When I first moved to Washington, D.C. I felt like I was trapped in an endless thunderstorm. With streams of water plummeting on my bare skin, loud thunder filling my ears, bright lightning blocking my sight, I felt powerless. I came here to follow a dream–one that I had hoped to pursue for so many years before–but, once I got here, and that dream was in front of me, I felt like it was constantly just out of reach. I could see it, but I just could not touch it. I missed home. I missed my friends and my family. I missed Aidan’s Pub and cheap beer. I missed my old college house with the broken floor boards. I missed so many things that I never thought I would miss. I missed those things so much that I craved them. And I let these cravings consume me. I began to revolve my new life around missing my old one.
On the surface, I seemed OK. Friends would ask me, “How do you like it!? Are you finding your own out there?” I’d assure them that moving to D.C. was the best decision I had ever made. I would tell them, “I love it here!” But, the truth is, I was lying. And I don’t think I’ve truly admitted that until right now. I wasn’t happy. I was scared. Frankly, I was fucking petrified. And I had to do it all on my own. I had to make my way out of this storm by myself, and here is the story of how I did just that (sorta)…
During the course of my life, my social anxiety has definitely made me an outsider. The constant fear of what someone thought about me during any conversation has kept me feeling distracted and insecure. I’ve failed to express my opinion far too many times in fear of what my peers would think. When I started grad school in the Fall of 2016, the last thing on my mind was making new friends. That is, of course, until I noticed that everyone else was doing it. All of a sudden, a bunch of cliques had formed and I wasn’t a part of any of them. I convinced myself that this was OK. I could concentrate on myself. I didn’t need friends. But, I was wrong. I needed friends, and I wanted them. Making friends as an adult is not easy. Making friends as an adult with extreme social anxiety, ADHD and a long list of insecurities is even more difficult. So, I skipped those networking events and happy hours because I was too scared of what they would bring.
Throughout my first semester as a grad student I kept myself busy with a new job at the British Embassy, a position with the Graduate Student Council, and of course endless assignments from my full time graduate course load. I hoped that this busy schedule would distract me from the deep and painful loneliness that I was feeling. But, it didn’t. I cried. A lot. I didn’t leave the house for anything other than class and work. And throughout the entire semester, I felt like I was stuck in the middle of an endless storm. I convinced myself there was no way out and I dreamed of going back in time to my old life in Rhode Island.
I remember the first time my Mom came to visit me in D.C. I was so happy to see her. When she pulled up in front of my apartment, all of the fear and the unhappiness I had been feeling just vanished. We had so much fun. I showed her the White House, we toured museums, and enjoyed all the beauty that the nation’s capital has to offer. We brunched (a lot). We laughed, we drank, we enjoyed the city that I had been living in for a few months now. For the first time, I loved D.C. But, the clear skies that came along with her visit did not last. When it was time for her to leave I hugged her goodbye and walked towards my apartment building. Tears immediately filled my eyes and I couldn’t help but sob. I tried not to let her see me. I turned around to see her waving goodbye and the little girl in me could not let her leave. I ran back to her car and got in the passenger seat. And I cried. I kept crying. I was sobbing. Then, I begged her to stay. So, she did. We went to Starbucks. I told her how hard it was. I felt like such a failure. For the first time, I was on my own and I couldn’t handle it.
That final day of her visit certainly did come to an end. At that point, I made her believe that I was OK. I told her that I would be OK. When she went to leave this time, I didn’t let her see me cry. All of a sudden, I was back in the storm and all I wanted to do was pause the world around me.
Unfortunately, the rest of the semester was mostly the same. I was sad a lot. I stayed inside a lot. I battled with the same insecurities and the same fears that I always had. Then, before I knew it, the Fall semester was over. I bought a plane ticket to Boston. I visited my best friend from college. I went home for Christmas. I went back to Boston for New Years to spend it with my family. Everything felt normal again. I was so happy. But, the storm was not over. The new year came. I had to go back to D.C. It was time to go back to the city that felt nothing like home.
With the Spring semester upon me, I promised myself that I would work on my insecurities. I promised myself that I would set my fears aside and make the best of where I was and who I was. I was sick of keeping my opinions to myself. I was tired of letting my anxiety keep me down. So, I found someone to talk to about how I was feeling. At first, I hated it. I didn’t like sharing how I felt. It made me feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and weak. But, it was working. For the first time, I felt like the sky was clearing and I was in control of my own life again.
That semester, I found myself a new project and with that project, I found myself a friend. At first, we were just two colleagues planning an event together. But, working on a long term project can really bring two people together. I became so passionate about this project. I fought hard for it and I fought hard against a lot of criticism that would have broken me down only a few months earlier. That whole time, I had a friend by my side and I knew each and every day that I wasn’t in this alone.
There were still days where I felt that storm. There are still days now that I feel myself getting caught in it. But, I have learned so much from my time in the storm. I’ve grown so much by being stuck in this constant rainfall. I’ve learned that is OK to feel bad. And it is OK to ask for help. Most importantly, I’ve learned that we do not need to face life’s storm on our own. No matter where we are in life, no matter how lost or alone we feel, we will find someone to share an umbrella with. And, if neither of us have an umbrella to share just yet, then we will share the rain.
So, maybe I haven’t figured it all out yet and that’s OK. I’m inviting you on this journey with me to maybe one day figure it out together. For now, let’s remember this: The rain won’t stop falling just because I put some of the pieces of my life together. It is going to keep raining.. And, that is OK. That is more than OK. Because without rain, nothing grows and I want to keep growing, learning and exploring.
~ Il va pleuvoir, don apporte ton parapluie… ~