Learning As I Live…

Since I have a free minute—and because these days, those are very few and far between—I thought I’d do some writing. Though, I must admit—I’m a little written out, so to speak. That is, I should be…especially when I’ve done nothing but write these past few weeks, what with school starting back up and my insanely hectic course-load. Speaking of school, the semester seems to be going well so far. My schedule is pretty balanced between media-related writing course, photography, and web design. Though, I must say the latter is driving me near-crazy at the moment. I’m taking this online Internet Publishing course…which is getting to be a pain in the you-know-what. For one, I have an immense dislike towards online courses. Granted, it’s nice—convenience-wise, but for this type of class, I think I’d prefer to be in an actual classroom. Basically, the purpose of the course is to pretty much create/design your own working website. The design part isn’t a problem. Rather, it’s the creation of the page itself that I don’t much care for. The whole Dreamweaver Interface and writing in hmtl code—it’s tricky. The text that is supposed to guide you through how to do it all—well, I might as well be reading Chinese for all I understand about it. Seriously. Then there’s the whole content aspect of the assignment—what I want the site to be about, in other words. I’ve got a few ideas in mind, but nothing that’s really caught my focus yet. I was thinking of doing a sort of advice/consulting page…a Dear Abby sort of thing. I always thought it would be cool to have my own online advice column. In high school, I volunteered for a teen talk/help line—and I loved it. So this website seems like a good start, I guess. I ran the idea by my best friend the other night and she seemed to approve. She thinks it’d be quite fitting for me—seeing how I’m often the go-to girl when it comes to giving and getting advice. Then again, I’m not sure I’d say that for myself…I’m just really good at the whole “what NOT to do” kind of thing. Ironically enough—while I may be great at giving good advice—I totally suck when it comes to following that advice in my own life. Even so, I think I could make it work. After all, I have plenty of life experience.

Granted, I’m only 25 years old—which is still fairly young in terms of life experience years…I’ve still seen and done a lot. In terms of target demographics—I think I’d want to aim the site towards my own age group…say mid-teens to mid-twenties or so. It’s no state secret that in today’s world, it’s pretty damn tough being a teenager. Hell, it’s still pretty tough…even at 25. Fortunately, I’m not too old that I’ve forgotten what it was like to be a teenager, which I think is an immensely helpful factor. In this case, I think it might work to my advantage that I’m not an expert. The fact that I’m able to remember what it’s like being a teenager means I can empathize with the issues that teenagers these days are facing. I know what it’s like to be young and dumb and reckless. Having to face pressures from family and school and peers. I know what it’s like to be pushed to that breaking point, and to feel like your entire world is spinning out of control. I’ve been there. I was the girl who got all straight-a’s and did exactly what I was told and what was expected of me. I know what it’s like to have to live a double life—to appear perfect and to have it all figured out on the outside, while being a total mess on the inside. I know what it’s like to feel trapped and to feel like you’re suffocating—and to get to a point where you just don’t want to do it anymore. I know it’s not exactly P.C. to write about such things as suicide and whatnot, but it’s my choice to share or not. My first attempt was at the age of 13. An overdose. Trust me when I say that getting your stomach pumped is not a pleasant experience. It sucked actually. I spent a week in the hospital having to take this vile medication and being watched like a hawk 24/7 just in case I tried something stupid again. I almost died. Not that it justifies what I did, but I was going through a lot at the time. I’d just moved to a new school, having had to leave to town I grew up and friends that I’d known since pre-school. As everyone knows, being the new kid isn’t a fun position to be in. In addition to that, my grandfather had passed away shortly before from cancer. His death was a pretty hard blow for me. He’d been in and out of hospitals for a couple of years before, so my siblings and I were constantly going here and there and whatnot. It was especially hard in that he was pretty much the only real father-figure we’d ever had. Our actual father was off in Indiana with a new wife and second family. We were lucky if we saw or heard from him once a year. With him not in the picture, my grandfather pretty much took his place. I still remember him picking us up from school in that beat-up old Chevy of his and loading us up on ice cream and sugar before dinner. I remember him taking me to auction after auction as we built up my collection of Beanie Babies. It didn’t matter how far of a drive it was, how long of a line we had to wait in, or how much those exclusive ones cost…he’d do it all for me. A couple of weeks before he went into the hospital that last time, he took me to this big Beanie Babies convention that was being held. We waited in line for over 4 hours—despite the fact that he was on oxygen at the time and couldn’t stand for long periods of time because the cancer had messed up his circulation. I remember telling him a dozen times that it was stupid and not worth it, and that we should just leave—but he insisted that we stayed. He was amazing and generous and loving. Losing him was by far, one of the most devastating things I have ever had to go through. All of that combined…I was a mess. I didn’t know how to cope with the death of someone so close to me. After all, I’d never had to deal with something like that before then. I was 13. Should I have done what I did? Of course not. But like most confused 13-year-olds, I didn’t know any better. At least not then.

