It is all connected.
At first, you don’t see it, and the hurt seems so senseless. How many times have you broken down behind the wheel of your car, unable to go home? You asked yourself, then, why this was happening. Why do I feel this way?
I go to the gym to try and cause myself pain in a way that means progress — but my mind won’t quiet. I push harder and only barely stave off falling under that thing again, that inky black soup that turns my head into white noise.
It starts here: in the dining room, heaving furniture miraculously up the narrow, tall staircase of the Victorian home. It starts with “I know it will be hard, but I can handle it.” It starts with the first day of training, breaking down in tears in front of everyone.
I was brave.
I came somewhere new, again.
Lately, I can’t stop thinking of my mother’s friend in Arizona, the one who was a space of comfort during my first year in Phoenix, who died a month before she planned to attend my graduation. I don’t know why she won’t leave my mind. Her house was so cool in the mornings, and I remember sitting under the shaking fan on the covered patio, watching the quail and jackrabbit in the backyard.
I can’t stop thinking about work: the girl who follows me around at the end of the school day, the boy who promised to mail me a live squid when he visits China (someday). The teacher who said, “If you need time off, ask for it. You can’t let a job destroy your mental health.”
But I’m okay. It’s not this–this job, you know, it’s not the thing. It’s something else, it’s the weight of something else. It’s not this job.
But it’s all connected.
When I go home, my roommate and I make dinner. We talk and wash the dishes together. We watch television. Sometimes I go to the gym. I go to dance class. I visit the library. I go to sleep at 10:30, unless I have put off something important.
This is not right: the world should not take on this dimension — or rather, this dimensionlessness. This “is this it?”-ness. I know what it means to lose interest in the things you love to do.
I am lucky. I have friends (three, four on a good day). I have people to see and places to talk to. I have students who promise to mail me cephalopods. They talk to me at the school dances and ask if I will eat lunch with them.
But it is 9 p.m. and I am alone in this three-bedroom house. In the gym I could not get my brain to quiet. It tells me stories I know are lies. I am not sure how to silence them.
I stayed at my mother’s friend’s house before college. When I visited the school, I slept on the couch with her two geriatric dogs. I miss her, but I am not sure what I am missing, or why it hurts so much now, almost a year since she has been gone.
Sometimes, my days at school are lonely. Sometimes, it feels like the whole world is against me. There are days when every single person at the school is off, and you can feel it, the cloud humming in the air — and it turns out it is not just my school but others too, and maybe all of this town, this town that is haunted by something with deep, historic roots, something that started in the steel mills and still lives in the downtown buildings.
Living on the empty force of my convictions alone is not always enough. This work wears you down. Some days, it is not enough to bring all the verve and quirkiness and love I can muster. Some days, I cannot muster. It’s not this job, I say to myself. It’s just how much it hurts to feel alone.
My mother’s friend lived in Sun City, Arizona. Now my friends laugh at me when I tell them I stayed there and that I like it. It is a community primarily made up of wealthy retirees. But the air was still cool as the sun was coming up, and it was so quiet and still, and you could just see the jackrabbit perched behind the big rock in the backyard. It was peaceful there.