After I left Virginia to go back home, I bounced around community colleges for a few years, mostly for the sake of hammering out credits here and there. I went to one in 2009, in my hometown, and couldn’t enroll into any desirable classes, so instead I wound up taking microeconomics and film and a couple others that I don’t remember. At the time I couldn’t stomach sitting in one place for so long; every second felt like my insides were eating away at me; I’m pretty sure I only went to each respective class a few times before I stopped going altogether. All I recollect is watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window in film and that the economics professor was a large black man who dressed really sharp and had a strong African dialect. Other than that, it’s just a big blur of raw emotion from a point in my life I think about from time to time that I wish I could forget completely.
At Virginia Tech I took general courses, but since I tested fairly well in english and math on the SAT I was able to forego the bullshit freshman classes and jump straight into advanced calculus — which I wasn’t all that well prepared for — as well interpersonal communication and communication theory (instead of English 101, or whatever). College really isn’t all that different than high school, it’s just supposed to feel more important (and expensive). In my 2nd semester I suffered from a classic case of across-the-country homesickness, as well as what I considered to be a legitimate case of depression; between winter break and spring break I went from 160 pounds down to about 125, and most days couldn’t even get myself out of bed in the morning. Most of the time I would just lay around all day with my stomach in knots, and if I was feeling particularly brave I would get up and hit my afternoon class. That’s the only place I felt understood, to an extent.
One snowy day after class, in February — I remember the wind chill was seven degrees, because I checked — my communication professor asked me what was going on, because apparently I’d grown gaunt and lacked my typical cheery facade. She was a lady in her late 20’s, pretty young for a college professor, with a fragile body made of nothing but bones, black hair, and she wore red lipstick almost every day. She used to teach at Radford University. Her and I developed a relationship of sorts; I knew early on she didn’t really give a shit about anyone else in that class, probably because she liked the way I wrote papers and I was the only COMM major in a class filled by nothing but business majors. She was an artist.
It became a thing whenever I did show up to class, that afterwords I would walk her to her bus stop about 10 minutes down the road. I never truly opened up to her, but she understood my situation, so I generally differed and let her talk about her own experiences with depression. It was a brief remedy for the longest and loneliest month of my life, but I’ll always appreciate her for, if nothing else, knowing I had someone who was tangibly there to genuinely give a shit about me. I didn’t go to her class the last couple months of the year, but she always emailed me whatever assignments I had to complete, and gave me an A+, which was also nice.
But that’s the timeframe where I can pinpoint where life actually started, in a relative sense. The agony never felt so real, mainly because I didn’t know what agony was. I didn’t feel like an 18 year-old anymore; I felt like I was surrounded by a bunch of 18 year-olds and I was somewhere else looking down upon myself, which is really only saying I was the 18 year-old, and it was me surrounded by a bunch of children. Maybe that’s a narcissistic way of putting it, but still.
It’s nothing against Virginians, or my friends out there, but everyone just seemed too motherfucking nice. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a nice guy and I like nice people, but nice is something that, at times, can be hard to relate to. I was stranded 3,000 miles from where I wanted to be, couldn’t eat or sleep, and the biggest problems in my friends’ lives were the assignments they had to turn in the following week. I wasn’t on the same page as anybody, so I just bottled everything up and put on a smile like I had not a care in the world. Well, that’s pretty much what I do anyway, but back then it was different.
I write this now because, inexplicably, I still feel those knots in my stomach. Whether I’m 3,000 miles away or in a community college or just going through the motions of my life, that feeling has never left. The inception was the winter of 2009. Since then, unless I’ve been high or drunk out of my mind, eating has been more of a chore than a pleasure, and my sleep schedule has been fucked for I don’t know how long.
Some nights I lie awake, thinking the next day everything will be different, that I’ve been living in a dream state for the last half-decade. That all my obsessions and neurotic tendencies will wash away and I’ll all of a sudden go back to my previous state of normalcy.
But then the next day passes, and then the next, and after this long I have to believe what I once was is long dead and gone, and this is the person I am. I have no problem with that; invariably I’m comfortable with the way I look and the way my mind operates, and my grasp on reality — albeit incomplete — is lightyears from where it was a few years ago.
I know who I am and I know what I want. Have for a long time now. Naturally I’m going to appear a lot happier than I actually am, I’m just waiting for the moment where that happy facade is no longer a facade. Like it used to be.