I remember the feeling I would get when I was in junior high and we would drive past the high school I would one day be attending. It was this big scary intimidating place I could not possibly imagine myself. There were seniors there and people drove themselves to school. It had a football team and cheerleaders and everyone was so big and independent. By second semester of my sophomore year I had the place down like the back of my hand. And by then what I was really concerned about was college. Oh everything we did was to prepare for college. The tests would be harder in college, they told us, the requirements much more rigorous. I will admit, my first few weeks I walked around in a daze. Things like the student union and a really massive library with different floors for different subject matters blew my mind. I thought I would eternally be a little fish in a big ol' pond. But by senior year I was finally convinced I was not going to flunk out. I even knew the place well enough to park at the gymnasium for step aerobics and make it all the way to the art building eight minutes after class was over, half a mile on the other side of the campus. A small grove of parking meters nobody knew about and lovely Rita really never checked existed just for me.
Of course by now that thing called "real life" they had been preaching about the struggles and toils of for the past four years was my biggest concern to date. How on earth was I going to make it there? It was not nearly as cut and dry as staying in school for 22 years, floating from one institution to the next like I had been told to. This was up to me, the true test. Did all those teachers for all those years teach me anything? I tripped, stumbled and fell a plenty. But eventually one day I found myself in a fancy suit with important stuff in my brain, presenting to and collaborating with vice-presidents and regional executives of the Fortune 500 company I worked for. I was climbin' my way up that ladder and the sky was the limit! I was ready set and on my way...
Then the biggest challenge of all, bigger than every single struggle over my entire life all rolled into one, landed at my feet one day. And no matter how hard I tried I could not kick it away! I hid from it, I cried about it. I slept a lot and got drunk to forget. I pretended it didn't exist, even saw the doctor about it. But there was no K-12 with a cushy four years in college accompanied by a corporate structured career path. No, what was ahead of me was akin to drilling a hole through the center of the mountain to get to the other side, and I felt like the first person to ever do it, too. But if I had to keep walking up the side of that mountain, I knew it was going to kill me. So I did what I had always done. I educated myself, tried different things. I saw many doctors and cried my days away. I cursed my sleepless nights as I watched the corporate ladder I was climbing break, wincing at the slow and painful fall. I tried to convince myself it was all in my head and if I just thought positively enough it would certainly go away. It didn't, though, no matter how hard I beat myself up. Yet somehow, I am still not sure how, just like all those times before, I found success. This is not the kind of success that earns you degrees, a big paycheck or fancy company car. Its not the kind my church or friends or family recognize for what it truly is. It is not the kind even my doctor really understands. It is a joy that is all mine, for it was taken from me and I had to learn how to do it all over again. Learn how to live, that is.
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