Full disclosure: I am writing this piece on the floor of my parents’ living room, laying in front of the roaring fire. I’m cold, both literally and figuratively. Everyone is saying this is the warmest December New England has ever seen. But, I have spent the last week wearing my winter hat and jacket in the house because this is nothing like the warmth of Florida that my body had gotten used to over the course of the past three months.
Symbolically, my soul is frozen. It has been a little over a week now since I left Florida and an internship that was so much more than forty hours of work a week: it was a dream come true. I have everything my heart could ever want sitting in front of this fire, but I’m feeling empty.
Where it all began…
If you knew me when I was 18 years old, you would have thought I would not have made it to my 19th birthday. Severe depression and anxiety greeted me and I lost all desire. Through mindlessly sitting at my computer for hours at a time my freshman year of college, I came across an organization that gave me a sense of hope. I remember looking at my computer screen, slowly losing my life and promising myself that I would one day intern for them.
Five years and a hell of a recovery journey later, I am proud to say that I just spent the last three-and-a-half months with this organization. I learned, I loved, I laughed, and every agonizing minute that brought me to that beach town in Florida was worth it.
Transitioning from an experience that will forever have an influence on who I am to feeling so lost and trying to navigate life from my parents’ living room has been much more difficult than I was predicting. When I walked back into my house for the first time, I felt an overwhelming sense of discomfort and insecurity. I grew up in this house, but don’t feel as though I belong here. It’s interesting, to say the least, to feel like a stranger in your own home and town.
But I had a plan.
When I graduated college a year and a half ago, I had a plan. I knew I was going to spend a year in a post-graduate service program and that security eased my anxiety immensely. Sure, I thought about what life would look like after my service year but I received my degree on graduation day feeling fulfilled and confident because I knew what was coming next.
Mid-way through my service year, anxiety returned as I began to figure out what to do after my term of service ended. I had a few options but wasn’t sure what path to head down. Would I move back home and try to find a job? Would I partake in another service opportunity? Would I finally apply for the internship that I have been wanting to do for years?
I am a planner.
Ever since I graduated high school, I always knew what was coming next. I didn’t let myself “go with the flow” because I cannot imagine a life where the next step is not already well-thought out and determined. My anxiety and depression is at its worst when I don’t feel as though my life is figured out.
It’s in the weeks leading up to, and directly following, transitory periods in my life where staying in bed and ruminating on the negative seems to be my go-to. I can’t shake the feeling of complete and utter inadequacy if I don’t know what’s coming next.
I decided to apply for the internship for my next step after the year of service. It rarely hurts to try something new, and I didn’t feel as though my soul would be okay without knowing if I could get into the internship program.
I poured my all into the application and got accepted. When I got the email stating my fate, I thought of my depressed 18 year-old self. My eyes filled with tears as I finally realized why I held on to my life, when I so badly wanted to give in to my pain.
What happens next?
I started this piece confused, distraught, and overwhelmed on the floor in front of the fire. My phone just rang and lit up with a number I did not recognize. I nervously answered and excitement quickly overcame me. I just accepted my first full-time job offer. I will be doing something that ignites the passion in my soul and spreads love to humanity, which is all I ever want to do in this life.
If 18 year-old Mae knew what 23 year old Mae has done, and is doing, she would be shocked.
I’m going to take these last few weeks of discomfort as a lesson in patience and trusting the process. You never know how your experiences are going to lead you to your next adventure. Take the risk. You’ll end up where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to be there. There is nothing wrong with weeping on your parents’ living room floor for a while to figure things out.