Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On Silence

If I picked words to describe this semester, silence would not have been among them. Maybe: Professor Shandy is trying to kill me. Or growing up. Or a series of question marks. Not silence.

But I realized that this semester is the first since I started this blog of just that- silence.

I wrote nothing here for an entire semester. A semester filled with blessings and curses. The blessing of classes I cared about. The curse of my most challenging semester yet. The blessing of a boyfriend and friends who kept me talking enough to keep me from writing as much as I like. The curse of writing only essays and transcripts of interviews and being too tired all the time. The blessing of a beautiful place of learning and so many wonderful minds and opportunities and the curse of being let into the beautiful castle, only to find out it is all grey on the inside, or looks that way to you.

The depression. The bleak emptiness. The staring at the A, at the news that you got the internship, at the well-regarded event you hosted and feeling nothing. 

Even though I functioned, silence wracked my whole being this semester. A deafening silence that hurt so bad I couldn't feel it anymore. A silence that was everywhere, descending with the dark of the winter and looking an awful lot like it too.

Being too busy may have come first. The classes, the lack of sleep, the wondering what all of it was for anyway, not my brain chemistry, may have caused this depression. That didn't make it less real. And it certainly didn't make me like this place much more. It made the silence louder.

Macalester has done many wonderful things for me. Among them, it taught me to be a critical thinker, to constantly reflect and question. Turns out if you mix this lovely skill with the nothingness that is depression you will get a recipe for a bad time. 

If you deconstruct something enough, you are left with only fragments. I was left with no opinions- nothing to believe meant nothing to say, even if I'd had the time to say it. 

I have been so afraid to make a mistake or so sure that there cannot be an answer that I stopped saying anything at all. 

I don't know who "they" are- Macalester, the little depression-bringing demons, society, serotonin- but they took a lot of things from me this semester while I was buried under a pile of work. They took my hope, my unabashed positivity and belief that people are good; that we can do something, and even if we can't we must try. They took my belief in any institution, in any religion, in anything, except maybe my immediate family. And in so doing, they took away my voice. 

And back when I was a devoted, silly, mistake-making crusader for justice, who wrote for herself and for even just one person who might need the words, back when I believed that choosing doubt as a philosophy of life was akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation (Life of Pi), I vowed never to let them. 

I am okay now with doubt. I know now that in some cases, it is better to let others speak. But along the way, I forgot how good it is to be messy, how valuable it is to be wrong. How success out there in the complicated world requires falling flat on my face with grace, writing things no one should care about, and things lots of people will, looking back on previous actions with both pride and embarrassment. And it is okay to congratulate myself, knowing what it is like to be frozen, to be drowning in silence, that I acted at all. I'm okay with the fact that I will be figuring it, whatever it is, out, for probably forever, and I am grateful to be able to do so. I've always figured it out best through words. Now, I have been given one of the most precious gifts- time (a gift that I won't have to give up for a while, with a nine credit semester on the horizon). With this, I will write and I will sing and I will talk and I will tear holes in this silence. I can already see the light.

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