I silently prayed that our conversations would last longer. I sat around in my room afraid that if I went out and did something- their call wouldn’t come through. So even though I left home in August the break didn’t seem final. It wasn’t like ripping the Band-Aid off quickly; it was much more like a slow bleed out. I still for the next month could not make it through a normal length phone conversation with my family without putting the phone on mute and crying a bit while my sister or my dad rambled on about something from home. I still couldn’t go to bed without wondering if I was really supposed to be here. Quitting had never occurred to me as an option until this month. I’ve never been one to seek counseling for academic or mental reasons. But I did both in this month. I didn’t sleep for about a week straight. And that scared the living daylights out of me. That a separation from the place I’ve called home for the past 22 years could take that kind of mental and physical toll on me, scared me very very much. And if it hadn’t been for a few very specific things that also happened that month I think I’d be in Loganville, Ga right now looking for a job and applying to be a science substitute teacher at South Gwinnett High (because yes- that was my ultimate back up plan). But like I said a few very important things happened that month.
First of all, I found a church. And as a girl who never quite found a solid church home for the four years I spent in college- I was quite surprised. But here was the difference: I was desperate. Now, I’m not saying that because I was desperate for a church home that I just settled for pretty much the first thing I saw with a steeple. I think the difference was my own mindset and personal need. When I was a child, I was practically raised by my church family. They literally became my second family and I still hold in mind my the community that I was raised in there as the “gold standard” that I’ll compare many a church to in the future. In college I found a Christian organization that also helped raise me. In a different way, very much so, but they still became family nonetheless. Instead of mentoring and teaching me, I found myself learning and growing to spread my wings out with others my own age. And sadly I just never felt the desire to find anything more than that. What more did I need really? I had a church back home rooting for me, and a community to grow with in college. But here in Illinois I had none of that. None that was immediately apparent anyway. And so I grew desperate. I grew hungry for a mix of things from back home. I wanted companionship from people who were my age. I craved one of those take your breathe away, bone crushing hugs that only grandmotherly women of the church can give. I longed for a place where I could walk in the door and be noticed, not because I had a sign on my head that said “I’m Southern, speak slowly.” But because people went to their church regularly enough that they could spot all the newcomers. And probably the most important difference in me personally, is that I was praying for a church. Something I don’t think I’ve ever done. I don’t think I found the place I now call “my” church within two months of moving here because I was so desperate anything would do. I think it was more of an answer to desperate prayers that ended up most nights sounding like “God, if you can’t show me somewhere soon, I can’t make it.” Because I honestly couldn’t.
So finding a church where there were people my own age plus old women who give good hugs (plus some other sound Biblical teaching things (: ). Found it. Check.. But that alone really wouldn’t have been enough for me to stay here. As much as I love the place I go to church every Sunday. I’ve had to face the reality that med school isn’t a joke. I literally don’t get the time anymore to go to things like Bible studies or Young Adult nights. I like to. I try to. But there has been a point when I’ve had to know that I can’t invest as much as I’d like, because my life is different now. It kind of stinks. So just finding this church as a single event would probably not have been enough for me to stay. A couple of other key events played out in the month of September as well that made me realize I’m where I’m meant to be.
Event number two (and technically event number three): Labor Day Weekend. An all around good weekend in an of itself, but this one turned out to be especially successful. So successful, that I broke my arm. Yep. To those of you who know the story of “Pain Train” …well… Lets just say on all accounts that I should never be allowed to play flag football. Ever. How did breaking my elbow make me stay here? Well I got lots of flowers and chocolate from all of my loving professors with handwritten notes saying I could skip class and cadaver lab until it was fully healed.
Ok that’s a lie. No extraordinary benefits came out of me breaking my arm. But I found that I had made friends in school here who care. That might seem like an obvious thing considering I go to a school that is supposedly training the future health professionals of the future. Don’t you want your doctor to be caring? So the fact that my classmates cared about me shouldn’t have been surprising. And it didn’t totally take me off guard. But it made me realize that I could be happy here, with new friends. Not having to find replacements for all of those I left below the Mason Dixon Line, but instead just finding and forging new friendships all together. It was hard trying not to shove new friend into old friendship molds at first. Who was going to be the new person to give me pixie sticks and uncannily good advice like Kalen? Who was going to tell everyone embarrassing stories from when I was in high school (ahem! Ariel!) ? Who was going to help mildly vandalize school property with me other than Alex? Those were the questions I think had been asking in the month before this. When September finally rolled around – I realized not a single friendship from back home could be replaced. Those were all aches in my heart that were just going to stay put. But maybe, just maybe. I could have friends here too. And just realizing that, was a hard to thing to do. But in the month of September, I decided I would try to make new friends again.
The final event in September that changed me wanting to take first plane back to Atlanta was the realization that other people were having a hard time with this whole post graduation thing too. I think there must be some sort of big cover up ordeal that goes on every May when people graduate, where schools pay you off to keep quiet to the rest of the undergrads who think their life in school is hell. False. Getting out of college, a place you were quite successful at and had established very firm roots in, is way worse than staying in college. Maybe graduates don’t broadcast this information because leaving is inevitable unless you’re Michael Ellis. But a slight warning would have been appreciated. Maybe they were talking and I didn’t believe them. Maybe they yelled it at me and I just didn’t want to hear. But the best part about misery- is that it loves company. And finding just one other person who I could talk to about life after college sucking- was instant relief. Because I felt alone. I felt like a failure (in part because I was indeed failing classes for the first time in my life). And what I needed most in that time was someone to text or call me and say “I’m struggling too. This isn’t how I thought life would be and I’m not sure I want to stay doing this either.” Which was, oddly, the most comforting thing in the world. Not that I want other people to be miserable too. I don’t. I would much rather you all be happy as clams… assuming that marine bivalved creatures have some sort of leg up on us in the whole happiness department. I never understood that phrase.
But there is still something oddly comforting about knowing that you’re not the odd one out. Despite feeling frustrated and unsatisfied -there are people out there just like you. Who feel alone. Who are hurting and wish it would stop. Who’d like new friends to fit along with their new life, but then again they really wouldn’t because there was nothing whatsoever wrong with your old friends, its just that now they’re there and you’re here and things aren’t as they used to be at all. And the thing that is even more frustrating than realizing your problem, is not knowing how to get yourself out of it. Because you did everything right… technically.
Honestly, after a while, it starts to feel like a game show gone terribly wrong.
“Connn-grat-U-lations Abbie! You’re just completed step one of the American Dream; Graduating College! What are you going to do next?”
“Well Alex, I’ll take “new life in isolation for 500, please.””
“You betcha Abbie! Stay tuned Folks as we see if our contestant can complete step two of the Ultimate American Life!”
No, I guess that’s not exactly how life went. But it feels like it sometimes. If there had been a checklist of everything to do in college, I’d have aced it. I made all the right grades, stayed out of debt, didn’t get arrested, had the time of my life, and all those other clichés that people say to do. I did it all correctly. And I still ended up miserable. The only light at the end of my tunnel is this: That I’m really not alone. Those people that I miss so dearly and those old ladies that I want a hug from so desperately- are still there. They’re way back in Georgia. But they’re there. I’m not dead, so obviously life could be a lot worse. And slowly but surely, my self pity party has started to come to a close. But I’ll have to save that story for the second half of my blog J
I love all of who actually read this all the way through. I love you even if you made it past the first sentence. I miss you so So much!. Actually, just typing that out brought tears to my eyes, the people on this plane must think I’m writing a tragedy. But I’m not! I promise this story with have a happily ever after. I’m working on it right now. (that’s what the next blog post is for! )