BY MALLORY GOTHELF
So where does my journey begin? Where does anyone’s journey really begin? Does it begin the day we are born? Are we somehow born with an innate understanding, that in the very moment we grace the world with our presence, we have suddenly entered a place full of trial and tribulations? Is that why a baby screams and cries? Or maybe our journey begins when we start interacting with the world around us. We then learn that some people don’t have our best interests at heart and monsters are just the demons in our minds, rather than under our beds. That is all just speculation though. I’m much more interested in the journey itself than the starting place.
My favorite quote in the world used to be a Green Day quote, “It’s something unpredictable but in the end it’s right, I hope you had the time of your life,” And while the actual song still holds meaning in my life (don’t judge, I’m a 90s baby), the quote no longer carries such weight. It lost its luster because it sounds as if it is signifying some kind of end. But I feel like my life is just beginning. And yes, my world as I knew it has indeed reached its end. I lost my innocence and blissful ignorance about the way the world works long ago, and I have bore witness to my fair share of horrific situations, but I consider this more as my rebirth rather than my death.
It took me quite a while to get to this point. This process of realization took much longer than I or anybody else expected. If I were to put a time frame on the length of this process I would say it took well over a decade. And I’ve only lived two of them. This must speak to the fact that I like to take my time with progress, or maybe it just attests to the idea that I really suck at it.
I think the problem is I’ve spent so much of my time and effort building myself up to be this person that I thought I needed to be. I thought I had to attain perfection to ensure that the people in my life would love me. But the more I worked to achieve that unattainable goal, the less I enjoyed living life, the less people around me enjoyed my presence, and the less I even enjoyed my own company. Sitting with myself was unpleasant, almost unbearable because I constantly felt guilty.
I felt guilty that I couldn’t stop eating at nine years old to get rid of the weight that shamed me. I felt guilty that I didn’t say I love you to my Nonnie, the most loving woman I had ever met, one last time before she died. I felt guilty that I couldn’t do things in the “correct way,” even tasks that had no real right or wrong, like washing my hands or praying. I felt guilty that I could have possibly stopped the man who grabbed me on the street, if only I had tried to make a move to run or attempted to yell for help. And I felt guilty that I was alive and wanted to be dead, while there were terminally ill patients who would do anything to have the life I was wasting.
Letting the negativity burn
I was willing to try anything to mask the never-ending guilt. Anything to make the noise of my thoughts shut up for two seconds so I could find a way out. But the more I tried to focus on picking out my individual flaws and attempting a complete overhaul of who I was as a person, the more I realized I really needed to let it go. I had to repeat variations of the same phrase over and over again in my head. I still have to do it. They come in the form of, I am NOT perfect. I will NEVER be perfect. Perfection is unattainable and I need to let go of my never-ending quest for it.
And as I sit here writing this, I no longer feel uncomfortable saying those statements, not even slightly. I want to be happy, not perfect. I want to feel emotions and their intensity, however messy they may be, not move through life in a monotonous pattern. I want to sleep outdoors, decorate dark alleys with beautiful art, sit around bonfires with the people I love, sing loudly (and off-key) in the car and shower, dance in public, and feel love course through my body. I want to follow the stars rather than a Northeastern degree audit when trying to figure out my life.
Frankly, I’ve never beat to the drum society put in front of me. Instead, I chose to play guitar. I don’t want to live with standards and measurements unless they are standards for my personal happiness and they are measured in the number of times I laugh so hard my stomach hurts, the number of meals I truly enjoy without worrying about caloric content, the number of occasions I get to live carefree with my family and friends, and the number of times I can say the word infinite and really feel its power.
My powerful reminders that I carry with me each and every day.
There will be days when all of this will be thrown out the window and I’ll be sobbing on the floor ready to take my own life. That’s unfortunately the harsh reality when your brain is sick. But those nights, the nights I loathe and despise, are the ones I learn most about the meaning of life.
For instance, I’ve recently learned that there are some beautiful people who will drop everything to take care of you who are close by, from a different state, or even from across the country. I’ve learned that my nephew being captured on video saying “I love you mowry” will make it impossible to want to miss out on all the love he inevitably will bring this world. And I’ve learned that if you can find someone to help you get through those miserable hours, then you must hold them close and stop giving them hell for the mistakes of people in your past.
Life is ugly and beautiful, life is chaotic and peaceful, life makes absolutely no sense and then fits together perfectly. Life truly is the original oxymoron, but I know I fit inside of it someway and somehow. And holding that knowledge right there, that’s why I choose to fight another day. Depression or not here I come… back to reclaim what’s rightfully mine – my life.
Mallory Gothelf is a senior at Northeastern University pursuing a degree in psychology. She aspires to run an alternative treatment facility and speak publicly about issues regarding mental illness.