“Every year is the same, and I feel it again: I’m a loser, no chance to win…”
– “I’m One,” The Who
The past month has been interesting. I’ve thrown myself wholeheartedly into this venture and jumped WAY outside my comfort zone, in ways that I never would have imagined even 90 days ago. I haven’t tried this hard for anything since college, and even then I wasn’t as focused or motivated as I am now. Part of it back then was my mother’s unexpected and untimely death right before I began my sophomore year, but I didn’t do much to help myself or my illness in the 28 months from her passing to my leaving Tufts on personal leave.
There’s a lot of things I’m embarrassed by in my life. Actions and events and outcomes from my past that I couldn’t be less proud of, which makes me similar to every person who’s ever lived. These used to weigh me down like an anchor, relentlessly drowning me in self pity as I couldn’t resolve that negative contemplation, and truth be told they still do sometimes. But I’ve also done well to live with no regrets, a mindset I’d adopted after my father’s unexpected and untimely death three years ago (when a car swerved over a double yellow line and hit him on his motorcycle head on; good times with tragic parent deaths!). You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it and do your damnedest to avoid the same pitfalls.
Even so, certain things have haunted me despite my drive to live life for the now and focus on the future. Not finishing college and, at this point, essentially being a college dropout is a shitty feeling. There are legitimate reasons and rationale for how everything ended up the way it did, the largest being my inability to deal with my grief over my mother’s death AND how that increased the already present depression and anxiety I’d never acknowledged. But I wasn’t a little kid, and I DID have resources at my disposal to assist with an indescribably difficult process. It isn’t all that reasonable, and is inexcusable to a degree, that I let my issues snowball into an unavoidable mess.
Cause, really, everyone was incredibly understanding and accommodating after my mother died, presumably because they all knew what I couldn’t admit until years later: I had no business returning to school so soon after my mom’s death. I should have been at home, with my father and sister and rest of my support system nearby, dealing directly with an incomprehensible loss. But I stayed, because I was going to get RIGHT back to normal. I loved college (too much sometimes), and didn’t want to leave. I figured I was better off returning, heading back, getting immediately to what was expected because I was still here. My mother wouldn’t have wanted me to sit around being sad, so I did what I convinced myself I thought she’d be happy with.
I was a complete mess that fall (and really for the remainder of my time in college), and stayed in my dorm, genuinely, about 75% of the time. I was in constant communication with my football coaches and professors, since I was missing practices and classes all the time. And they were all SO nice about it, and SO helpful, and SO willing to work with me to ensure I made it through this process (at least in the beginning; funny how that accomodation fades as tragic events go further and further into the past). Things didn’t improve much the following spring or year, but they did at least level off somewhat as I went through my first successful phase of “faking it til you make it” and first foray on psych meds. By the time I was completing two summer classes before what should have been my senior year, I’d amassed an enormous amount of ‘W’s’ on my transcript. This didn’t worry me much, and that feeling was reinforced by several professors explaining that withdrawals could easily be dismissed if I finished my collegiate career strong. After those summer classes, I haven’t been enrolled in any college classes since. Within a year, I was obtaining my class B CDL permit and beginning a job as a truck driver/art handler, while all my friends and classmates were graduating with degrees from Tufts fucking University (go Jumbos!). I was not in a good place, and despite the fact I can’t change what happened and my insistence on looking forward, I’m STILL rather ashamed of not earning my college degree, particularly from the little-Ivy-League institution along the Medford/Somerville line.
And while it could have gone differently, it didn’t, and there’s no use in wasting any real emotional energy kicking myself. It might not have even mattered in the grand scheme given the path my life’s taken since then, and it’s entirely possible I’d still have taken the same twists and turns to get here. All I can do is use every piece of history in my life, good and bad (and there’s PLENTY of bad), from three plus decades and use it to take steps forward wisely. It’s easy to fall into the same traps over and over because, frankly, it’s hard to admit when you’ve failed whether you’re at fault or not (because some things are out of our control). But without admitting past mistakes and failures, you can’t learn and adapt from those past instances, and can’t truly navigate a path forward towards success, whatever that may be. It’s hard to admit you’ve failed because it’s hard to avoid conflating that with BEING a failure. But failing is inevitable, and you can’t be successful until you’re able to admit that uneasy reality. Until next time…