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baby steps by Mel N. '24

something tender and new

campus feels alive again. frosh spilling into dorms, catching up with hallmates in the lounges, the ec rush playlist blasting in the courtyard, texting people if they want to get lunch or go grocery shopping once they’ve settled into their rooms — it’s like i’ve been stirred from a hazy slumber, blinking away the wisps of my dreams as i touch down on earth.

“what did you do this summer?”

i spent these three months on a languid journey of self-discovery, mostly. i did a lot of cooking, a lot of romanticizing, a lot of reading01 my list: all about love by bell hooks, crying in hmart by michelle zauner, detransition, baby by torrey peters, stone butch blues by leslie feinberg , and a lot of reflecting.

i picked up journaling again. i’ve had the same le petit prince moleskine notebook since the beginning of junior year of high school, and now, going into my junior year of college, i’m almost done.

it took me long enough. four years is a lot of time to change a person; reading my entries from august 2018, i can’t help but cringe at the unnecessarily harsh ways i interacted with the world. i think it’s borne from the wild confusion of being 16 years old, bemoaning perceived injustices to me everywhere and lashing out to try and blame it all on something, anything — but at 20, i’ve learned that staying kind is far more productive to myself in the long run.

i started reading ask polly articles and subscribed to the author’s substack. i like her approach to things. i like her emphasis on self-respect, boundaries, patience, and most of all, the importance of vulnerability.

because as we’ve all heard by now, being vulnerable doesn’t make you weak. it makes you stronger. sometimes, this sounds like a canned statement, but it couldn’t ring truer for me. i wallowed for much of sophomore year, hardening my shell and building my walls up because it dulled the pain, but choosing to take a leap of faith and open my heart again ended up being one of the most healing decisions i’ve ever made.

i asked my therapist if we could switch to weekly sessions for the summer, and i think that has been very helpful for me. it turns out that being honest with your therapist actually helps you solve problems, which is crazy.

being honest with yourself, too. i’d say i’m a very self-aware sort of person, where i tend to know exactly what’s wrong with me. but knowing things is different from feeling my emotions and it’s very different from processing and solving problems.

it’s like — i can journal all i want about what i’m feeling and how that makes me a flawed person or whatever, but if i don’t take any steps to change that, even in a small way, then i’ll be stuck.

and so i’ve started taking baby steps. i’ve sent out urop emails so i can find a place before the direct funding deadline, and i’ve been lucky with the responses i’ve gotten. i applied to a student group i’ve always admired, and during the interview they somehow ended up taking me to the new mccormick basement gym and i showed them my dorm and my cat. (i think it went well.)

i’ve started consistently going to the gym for the first time. before, i was nervous about it because i had no idea how to use any of the equipment or what to do and i also hated the idea of anyone watching me work out because then they’d have to watch me be confused and not immediately perfect at everything. but apparently the trick is finding a gym buddy. i’ve been going with chris, who actually works out regularly, and it’s nice to have someone who will be patient and encouraging with me when i am not always patient and encouraging with myself.

and finally, i was paralyzed by the prospect of internships and interviews and updating my resume, but i’m so grateful to have people in my life who have offered me referrals and to edit my stuff and to read over my emails. sometimes all it takes is asking for help. and now, rather than being filled with fear, i’m actually kind of excited about the whole process.

i have a lot of hope for the fall. i feel like i’m in a much more stable place than the uncertainty that plagued me for most of last year. i’d even say that i’m happy. and of course my happiness scale varies from day to day, hour to hour, but i really do think that i am content with the way my life is right now.

i’m less lost than i was, which i’m proud of, and i hope that in the future i will become less lost than i am now, and i think that i will be okay.

  1. my list: all about love by bell hooks, crying in hmart by michelle zauner, detransition, baby by torrey peters, stone butch blues by leslie feinberg back to text