I’ve been curled up on the air mattress writing this post in my head for so long I figured I’d better get some of it down onscreen. I’ve discovered that I’m intensely affected by changes in my environment. I guess I’ve always known this, but it really hits home when you pack up your apartment and then camp out in it for a few weeks before leaving on a 9-month study abroad trip. Bare walls, empty cabinets, no chairs to curl up in–I feel like such a weakling admitting how much it freaks me out. But in reality, it sent me back into the fetal position for the second time in a week.
As always, I spent my time frozen in a curled up ball thinking intensely and trying not to. Why can’t I be calm and nothing is really wrong and acknowledge your privilege and other people deal with so much more and what’s wrong with you why can’t you be normal and heartisracingsurelyacometisflyingtowardtheearth tosmashthroughmyapartmentroofrightnow howcoulditnotandwhatwasthatnoiseprobablysomeoneisbreakingin flashbacktoeveryLawandOrderSVUepisodeIevermadethemistake ofwatching%@#!&#@*&!@…
Take a breath. A slower one. Not so deep, don’t hyperventilate. Stop tapping your foot to a furious rhythm against the air. Move your fingers where they’re clutched tightly to your arms. Adjust your wrist from the tight angle that’s causing your hand to go numb. Loosen your elbows so they don’t feel like they’re about to freeze up. Try to focus on one thought. Play a scenario through your head in which you have agency, confidence, really good hair.
I’ve spent so long downplaying my feelings. Or ignoring them entirely. It’s so hard to name them. Admit that they’re there. Southerners are supposed to be, above all, self-sufficient. We give, we don’t take. Toughness. Grit. Self-reliance. A lot of people like to talk about the south like it’s an either/or–either steel magnolias and honey drawls or hicks, ignorance, and bare feet. Either way, a southerner is supposed to be the one giving the help, not taking it. To me the south is so much richer, deeper, more intricate, more real than any caricature in a sitcom (sitcoms do love us southerners, I see you Kenneth from 30 Rock).
Today I said goodbye to my best friend, my heart-sister, for 9 months. That was staggeringly difficult. I still haven’t fully accepted it. I know we’ll text and Skype and FaceTime, but that’s just not the same as sitting in a room together watching Parks and Rec. She took me to brunch at our favorite place and then helped me pack the official Wales bags (she’s a master packer, seriously) and we had such a beautiful, bittersweet day. She’s been a really significant constant in my life for three and a half years now, and while I know we’ll both be okay, I still think it sucks.