Saturday, May 14, 2016

"I hope they're happy." or "Bittersweet musings."

It's been a bit quiet on here this past week, but I figured tonight's emotions warranted a blog post.

Today I would have graduated. History major. Liberal arts college. Rigorous humanities education. Diploma in hand, perhaps headed to an internship and some desperate job searching (or husband hunting). Cum laude? Who knows. Whatever the titles, I would have been among the smiling faces adorning radiant Facebook posts gushing excitement and gratefulness to their new alma mater.

I dreamed of that day. I dreamed of a lot of things I would achieve, accomplish, and experience at that school. I was so proud to announce my acceptance, even if no one had ever heard of the place. I knew it was where I wanted to go my junior year when I first went to a student preview. I was obsessed. It seemed like the perfect fit, in lines with my desires and values and vice versa. I thought I would cross that stage after four years with a big smile, plenty of friends cheering me on, capping four years of great accomplishment, fun times, and the formation of lifelong friendships. I thought I would then head from there to the wedding chapel aisle and pledge my life to some handsome fellow grad and we would ride off into the sunset to chase our dreams. My dreams, though, were pretty limited to bearing and raising a number of children.

First, I went to school and found myself unbelievably homesick in a sea of kids glad to finally be out of the nest. Once the feeling dropped to a more manageable one, I found myself socially isolated in spite of my desperate efforts to make friends and break out of my lifelong shyness. I introduced myself, made conversation, opened up, all to no available. I only had two friends after orientation. I added three more through the rest of the year. I began applying for clubs and being rejected, even religious ministries, which I thought were supposed to be about heart, turned out to be about talent and connections. I tried to get involved with a Bible study, but everyone was older and I never felt quite comfortable, even after a semester.

I liked my classes and professors but as I took more of them I saw the shadows of narcissism, vanity, self-absorption, and excessive dogma. There were few female professors (none in my department) and I had difficulty connecting with the male ones. I was disappointed in my inability to make friends or find a group to get involved in but continued to hope that a door would open up to the right thing. I was still loyal to the school, but I was a tad frustrated that my commitment to this institution and my passion to serve and be involved was being rewarded with continual scorn. I was other people with kind hearts get rejected from things in favor of the cynical, jocular but popular. And it was definitely more beneficial to be a semi-attractive male or better than not.

I did make a few friends who remain close to my heart. I got an education for which  I am grateful. I grew and I strove. I made many fond memories and had some great laughs and fun times. I had many privileges that others in the world don't thanks to my generous parents. I'm sure anyone who went to the school will write off my words as bitter and exaggerated. Fine. I don't have time to go into the details of what I saw and experienced. Even if I did, people who didn't walk through the same or similar probably wouldn't understand or empathize. There were kind, good, sincere people and professors, but no more than other places I have been, I have to admit. I used to think otherwise, but I think many people there, especially in the student body, were cold, closed off, cliquish, and judgmental. And I find it sad that a general attitude of weary tolerance at best, constant complaint at worst, pervaded the students regarding schoolwork and just being at college. The mindset was that it was grades 13-17 and we all had to trudge through it. If that's the case, why fork out $100k to come?

My disillusionment was gradual, however, and I spent three years there. I would have graduated there had it not been for my illness. I'm glad I didn't, but I still get a touch bitter, especially considering how some people get everything and don't realize how lucky they are, while other people get very little (unless it's the unfortunate stuff, in which they get quite a bit.) I'm not saying I'm as bad off as many people in the world, but it can be frustrating to see certain people get everything when they didn't work as hard or care as much as you, especially when they then use their position of power to hurt others.

But my forced disappointments and departure made me a more empathetic person so that hopefully I don't have to be one of those people that hurts others, whether purposefully or inadvertently. And it led me to a better learning place that suited my needs and where I have really been able to blossom. The classes are smaller so I actually feel comfortable talking and the program is more tailored to my academic interests. My adviser and main professor is someone I've been able to connect with and the other staff have been very kind and accommodating. I had a chance to recharge my batteries with my semester off so I can now be more intentional about giving my absolute best in my classes rather than just surviving. I can live with my true friends - my family, the ones who have stayed through thick and thin and who know my story and who have been through their own tough times.

People who haven't been there or who don't know where you've been just don't get it. They don't appreciate your struggle. They don't have your back or take your side. They don't get why you might have a chip on your shoulder or why you don't like the person everyone else raves about...My family have been the only ones who always picked up the phone, always took my side, always had my back, and never gave up on me.

Because probably the most disappointing thing about the old school is that my friends there didn't really care. When I was in pain there, they didn't want to walk through it with me. They barely even wanted to hear about it. They didn't check up. They didn't listen. They didn't take my side. They still praised the guys who hurt me and stayed silent when I expressed frustration or pain. The loudest silence of all was when I announced I had to leave. And then almost all of them dropped off the radar. Maybe a text was sent in the fall or something but that's it. Two people who stay in touch. Two more who I still try to keep in touch with but who remain frustratingly elusive. 

I mentioned that my old dream was to get married after graduation, as many grads there do. No fish ever bit at my line though, even though I became an increasingly aggressive fisher. That caused some heartbreak during my time. People laughed at it because I never really got to know any of the people but I don't think it's kind to make light of other people's sadness, even if it seems silly. I really was very disappointed about each love that never saw the light of day. This weekend I found out that two of my friends from the old school have found boyfriends this year. Before this would have made me sad and bitter. But now I laugh a bit inside. Good for them but I'm glad it's not me! I'm glad I don't have to settle down with the first person I meet and spend the rest of my life caring for babies. I feel like I finally have hope, potential, purpose. I'm applying to grad school, thinking of ways to forge a career. Most of the guys I've met have seemed nice but turned out to be arrogant, unsympathetic, and condescending, even a little emotionally abusive but are seen as these amazing, kind, upright Christian guys so everyone else sings their praises. I once did too, but I've been burned now. Now I see the warning signs and remember the emotional roller coaster. I don't want to be with someone who doesn't really appreciate me or my dreams just so I can be married. That would take a whole blog to explain too, as I'm sure people roll their eyes at this comment. But I've seen my share of subtly condescending guys and I'm tired of being on the receiving end of their haughty put-downs. I'm tired of just being a stupid girl to the world. I'm sure I still will be to many people, but at least I can try not to surround myself, much less marry myself, to such people. And I can stop seeing myself as just a stupid girl.

So here's to conquering the world, one unread blog post at a time. I'm holding out hope that even after a hundred doors have been closed in your face, you might stumble through the perfect.

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