I got lost on my run today. I guess that’s what I get for turning down a random path I found in the woods (it was well-marked parents, don’t worry). I ended up on some road and had no idea how to get home but I got there eventually. Here’s the thing about getting lost: sometimes it’s fun. If you have the time and no place to be (and it’s not a hot July day), then it’s pretty nice actually. It’s not so much getting lost as it is wandering and just wandering can be good. It can be refreshing. You almost always learn something new after. But sometimes, if you’ve been in the car for hours or you’re hungry or tired or driving or running or moving, it is exhausting. You just want to get to the end point and you just can’t get there. It is the best feeling when things start to make sense again, you recognize where you’re going and you know you’re close.
I have been lost for quite some time in an abstract, metaphysical kinda way. For the majority of the last four years, perhaps longer, I have been lost. I was riddled by uncertainty and insecurity, a recipe for disaster. I felt like I just couldn’t get to where I wanted to be. College is supposedly the best time of our lives, but it wasn’t for me and I’m not ashamed to say it. To be clear, I don’t regret my college choice. I have only the best things to say about URI and I love the people I met there. It’s not about where I was because I think it would have happened anywhere.
If you were privy to the inner workings of my life the last few years (bless those who were), you know that it’s been more than a little bit rough for me. I’ve struggled a lot. I had some good times in college of course but I also had some really bad times. I went down roads that I hope to never go down again. I spent days where I was so stuck in my own head and so very uncomfortable with myself that all I could do was cry. I never fit the typical college kid profile. I have no desire to drink until I can’t see anymore or have sex with strangers or spend days hungover talking about what a great night it was. I didn’t skip classes. I got a stomachache every time I went out to a party or to the bar. It just didn’t appeal to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some of these stereotypical college kid experiences. I’ve done the college kid thing. I’ve drank more than I should have, I’ve crashed house parties, I’ve worn the short skirts and put too much make up on. It’s not that I never tried it. I did and sometimes it was fun, but mostly it was just okay. It wasn’t me and it never was something I was excited to do. All of freshmen year and even sometimes beyond that, I dreaded the weekends because I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing but I wasn’t comfortable enough with myself to do what I really wanted to do.
I’ve had this really awful habit almost my whole life of comparing myself to other people. What they’re doing, what they look like, what they like and care about. All during college, people were more interested in what other people were wearing than what they were saying. They wanted to talk about plans for the weekend and I wanted to talk about plans for the future of the world, essentially. I wanted to talk about life and it was hard for me to find college kids who really want to sit down and talk about life and politics and saving the Earth and why we’re even here on this planet, which is what I think about. Of course, I understand that this isn’t what most college kids want to think about. There are very few years in our lives where it’s socially acceptable to wake up drunk and to stay up all night and to experiment with activities that may not exactly be legal. I get that. And I’m good with that. I’m not judging this lifestyle even a little bit. If it makes you happy, I wholeheartedly encourage it. But it didn’t make me happy and I didn’t enjoy it, not really. It felt like a chore.
I realize this makes me sound like the least exciting person ever and that’s okay with me. I’ve fully accepted my role as an 80-year-old woman in a (almost) 22-year-old body. I’m okay with this. But it took a VERY long time for me to be okay with this. I think I pretended for far too long that I enjoyed being a partying, fun college student. So much so that by the time I graduated, I was over it. I spent the last semester of college going out very seldom, and normally spending Friday nights on the couch with a glass of wine with two of my roommates. Honestly, that was better than any bar/party experience I had ever had. I realize this would bore some people to tears but it did the three of us just fine.
The habit of comparing myself to others is a habit I am finally, finally starting to grow out of. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else is doing. If they want to do the same things as I do, that’s okay. If they don’t, that’s fine too. My body is my own and it doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s (it took me extra long to learn that lesson). I have an unnatural love of Fleetwood Mac and Simon and Garfunkel. I genuinely enjoy NPR. I just spent $25 on a drill so I can make my own compost bin but I would hardly ever spend $25 on an item of clothing. I asked for a book on fermentation for my birthday. I am a tree-hugging, nature-loving, liberal feminist who is compassionate to the world. I like reading and writing and sitting and being. That’s just who I am.
I was lost during college. I felt like I just kept moving, I wanted to slow down, I wanted to get there. I wanted to be the person I wanted to be and because I was surrounded by people who were different, I didn’t trust who I wanted to be. I didn’t trust my thoughts or my opinions, I didn’t really feel like they counted. I don’t feel that way anymore. I picked up from college, plopped myself down in the middle of New Hampshire and I’m doing just fine. I spend my days at the internship and my nights doing work for it but it’s things that I care about it and I don’t view it as a chore (unless I’m grumpy and tired). I’m surrounded nature and people who care about the same things as I do. I voice my opinions and I’m not riddled by anxiety about whether people feel the same way or agree.
It’s a very strange thing when you’ve been lost for a long time and things start to make sense again. It’s an even stranger thing when your life starts to make sense again. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so comfortable being myself. It’s been so long that I actually question when the last time I was so completely comfortable was. That makes me sad. It makes me feel like I missed out on what could have been really fun years. But it was a journey and like my dad told me yesterday, “it’s not where you’ve been it’s where you are.” And where I am now is really, really good. If I hadn’t spent the last few years lost, I would never have gotten to know myself so well. I think that it’s something I had to go through and though I would never want to do it again and I hope I never do, I’m glad I did. I came out on the other side better than I was when I went into it.
I’m glad that I know myself as well as I do and to be honest, I’m really freaking proud of myself to have gotten to this point. In all fairness, I did not do this on my own. I couldn’t have gotten here without my friends and family, whether they knew they were helping or not. And to be completely honest, I don’t think I would have gotten here without a few years with a good therapist. To be even vaguely comfortable in your own skin is a very new concept for me. It makes me realize how very uncomfortable I’ve been these last few years. I’m not done with the whole journey yet and I know that. Of course, there are still the unwelcome and unexpected self-hate thoughts that pop in sometimes. But I’m getting better at slamming the door in their face and that’s a pretty incredible feeling.
Oh, the thoughts you have when you get lost on a run.