For a long time, I was restless with where I was in life. So much of it felt like a waiting game. Waiting to go to college, waiting to find someone to spend my life with, waiting for a job….it felt like I was in the lobby of life. If only something would happen, something exciting, something significant.
The thing with always waiting is that there is always something to wait for. When I focused on the waiting, that was all I was ever doing. When I started counseling again last year, a big part of it was learning to set goals.
My therapists in the past were never goal-driven, it was more about exploring feelings and explaining why I thought about certain things the way I did. It got exhausting. I was rehashing my past over and over again and there was no way out. I had one counselor in high school who was a listener, not a talker, so I felt pressured to just talk the whole time. It was helpful for a while, I was able to unearth what I thought myself and the world around me, but I’ve always been very self-aware, so I started wishing she would just tell me how to change what I thought. My counselor my firsts year of college was better, she provided more insights of her own. The depression was really bad that year, I was involved in a lot of dramatic and intense spiritual activities, and my medication was erratic, so we focused mostly on keeping me from having night terrors and being terrified of boys. When I left for Macalester, I had to leave that counselor behind. My next counselor I only saw for a few months. I stopped seeing her when I tried to talk through my confusion about my sexuality and I felt like she was arguing with me. When I decided to go back into counseling and start afresh with someone new, I knew I had to have goals.
Therapy is not supposed to go on forever. It is not only expensive, but it is ineffective if you have to keep going back to the same person over and over again for the same problems. And I mean consistent counseling. Clearly, some of us will just need to check in with a therapist once and while to get back on track, but one session per week therapy should not go on for years at a time. I was going to have to set goals.
I’ve always had big dreams. When I was a little kid, I asked my parents what the first day of college would be like. I had dreams about being a pop singer in 5th grade. I wanted to be a mermaid when I was thirteen. I wanted to be marine biologist. I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to be a writer. For me, it is easy to be motivated about the big stuff, the important stuff. It has always been the ordinary things that brought me down.
When I started counseling last year, my goals were simple:
Go to the grocery store alone.
Get dressed everyday.
Do the laundry.
I was terrified of leaving the apartment. I had this constant anxiety and fear of meeting people and being seen. I wasn’t afraid that they would hurt me. Just being looked at was enough to make my skin feel hot and my eyes dry out. It was like other people could see through my outside and read my mind, see all my fears, all my failures. I was terrified of looking stupid. Being told I was beautiful by Chris and my therapist even made me nervous, because it meant that other people would think that too, and my appearance would draw their attention to me and then I would be exposed. I just wanted to be invisible.
I didn’t care about achieving the big dreams anymore. I just wanted to be able to walk down three flights of stairs to do laundry.
I can do that now. Over the past year, I’ve been freed from my agoraphobia and go the store once every two weeks, do laundry, and even drive myself to places I’ve never been to before. Doing the ordinary things used to mean very little to me. Ordinary things are the bare minimum, the expected, the “easy” things in life. Everyone can do those.
Hitting rock bottom told me that is not true. I found victory in walking up and down three flights of stairs with a basket of warm laundry. I can appreciate the elegance of pumping my own gas for the car and going to the grocery store. Embracing the ordinary has helped calm my restless spirit and brought me from my fantasy land to the real world, where anything can be hard and everything is significant.