Do you ever have those moments where you slow down, really take stock of where you're at in your life and wonder 'How in the hell did I get here?.' It's not necessarily a bad thing, where you're at doesn't have to be a negative, but it's definitely not where you thought you would be.
Growing up in Scottsdale created certain expectations of what it meant to be a successful adult, a successful female adult. You go to college or a trade school, you get married, you buy a house, you have some kids, drive them around for 18 years, retire, and die. All the while maintaining perfect hair, a pinterest worthy closet, a flat stomach, the pretense that you actually enjoy eating salads every day, and the outside image that money 'aint no thang'. We're conditioned to believe from a pretty early age that if we don't somehow manage to attain and maintain all of those things that we're lacking. Did I mention that all of this is supposed to be well on it's way by the time we're 19?
It's some pretty serious bull shit really.
As a kid I was a spitfire. I was fearless, funny, and so incredibly brave. At the age of 4 I told my parents that when I grow up I'm going to be the Queen. By the age of 10 I was writing and circulating my own newspaper to my fourth grade class. My best piece was on how it's ok to have more than one best friend (I still stand by this, fuck anyone who says you can't have more than one best friend). At 12 my favorite movie was A Few Good Men, and the plan was to go to Yale Law School with the end goal of becoming a JAG lawyer in the navy and eventually the first female president. When I was 16 my cousin Meagan and I laid out a plan to create a magazine that would be Vogue meets National Geographic. We wanted to focus on relevant world news and issues while encompassing the beauty of photography and different aspects of the arts and fashion world. Pretty bad ass right?
I learned the guitar and went through the Taylor Swift phase of writing sappy teenager songs that are generic enough to apply to anyone in hopes of launching a folk/pop career. But the closer I got to college the less direction I had. How are you supposed to decide what you want to be, or more importantly who you want to be? I had always been strong, and I trusted that I'd be able to find direction. The only thing I knew for sure was that I needed to live in New York. The center and hub of all things glamorous and interesting, if I could get there I could do anything.
Then I fell in love, and from that point on everything changed. For the first time somehow the Arizona dream didn't seem so bad. He was driven, intelligent, funny, and kind. All of the things that anyone would want, and for some bizarre reason he loved me. Like, really really loved me. As time went on my life became more and more centered around him. I got into school in New York, Eugene Lang college to be exact. I was accepted into their photography program. I will never forget the feeling of opening that acceptance letter and realizing that there was a place for me in NYC. But going to New York would mean long distance, and I couldn't be that far from him.
And so we moved to Tucson. Go Wildcats!
I won't bore you with the details, but while going to the University of Arizona showed him his strengths, it showed me my weaknesses. I lost myself and the only footing I had was in that relationship and so it became my identity. There was nothing outside of the 'we'. He found himself in his career path, his future and potential. So what would you chose? Clingy 20 year old girlfriend who wants to get married and have kids because that's what everyone says you're supposed to do, or high paying career with limitless opportunities? Believe me when I say he made the right choice.
I spent the next few years putting on weight, annoying the crap out of anyone who came into contact with me, and wondering why bad things always seemed to happen to me. I was a rain cloud of negativity and could never seem to find an umbrella. One summer I got up the nerve to study abroad, and I'll never forget the feeling of overwhelming emotion when I realized that I was experiencing true happiness for the first time in a long time. When we left I cried so hard I couldn't stop. I think a part of me knew that the second I crossed back over the pond the dream would end and I would go back to being miserable.
Fast forward to last spring and we find me at rock bottom. The bad things category of my life had been wracking up. I was having panic attacks every day. I couldn't sleep. I didn't want to live, but I wasn't ready to die. I had a moment where I briefly came through the fog and realized I just couldn't do this anymore. How did I get here? How did I possibly fall down this well of self pity and self hatred? Where did that girl go who was ready to take on the world?
The first step in finding my footing again was sobriety. I had been smoking weed and drinking every single day and I cut it out cold turkey. After that I found a weight loss specialist in Brooklyn (Weight Loss NYC, highly recommend) who put me on an 800 calorie a day diet and prescription appetite suppressants. I had been seeing a therapist, but for the first time I actually started listening to her (at $150 an hour I really don't know what I was doing before, my sincerest apologies to my bank account).
It was like waking up, as if I had been sleeping and 'Dream Melody' had been living my life for me. As the weight started to come off I started to look like myself again, feel like myself again. There was a part of me that was wracked with shame at having lost myself in the first place, but I mostly felt pride for being able to fight my way out. One afternoon I was FaceTiming with my best friend Meghan, and she got quiet for a second and said 'you're you again, you're back'. I don't think any of us had realized just how much I had faded until the lights came back on.
It's been a year since that journey began. I lost 60 pounds. I live in a beautiful apartment in Brooklyn with two amazing friends. I am as single as can be and that's not a bad thing.
Some days I still hate life. I struggle with anxiety and depression and no matter my jean size or income sometimes it still wins. But I've learned that no matter how bad, I can always get back to the good. It's the bad that makes you appreciate the good.
Getting here wasn't easy, but damn does it feel good to be back.