I am a month out from starting my first college classes and I’m feeling torn between this driving “bring it on!!!” feeling and “oh my gawd what am I getting myself in to.” But this time before I start is giving me space and time to deconstruct some of the ingrained ideologies I’ve had about college and shift my perspective. Going to college for the first time at 32 feels wrong to me, like I’m too late, and this is something to be ashamed of. Which the only thing I can pinpoint as to where those feelings are coming from is the ideas I grew up with that there’s a certain time frame for certain things and if you don’t follow that timeline, boohoo you’re too late.
Which, oh my god, is so not real! I spent 14 years healing myself and recovering from severe abuse and trauma and burnout, and oh, by the way, building my whole self from the ground up. It’s time to do the things I have always wanted to do, and now I’m going to get to do it. I remember the people who scoffed at my reasons for why going back to school in my 20s was a really really bad thing for me. I had some serious work to do, and going back to school would have only destroyed me further back then.
I still find myself reeling some days when I check-in with myself and there is no clamoring trauma or trigger demanding my attention. The peace inside and quiet is new and feels unexpected sometimes. I am both proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished and overcome, and also can tell my brain is already forgetting everything we went through. Well, forgetting wouldn’t be the correct term. It’s more like it’s been put away and my brain is not fixated on any of it anymore. I wrote a whole fucking book and it’s done. That’s it. I poured the past 10 plus years into those 350 pages and my brain and heart have let that history go. Those iterations of my story are completed.
However, I do believe that there will always be remnants of things that I have to circle back to and process new facets of wounds from my past. Just last week I had a conversation with someone I knew well about a decade ago, but due to others’ interfering, I lost touch for quite a few years. I addressed the old feelings I had towards her and we were able to talk through what had happened back then. The way the others involved had truly manipulated both of us became more obvious and only served to reinforce my disgust towards those other people. My conversation with my friend evolved in such a beautiful way as we both addressed feelings of abandonment towards each other, caused by outside influences. I felt like crying after I got off the phone because I hadn’t realized how powerful it would feel to shift that old pain and resolve it.
I have so much respect for my friend because I have been honored to bear witness to some of her hardest struggles and I can see the strength and courage it’s taken for her to get to where she is today. And I’m so grateful she’s still in my life. But that whole situation brought a few other things to the surface. One of those things was the difficulty I had switching between “winter” clothes and “summer” clothes and how my body is fitting clothes right now.
Wearing compressive leggings (hello poor circulation and veinous insufficiency) and sweaters feels safer to me than wearing shorts and tank tops. But add in my body’s inability to regulate my temperature and I HAVE to wear shorts and tank tops when it’s pushing 100 degrees outside. Truth be told though, it isn’t really the shift between feeling like my skin and body can be hidden behind sweaters and leggings to then being revealed with shorts and tanks. It is this weird feeling that I am an embarrassment because my body is curvy and that somewhere somehow I have let someone down by being squishy and having to find bigger shirts or shorts because my butt and hips are bigger than they were last year.
I have yet to figure out where that feeling of having let someone down by being more squishy comes from. Like who have I or am I letting down by being the size I am? Is it my ex-parents? I think it is, but I don’t hear their voice when that feeling comes up. I think part of this comes from an ingrained fatphobia I was taught from a very young age. The environment I grew up in didn’t allow for super curvy or squishy or fat bodies. Between the shaming my parents regularly did of me and my other sisters, and the fact that my body was so sick, my body stayed thin and very sick during my teens. Add in the horrifying dysphoria from unknown sexual abuse, and my body was so disconnected from my brain space that I only ever noticed when things from really really icky on my skin.
I think the image in my head of what my body is “supposed” to look like is weirdly taller than I actually am, completely differently shaped, and the dissonance between that mental image and what I see in pictures or reflections of myself is beyond trippy. When I went to Oregon at the beginning of the month, my bestie took some video of me walking around the beach specifically for TikToks about my book. I’ve gone back and looked at the videos and tried to reconcile the me in those videos with the image in my head.
Okay for real though, I have been actively working on that image in my head of what I actually look like. I have been fighting against that ingrained fatphobia and dysphoria for years trying to shift that image. I think I’m almost there in terms of the image in my head matching my outside physical appearance. I am short, and I see that in my head now. I am curvy and my profile is always going to be squishy and fat and from what I can tell I actually like my proportions. I am slowly and intentionally and respectfully approaching my body and the way it feels as we transition into summer weather and clothes.
One of the things that has helped my brain body connection shift towards a more healthy connection has been seeing pictures of myself from 4 years ago and feeling so sad seeing how sick I was then. I can see it in the hollows under my eyes and the grief pulled tight around my mouth and jaw. I can see the torment in my eyes, and even though that was when I was last a lot smaller than I am now, I was so so so sick. I had no idea how thin I was then, but I knew I was really sick. As my body has healed and I have come back to life, my face looks happy and content, my skin is so much less reactive and my insides no longer feel like they’re dying. While part of me wishes I could be that size again, a much bigger part of myself is very relieved to be where I am now. And I’m grateful for being able to find clothing that feels good on my body and in the mirror.
I have chosen to order some products for the summer that will add some shimmer and protection to my revealed skin this summer and I’m actually really excited about it! I want to continue the feeling good in my own skin and feeling confident taking up space in this world. I am more present and whole than I have ever been. I know this in part has been because of my own work, but also because of the two felines that exist in my life, and the fact that I have actively been grounding myself with artwork being etched into my skin. The next tattoo is scheduled for the beginning of next month and I will be shifting to a part of my body that has always been difficult for me to accept. I’m excited because I know once the ink is in my skin, the more comfortable I will be revealing that part of my body and showing it off.
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