I’ve been trying to write this blogpost for the past week, but every time I try to, I inevitably break down, get overwhelmed, and stop. But I know this will only keep bothering me until I get it out, so I’m going to do it anyway.
In recent weeks, I’ve realized that I’ve been running. I run from the shitty things I did in high school. I run from the mistakes I made at the beginning of my freshmen fall. I run from the people I left behind to avoid their judgmental gazes. I’ve been running and running and running, eyes set on the shining lighthouse that was MIT, and I stayed here for a long, long time. I thought I could drop the things that happened in the past and be born again in this new world, shedding away the high school persona that I once knew and assembling something new. Assuming a new identity, almost hiding in plain sight with every costume I put on. But every flight home was a stutter in the movie, a break in the fantasy. Being surrounded by familiar California blue skies and those ever-so-characteristic Anaheim buildings made me very desperately just want to go back to campus and embrace the life I had carefully crafted at MIT. A life where I was somebody who did good. Where I was an admissions blogger that helped aspiring MIT students learned about MIT. Where I was a friend to the incoming frosh, giving anything and everything I could so they could keep their head above water at MIT. Here, I was someone better than what was chasing me, or what was lingering in California.
But sometimes the past catches up with us. I start thinking about the bad that I’ve done, the friendships and relationships I’ve lost with time. There comes a point where you stop thinking other people are the problem and, instead, start thinking it’s you. At the end of the day, you are the common thread in all of these failed relationships.
And maybe, in reality, it is you.
It’s you who’s been fucking it all up. It’s you who has pushed them away. It’s you who made them leave. And you throw your hissy-fits and pity parties about being abandoned, even if the only one you can really blame is yourself. And when when you’re done throwing your tantrums and crying and cursing the very ground you stand on, you pick yourself up. And you dismiss it completely and continue to entertain the fantasy you are now living. It is good.
But that doesn’t stop the guilt that’s planted a seed in the pits of your stomach. And so you start to overcompensate for that guilt you feel, that dread that now grows there because you did a bad thing. I naively thought that, at MIT, I could make up for my past by being just undeniably and overwhelmingly good. I give expensive gifts to friends and significant others. I offer resources and connections to frosh who ask. I overextend myself to show that I am good, almost as if to scream “I’ve done bad, but I can give good, and this will atone for my mistakes.” It’s a learned habit, something taught to me by my dad, as he filled empty conversations and awkward silences with extravagant gifts — the latest technologies, a credit card swipe at the drop of a hat, new shoes, clothes, makeup, the world. This can only get you so far before your past inevitably catches up with you.
“You can run, but you can’t hide.”
I’ve been having conversations with old ghosts, skeletons I thought I had cleaned out, but really, I just stored for later. They’ve been lingering in the caverns for a while now, guilt gnawing away like rodents at the strings that held it all together. Finally, those strings have snapped. I have broken the radio silence. People I thought I’d never speak to again are suddenly re-entering my life, and I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing.
I’ve been exploring the concept of closure. My mom told me it’s not real. I don’t think it is either, but my brain seems to still demand it. I have a lot of loose ends, frayed shoelace ends with missing aglets that I still happen to trip on every now and then. I thought I could ignore them like my mom tells me, but all I can do is keep picking at the cotton, pulling and pulling until there’s nothing left.
I go down these rabbit holes where I return to the past, entryways found in old Snapchat memories and text conversations and, more recently, Spotify playlists, as I browsed their profiles and the colorful covers against the dark background. I read the descriptions and I couldn’t help but feel an ache in my chest. Envy? Loneliness? I’m unsure still. Probably a mix of both.
Throughout my time at MIT, I’ve gotten to meet my MIT friends’ friends from high school. “He’s been my best friend since we were kids.” “I’ve known him since second grade.” “She and I went to the same middle school and high school and we’re still friends to this day.” With every person I met, I felt a pit grow. Jealousy sat heavy in my stomach. Envy thick in my throat. Shame hot on my face.
And that’s when we return to this idea of “maybe it’s me.” Maybe it’s me, the common thread. Maybe it’s me, the reason I can’t keep friends for longer than a couple of years. Maybe it’s me, the reason I inevitably fuck up good relationships. Maybe it’s me, the reason my friends at MIT will stop being friends with me eventually.