Anyhow, things just seemed to get worse after that. I was under a lot of pressure. With my sister away at college, I was expected to fill her shoes and take her place, so to speak. Everyone was constantly telling me how she’d done this or that and that I should do the same, but better. She was the golden child. Miss Goody-Two-Shoes with a capital “G.” She was perfect. She did nothing wrong. It was exhausting, always having to measure up. Of always having to be so damn perfect, all the time. I hated that. I was so sick of being compared to her. I mean, I love my sister to death and all…but she’s meticulously boring. It wasn’t that I couldn’t measure up. In fact, I over-measured her—mostly without even trying. Grades were easy for me. I didn’t have to study or work hard—I aced everything. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I almost resented my ability to do that. There were times when I actually wanted to fail but I didn’t. But the one characteristic I did share with my sister, was that I hated to disappoint. So I went through it all and did what everyone expected.

Then came the year I turned 16. Everything was so crazed at home. My niece was born and came to live with us. Everything changed once there was a baby in the house. Then there was the custody fight over her that went on for months. When my mother and grandmother won custody, it meant that everyone else had to help with her as well. Not that I minded having to do that, because she is and always has been a complete joy in our lives, but still. It was hard. I had school and AP courses and SAT’s to worry about and focus on, extracurriculars, and an after-school job. It was a lot to deal with and so I chose yet another unhealthy way of coping with the chaos. I started cutting. I don’t know how to explain it in a way that doesn’t seem irrational, but somehow it seemed to help. Once it stopped helping, I fell victim to an eating disorder. Bulimia. Believe it or not, it had nothing to do with food or weight or anything like that. For me, it was a way to control a world that was, in so many other ways, out of my control. It wasn’t serious at first. It was mostly just when things got too stressful, I guess. Then there was that horrible night. The rape. Finding out I was pregnant and deciding to have an abortion. That’s when it all started to get out of hand. I was desperate. I was lost. I had no idea how to deal with what had been done to me, or with what I’d done. So instead, I chose to ignore it. To act as though it had never happened. The bulimia helped, I guess. I couldn’t control what happened, but I could control something else. It got bad. Really bad. I passed out in school a couple of times. There were teachers and guidance counselors and school nurses that eventually got involved. And my family, of course. It went on for nearly two years before that point—before anyone actually noticed what was going on. While I realize their intentions were pure and that they meant well—the added involvement only made it worse…made me want to do it even more…if for no other reason than because they wanted me to stop. I was hospitalized a couple of times. Sent to half a dozen different shrinks. Therapy may work for some people, but it’s never worked for me. I guess that’s because I could never see the point in pouring out my heart to a complete stranger who thought he/she knew all the answers simply because they had an M.D. or Ph.D. at the end of their name. As far as I was concerned, they hadn’t ever experienced those things themselves—therefor they couldn’t truly understand.

Anyhow, the point is—I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve literally been where thousands of teenagers are standing right now. I know what it’s like. I know how difficult it can be and how confusing it all us. I’ve lived. I’ve succeeded. I’ve failed. I’ve loved. I’ve lost. I’ve had my heart-broken and been through hell and back more times than I can count. And yet…I’m still here. Somehow, I’ve managed to move past all that and to get to where I am now.

My life is far from perfect, and I’m far from being where I thought I would be by now. But I’m getting there. Next spring I’ll have my degree and my summer magazine internship in New York City…and possibly even a permanent position doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing…doing what I’ve worked all these years for. Maybe, in a way, this site idea might make a difference. Big or small…I’ll take it either way.

Well, time for some shut-eye. ‘Til next time.



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