The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along…
I was in high school when that sunscreen song came out. You know, the Baz Luhrmann song that was actually a Chicago Tribune column by Mary Schmich but still got falsely attributed to a commencement speech that Kurt Vonnegut didn’t actually give at MIT?
Yeah, that one.
I’ve been thinking about it lately, as I’ve waded through working and living in a college town during commencement season, having never really left my alma mater. I hear snippets here and there of the bleak economic forecast for graduates, the speakers urging all those fresh young faces to buckle down and weather the storm.
But I think if I were speaking to a group of graduates–even better, if I were speaking to myself three years ago–I wouldn’t say anything about the economy, or hard work, or even sunscreen.
I would say You are not alone. And even if you are, you’re still in good company.
There are a lot of things no one tells you in college. They don’t tell you that heartbreak is a tangible, viscous thing, that it can leave a heavy film over every part of your life. They don’t tell you that sometimes luck is better than hard work. That sometimes you won’t be the best man for the job, and you’ll still get it, for reasons trivial or greatly unjust. They don’t tell you that some people become adults in a split second and others fumble blindly toward adulthood for the better part of their lives.
No one told me that I would keep struggling with depression and anxiety. I didn’t know that even when things seemed to be going their best I might try desperately to numb myself, or hurt myself, or fade into the background even as I seemed to be pleading for a spotlight.
And no one knew I would question happiness, constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. I got a job and lost a grandmother in the same week. In the face of such absurdity, sometimes alcohol looks like the best answer. No one told me about that, either.
I have a bad habit of not really looking people in the eye. I can usually get away with it, but every once in a while someone notices that my focus has gone a bit blurry. Why are we always looking past each other? If I took stock of my regular conversations I think I’d see the same problem–two people talking ostensibly to each other, but realistically at each other. Words sliding past without ever colliding or grabbing hold.
A post over at Feministe has me thinking a bit about the way I usually refuse to identify as someone with depression, someone depressed, because being able to knit an able body and sound mind into my identity is so important.
And why is it important? Because people who take those for granted are so eager to dismiss the rest of us.
It’s the little things, and the big things. It’s the people who wonder why you won’t just smile. It’s the little slurs and jokes, the things they didn’t mean that way, so why can’t you just lighten up? It’s when your friends can’t get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions–the very conditions they need health insurance to cover.
If I could talk to myself three, five, ten years ago, this is what I would say:
It’s going to get worse. It’s also going to get better. You’re stronger than you think you are. Your expectations are the only ones you have to live up to, but they’re going to be colored by other people’s and you probably won’t be able to change that. Your pain is real, and it will hurt more than you thought it could. But your happiness is real, too, and no one’s waiting in the wings to take it away from you.
You are not alone. And even if you are, you’re still in good company.