In high school, I dreamed so much about going to college. I identified my top choice university my freshman year and worked my butt off the next four years to get in. I took tons of honors and advanced placement courses, I studied SAT vocab words while running on the treadmill to Lady Gaga and 2NE1, and I talked with my friends all the time about this school. While on one hand I saw college as the next step in my dream to becoming a psychologist, I also viewed it as an escape from my abusive mother. I saw college as a dreamland where I could free myself from her endless shouting and screaming and escape into freedom, into pure bliss.
I got into my dream school. But it turned out that college kinda like, sucked though. I spent my first year and a half in an unfulfilling, borderline-abusive friendship. Then when that friendship ended, post-traumatic stress disorder hit me like a brick. I cried in a lot of bathroom stalls and meditated in the midst of panic attacks in many others. I wanted pure bliss and got a ton of mess instead.
But not all of college sucked. I went to therapy with my beloved therapist L, where we unpacked my trauma and watched several Ariana Grande music videos together. I made lots of cool friends, two of whom I consider my closest friends today. I read Appetites by Caroline Knapp which inspired my feminist and social justice journey. I made out with a guy for the first time on black and grey bed sheets in my sophomore year dorm room, after worrying for hours about whether he was a real person when we first made contact online. I met mentors who inspired me with their deep compassion, empathy, and intelligence.
I share all of this because I want to honor both the loss and grief that accompanies unmet dreams and expectations, as well as the beauty that life can bring even when we least expect it. In high school, I had literally no clue that I would watch Ariana Grande videos with a therapist in a few years – heck, I didn’t even know who Ariana Grande was. I didn’t know who Caroline Knapp was, and I had no clue about the debauchery I would engage in in college. I thought that, when I got to college, my life would work itself out all smooth and neat. Instead I got a beautiful mess.
This same theme rings true for me in the closing of 2019. At the beginning of the year, I fantasized that at some point I would get to know Attractive Writer Labor Organizer Boy (AWLOB)better. I envisioned that a few of my friendships that have ended would stay in my life for a long while. I put so much energy into these relationships yet all of them collapsed, and even though I have processed and moved forward, the grief remains.
But 2019 also brought much joy into my life. In 2018, I definitely wouldn’t have predicted that I would fly to Charlotte, North Carolina and burn a random boy’s essay on a grill with one of my closest friends Natasha while dancing to Ariana Grande’s song “bloodline.” I definitely wouldn’t have guessed that Ari would release her hit “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” which would subsequently inspire this super weird yet oh-so-me blog post about body image. I had little clue that I would sit in an office in Washington D.C., thinking about this blog post, listening to this live version of “no tears left to cry” while wearing a bright pink sweater and basking in the afterglow of providing social justice-oriented therapy.
In sum: if you’re out there mourning a dream, I’m right there with you. Over the past few days I’ve been sad as heck about relationships I wanted to work out and didn’t. And, while honoring these emotions, I’m making space for the joy in my life – spending time on my friends and my little cousin, my hobbies, my meaningful work. I’m making space for all the joy that’s to come, too.
As 2019 wraps up, what dreams are you mourning, if any? What in your life has taken you by surprise, for worse or for better? General reactions to this post? Until next time, readers, until next time.