My ex boyfriend of a year and a half recently messaged me again, after I stupidly slipped up and tried to add him as a friend again on social media before I panic blocked, thinking it would get rid of the notification. It didn’t, and so we talked. It’s been nine months since we’ve last talked and while the conversation wasn’t bad, I felt nauseous afterwards. I sometimes forget how much of yourself stays with the people you form relationships with, like sickly sweet candy messily splayed across the hand: you try and get rid of it, but it’s hard to rub off. Talking to him made me realize how much of myself I had given to him, how much he remembered, and there was part of me that wishes that he didn’t. He referenced a high school Cami, a version of myself I never want to remember again because I was bad, and I did bad, and I felt bad. And at MIT, I thought that version was deleted. But I’ve learned that they’re never really deleted, they just live on in other people.
So this then proposed the question: Where do I go from here? And frankly, I don’t know. Talking to my ex made me spiral into a whole deep dive into my past. I browsed the social media profiles of my ex best friends from high school and cried because I will never have those long-lasting high school friendships that my MIT friends do, and I never will. My boyfriend’s own ex recently reached out to him and it felt like my whole world was crashing down once again because everyone’s past seemed to follow them for better or for worse and I so desperately wanted to run towards the future. I started to feel like a fraud. I remembered all the high schoolers who sent me these long emails about how they looked up to me, how frosh would message me and tell me that my blogposts helped them apply to MIT, how they admired my honesty on the blogs. And now I couldn’t help but feeling like I failed them somehow because here I was, cowering from the past and pretending it didn’t exist. I don’t know.
In an effort to clear my head, I took a trip to Shenandoah National Park. I thought this would help me escape everything that’s been happening. I thought that maybe if I just hiked my cares away, immersed myself in nature, surrounded myself in a world where the past could not touch me, then I would be okay.
And it worked, for a little.
I was in love with Shenandoah. I loved the greenery. I loved the fresh air. I loved the running water. I loved how I could sit in here, sit in all of this, and forget that we were living in a fucking pandemic and that I had no high school friends I could really call friends and that my ex boyfriend was making me feel like a shit person all over again.
“You can run, but you can’t hide.”
But then I got some news about certain health issues of someone close to me. And almost fittingly, I couldn’t focus. I tried to go on our second hike. I tripped. I twisted my ankle. It hurts. I should probably stop hiking and tell them I can’t go on anymore. But then this means I break the fantasy. This means I have to go back home and go back to the problems I have back at home, in the real world, in the world where the past can touch me. And so I pick myself back up again and I continue to entertain this fantasy.
But this can only get you so far. This can’t stop the dread that pools in your stomach. And inevitably, I fall again. And I twist it even harder. And it sprains. I no longer have a choice. I must turn around. I must get in the car. I must go home into the clutches of the past and I’m once again eye to eye with the very thing I wanted to escape.
I find it really funny how everything worked out like this, how even when I try to physically hide away from my problems, I ultimately can’t. Now, I sit here with an elevated, iced, and swollen ankle. I have no choice but to sit here bedridden, staring at my laptop, filled with messages from the people of the past, and deal with it. Because I really think that’s what I’ve needed to do this entire time. I need to come to terms with what’s happened. I did shitty things. I will do shitty things. But I will learn from these mistakes and I hope, god I just fucking hope, that these painful reminders are not all for nothing. That I will come out better for it. That there is something better that comes from this.
“You can run, but you can’t hide.”
here’s the playlist i listened to while i wrote this ! i promise im okay, just very contemplative at the moment. i think deep deep down, i know i’m a good person. i just am ashamed of a lot of the decisions i made socially.
i think mit can be a fresh start. in fact, mit is anything you want it to be. i am extremely appreciative to be given such important and large positions and platforms here at mit. from class council vp to an associate advisor to a fucking admissions blogger. but, simultaneously, i think it’s important to not forget where you come from. by not forgetting, i don’t repeat these mistakes. i am so terrified of losing my friends again, words can’t even describe the fear i feel. i remember how hard it was being alone in my senior year of high school. i don’t want to repeat that. and so i will remember. and i will learn from that year. and i will do better in these next years because these are friends i want to keep. they are good ones.
simultaneously, in these past days, i’ve learned the importance of the phrase ‘your past does not define you.’ in this blog post, i think i put a lot of blame on myself for the things i’ve done before. but i am not my past self. i am no longer the sad high schooler i was. i am no longer the shitty s/o i was. i am no longer the friend who was left behind in senior year. i get to be whoeever i want to be. i realize i can’t dwell on the mistakes i’ve made or let them control me. instead, they’re simply learning experiences. it’s easier said than done to switch into this mindset. i am slowly trying to do this, and i think i’m getting there. i am learning to forgive myself for the past, i am starting to separate past me from now me and future me. and really, thats the most important first step.
thank u for reading this brain dump. i appreciate it.