You know when I woke up this morning (9/19/15) for about 10 seconds I wasn’t quite sure of where I was. And then I looked down and saw the Union Jack on top of my duvet. And it hit me: I’M BAAAACCCKKKKKK!!!! I’m home, I’m actually home once again in the UK and it is glorious in every sense of the word: exciting, terrifying, bewildering, everything! But as with all stories, the best part to start is usually the beginning. So with that in mind, let me fill in some of the gaps and provide context to how I found myself once again slumbering beneath the British Flag
For those of you who don’t know, I originally began my (M. Phil) course in British and European History last September (2014). My original blog entries are available if you’re interested or if you literally have nothing better to do.
I arrived, took to the country immediately, and made wonderful friends. However, despite all of it falling into place almost too perfectly, I couldn’t escape the fact that the timing of it was just completely wrong. My mother had passed away suddenly a month prior and while I honestly thought at the time that immediately beginning this next stage in my life was the right step, I found myself in the rare position of being absolutely wrong. So as hard and as painful as it was to leave this new country and this new life which I took such great joy in in such a short span of time, I had to go.
I departed Oxford in mid-October and returned to Virginia to rebuild the foundation of my life before starting this next chapter. For those of you who have read my blog before, you know that for the most part I don’t hold back on certain subjects, however painful. And I won’t hold back here.
I don’t do this because it’s easy (it’s quite hard for me actually), but I do it because it’s the truth. And I know when others are honest about themselves, especially with their scars, I find it to be the most inspirational and relatable. And hey anything that makes us feel a little bit less alone in this world is for me the very point of our existence.
But I digress (which happens a lot!). Once I was back, I moved in with my dad and step-mom for about 6 weeks. I can’t thank them enough for how understanding they were about my decision to come back, knowing that it wasn’t just homesickness I was experiencing but something much more serious.
You see, I was, and still to a certain point am, a person who does not admit when they need help, or that they even need it. I just forge on through things, not stopping for a second to think how they affect me. I just go, go, go. And to put it simply, I finally just hit a point when I couldn’t “go” anymore. I was out. My tank was empty. I had nothing, no strength, no energy, no more quick-witted comments or sarcasm to carry me through. I was done. And I knew that if I didn’t admit that, admit that I actually needed help and couldn’t do everything myself, I was going to end up hurting myself.
So as soon as I got back, I started seeing a therapist. For those of you who have been in therapy before, you know 90% of its effectiveness is the compatibility you have with your therapist. And luckily for me, I worked with a woman, Maryann, who had no problem understanding me, even when I didn’t understand myself. She never judged me, she pushed me when I needed to be pushed, and most importantly she gave me the ability to at least start understanding and processing everything I had been through, not just with my mom’s death, but her illness prior, my childhood, everything.
It’s ironic but for a historian, whose very discipline is predicated on examining the past and its impact on the present, I had never given any real thought or consideration as to how my past had or has affected my present.
Honestly, I was afraid of what I would see. Which is what I think stops most of us from looking back. We’re terrified that if we go back and reexamine our choices, our mistakes, ourselves, we’ll come to the conclusion that the life we have in the present is a product of circumstances out of our control and not something that we chose or that personally fulfills us. Also it’s just fucking painful.
But luckily Maryann was the catalyst for me doing the work I had avoided for so long. And I am beyond grateful. She saved my life. I’m certainly still at the beginning, as it will take years to fully understand everything that has happened. But I will continue therapy here at Oxford once I get settled.
So before I continue I just want to stress for anyone struggling with any mental health issues, to please seek out help. Believe me, I understand why you might be reluctant, as I basically went kicking and screaming. I was always the strong one, and while I never judged anyone else for getting help, actually I admired them, I always thought it would be unacceptable or a sign of weakness on my part.
But it’s not. The strongest people are those who can be vulnerable and admit when they need help. I wish I had done it sooner. I wish I’d done it before I started cutting myself at 14. I wish I’d done it before I experimented with eating disorders. I wish I’d done it before I decided getting blackout drunk or using drugs was the answer. I wish I’d done it before I decided that relentlessly punishing myself mentally for not being strong enough and considering suicide was the right thing to do.
But it’s never too late. You are worth it, and you can get better. Please never think otherwise. No one is perfect. We’re all just trying, plain and simple. I still have my good days and my not so good days. Your scars are what make you beautiful. It’s okay not to be okay. <3 <3
Okay, tangent over (until the next haha). So I moved into an apartment in December 2014, my first ever apartment all to myself!!!! It was 800 sq. ft. of pure heaven And yes I miss it like crazy!!
I had also been working at a museum called Agecroft Hall, a Tudor revival museum/mansion in Richmond, since November as a tour guide. Of course this was the ultimate nerd job for me. I was getting paid to nerd out over my favorite period of history.
I also met so many wonderful people, including a ginger spitfire named Tracy. It turns out we went to (ie suffered through) the same high school, but we had never met until Agecroft. Although she’ll never admit it, Tracy is a complete badass artist/jewelry maker, and also just a hilarious human being with a command of sarcasm to rival my own. This is one of her paintings that I own and I’m sure in 10 years it’s going to be worth the sum of my student loans (fingers crossed!)
Unfortunately, while the museum was fantastic, it was only part-time and paid little above minimum wage. So it took me until April but I finally found full-time employment at Good Feet, a retail store specializing is custom arch-supports. I worked as a salesperson, a job which I apparently gained by my less than elegant analogy of a tour guide essentially “selling” history. Honestly when I think of it that way I feel like some kind of weird history prostitute (which would explain why I was tipped so much at Agecroft). But that’s neither here nor there!
Despite our vast political and religious differences, my coworkers immediately made me feel welcome and like family at Good Feet. Case in point: my co-worker Jackie is the one who gifted me the Union Jack under which I awoke this fine Saturday morning! And while I’m very much into digression, it would take a whole other website to list all of the wonderful things about my former co-workers/current friends at Good Feet. So I’ll be out of character, keep it short, and just say thank you!! Thank you all infinitely for everything you did for me <3
So after coming back, starting therapy, having my own apt., working two jobs, and getting 2 new tattoos, I crammed a fair amount of adulting into a year if I do say so myself 😛 It was painful, incredible, but above all necessary, I’m so grateful for it. But luckily, Oxford made the smart choice and decided to readmit me for the next year.
Hence, we come to the end of Part One. Part Two will recount the events of the past couple of days, as I once again prepared to make the crazy journey to my home. To Oxford.