The difference between 18 and 23 isn’t much but I remember sitting in those seats, not giving a fuck that i was there. High School didn’t teach me shit. But life did. I lost a best friend, my aunt, my boyfriend, my grandmother, my house, my parent’s marriage, and their ability to be parents when I most needed them, and on some days I lost the ability to function all together. From 18-23 I experienced a lot of loss, tragedy, and confusion. My friends used to ask me how I got up every morning and in all honesty, some days I didn’t have an answer. But, I did a lot of growing and changing as well.
I experienced for the first time what it was like to be completely alone. At 4am I used to wake up with a pit in my stomach so strong that I called my boss to call out sick. It was the first time anyone ever forced me out of bed. And then as time passed and I started drinking more it was the first time I could bring myself to kiss another human being aside from my ex. And I got closer to people. JC taught me for the first time how to truly appreciate a good laugh, and to laugh as much as possible, all the time. And when I got my first apartment it was the first time I realized I could make it on my own, all by myself, and I learned to cook. When I looked into my ex’s eyes after our break up, it was the first time I realized I didn’t love him anymore, and I realized for the first time that maybe that was okay. When I got my full year internship working with battered women I saw that I was able to help someone professionally, for the first time.
The keggers, the parties, kids you don’t remember – it’s all background noise as far as I’m concerned. What’s really important is what you’ve gained from all you’ve lost. It is true that all that matters is how you view your situation but sometimes in the dead of the night, when your brain won’t let you sleep, you wonder how the fuck you got there and that maybe somewhere along the way you got screwed. But there are valuable lessons from getting screwed, like learning how to confront what you’re most afraid of. I graduated college, got a full time job and got into grad school but sometimes i still wonder who i’d be if someone hadn’t forced me to go to work, if my friend’s didn’t put me to bed some nights, if my family didn’t get me out of the house, my professors hadn’t excused my absences, and if all these people didn’t let me cry – all the time.
I’ve looked into the eyes of liars, backstabbers and fools. But I’ve also seen the kindness of strangers and felt the helping hands of those pushing me to succeed. So maybe all it boils down to is what we’ve learned. Life is short, and when minutes feel like days I remember the people who forced me to live again. I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help. So ask for help on papers, tests, directions, everyday life. It gives people purpose to help. I learned quickly how to not judge when I saw the scars, burns, and bruises on a classmates arms. I realized we’re all just human and some have it worse that I do. On the other hand, I’ve met some pretty ignorant and naive kids, which college is great for attracting.
It’s not about degrees and how many beers you drank last night. It’s about actually giving a shit about what you can offer this world. I’m not a doctor fixing a cleft lip in Africa but when I tell the people i care about that i love them, I’ve made a world of difference.
Each lesson will reveal itself in time. Some lessons take longer than others and most of them you’ll learn the hard way. You will fail miserably and get by by the skin of your teeth which just makes you that much closer to success. The truth is, we’re all walking around aimlessly trying to find our purpose. Some are just better at faking it than others. So don’t wait around for someone to fill that purpose for you. No matter what happens, love who you are. You are the only one you have when your head hits the pillow at 4am. Be proud of yourself.