navel-gazing


warnings: this is long, and part of it is disturbing.

I like war movies. War memoirs, too. I’m not entirely sure why, but I suspect that it’s largely due to the fact that I like to think about the way that people behave in extreme situations, particularly situations I have never encountered. I like to think about the way that I would behave in such situations (usually, my conclusions on this point are not that flattering; a post for another day).

High school is like war. I don’t mean that in some overwrought, My So-Called Life, teen angsty sort of way. What I mean is that during your childhood, your situation is something you have no power to change, and this becomes increasingly intolerable as you develop towards adulthood. You might as well be stuck in the trenches. And all the people around you are stuck there just the same. And if you live in a small town—especially if you live in a small town—there is a 90% chance you loathe everything about your situation. You look on adults as enemies and your hometown as a place you can’t wait to leave. All you have are your compatriots, your comrades-in-arms, your friends. And you are all counting the days until you get your discharge papers.

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In the spring of 2003, I was having a rough time. I’d just been soundly rejected from every grad school I’d applied to.* My plan for the future – or at least the next year – had just collapsed. My ego, long connected to my academic performance, had been completely crushed, my whole sense of self brought into question. I didn’t know what to do next. So that spring, I had some ups and downs. I agonized over grad school, and then I went to a conference and hung out with some great people and started to see that it wasn’t the end of the world. I had an enormous, humiliating anxiety attack in front of my boss, and then I went on my first adult vacation, to NYC, and it was fantastic.

I came home from New York much improved, smoking less and no longer feeling the need to take daily work breaks and head over to the park to swing.** I was back on track. Until five days later, when I had a seizure while sitting at my desk.

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