This piece marks the first story in our “Wellness” blog section, a series dedicated to the pursuit of well-being and emotional completeness. These experiences are written by our guest writer Katie Ready-Walters. As this section of our blog expands to other writers, we want to thank Katie for sharing her personal stories with us, as we feel they can provide true value to our readers who are going through things in their life and just need to feel like they aren’t alone in the struggles which permeate their day to day. All opinions are her own. Articles have been modified for readability with her permission.
At the end of August, I found myself to be making a wobbly exit from a tumble drier sort of year. After somersaulting and tripping through an endless cycle of turbulence, I’d come out stiffer, starched, and deeply wrinkled- though, institutionally clean. I was very much not in the headspace for big questions concerning my future. During grade 12, I’d gone from crinkling to cracking. But since it was grade 12, that meant it was time for everyone to ask– “What next?”, “Where next?”. I wanted to have answers for them. I wanted to be better for them. They were trying to be nice, they were just trying to get to the bottom of these abnormal twists and turns I seemed to be taking. I suppose what’s at the “bottom”, would be me. Plain me. Without layers, obstacles, and cookie cutter answers that block the truth. If they get down there, I sure hope they tell me what’s left, I have no idea! To be able to function day to day- I don’t sit with what’s “at the bottom” of me. I can’t. At this point, that place seems terrifying! But, I needed some sort of answer for these people!
Even scarier, I needed something to do with my life, a place to go. University seemed as logical a choice as any. In a last minute decision, a week before the term began, I told myself– “I’m gunna have to go to King’s”. I needed a path to follow, and this was one that supplied a set route, hiking boots and a comprehensive map to follow, so I embarked.
Within a week, I was on a plane from Montreal to Nova Scotia. A week after that, I was on a plane from Nova Scotia to Montreal.
Uh oh. Is that really how University is supposed to work? Throwing in the towel? It’s how it worked for me. I took that comprehensive map supplied by Kings and over one week did the following freshman related things.
- Toured Halifax with mixed feelings on a grey day
- Toured Nova Scotia with elated WOW feelings on a bright blue day
- Toured Halifax in deep wrenching sobs on a pale white morning
- Toured Kings university nodding and nodding and “yes”-sing and telling myself I’d be fine
- Watched the class group message explode in a series of excited comments and party planning, without me typing a single word
- Met the nicest possible roommate
- Decorated the nicest possible room
- Turned through the “first book”(Gilgamesh- literally, the first book)
- Grabbed a large coffee to accompany me to my first lecture
- Sat in my first lecture, and… lost control of my brain, ears and common sense
I then veered right off the King’s comprehensive freshman trail and reverted on a very direct and very straight shortcut back to my previous life — right back into the drier, mid-cycle. I was suddenly feeling completely prepared for something that should definitely not be normal — leaving Univesity a week after I enrolled. Strangely, the abnormal is a “normal” option in my mind far too often. I fought that feeling by texting an unsuspecting, and faraway friend
I realized that if I felt I needed out, so strongly and so quickly I would let myself get out. But only if I used getting out as a way to find an “in”, into something more meaningful.
My foundational grounding just wasn’t strong enough yet. Too much of me still lived it’s days at “the bottom” of it all. So my blurry brain pieced together some sort of compromise.
I decided that there must be some other way. I needed some other way. I’d tried this way. I’d tried the high school schedules, the rules, the expectations and resentments that this comprehensive map of educational and professional predetermined growth paths had guided me through. I’d been lost on it before and it should be no surprise that the more drastic university version was also not for me.
So I packed up my things. I withdrew, refunded and re-thought the pre-planned life trip that most take, and I’ve started again.
At the end of August, I was directionless and confused, and that’s exactly where I find myself again right now. Not because of mental illness, not because of a learning disability, not even because I’m 18 and trying to find that “right” path. But because I’m human, and I struggle, feel lonely, get lost and want to learn. I might never find a path that connects back to the main one everyone else seems to be on, but there will always be humans all around, experiencing very different paths but very similar feelings. And it takes us all, all of the journey to know how to be alive, so we might as well live it as we make our varied ways.