Monday, 30 December 2013

2013: A Year in Review

For the first half of 2013 I was bitter.  It's easy to write the behaviour I had off as being sassy, and hard headed, but I was bitter.  I had no idea where my life was headed.  I had nothing to cling onto.  I knew my university career was coming to an end, and I was about to move home for more than two months, which was something I hadn't done since my second year of university.  I felt empty.  I didn't have a boyfriend.  I wasn't any where close to finding one.  The sinking reality of a pile of debt and no future in my field was quickly approaching me.  Join me for a late night review of my year, that is as scrambled as I am.

I broke down.  
A lot.  

It was over little things at first like not having a screw driver to set up my TV.  It grew into things like failing my first midterm since first year because I had overloaded myself with responsiblities.  It shifted to my responsibilities leaving me with a feeling of loneliness and crushed heroism where I felt I was the only one working towards making the world better.  There were tears about "what will people think of me" if I come back for another year of university.  There was a four day drunken bender when I was lost two awards.  There were life chats in Tim Horton's parking lots that left me driving home in a desperate sense of trying to get my life back together.

There was a place in Northern Ontario where I sat on the steps of a Healing Lodge, and every word that I needed to hear in that moment just made me cry even harder.  For an hour and a half of tears on someone who knew next to nothing about me.  There was coming back home to a job I was worried I was going to feel disconnected from.  The one where I realized all my friends had moved on from our university and I felt like the deadbeat clinging around waiting for something.

And every breakdown, every irrational, over emotional, desperate plea with reality to "Give me a fucking break" left me panicking.  Some had me laying in bed for days wondering if I was going to "end up bipolar like my mother" and some made me pull myself together and take advantage of great things in my life.

But, there was strength.
Moments where I let myself shine, and be seen.

I met with my professor about that failed midterm, and he gave me a make-up assignment of a 12 page paper.  First year Amanda would of seen it as too much work.  Fourth year Amanda shut herself down for a weekend to research the difference between arbitration and mediation divorces.  
My feelings of being crushed were always rebuilt by being surrounded by an amazing team of people who would try everything in their power to pick me back up again.  A fake award made for me here.  Coming out to a pub night fundraiser for me there.  My amazing friends were amazing friends as long as I needed them to be.

And while my drunken stooper does not even come close to measuring up to Rob Ford's it taught me many things such as coffee mugs make a great place to hide booze (I'm kidding).  On a more serious note, it taught me that even when I sober up, my feelings are still going to be there.  Talk it out.  Find a way to work through it.  As I sit here almost eight months from when this all happened, I just want to laugh at how I placed such a strong sense of my self-value into a stupid piece of metal.  Less than three weeks after all this happened I won an award.  It felt amazing.  I refuse to take it down from my living room because it's the first one I've ever won outside of a sport.

My Moosonee Break down and me have a love hate relationship.  I absolutely hate that it happened.  I think it's because I'm the kind of person who doesn't allow attention to be drawn to myself unless I'm doing something humorous or awesome.  I felt ashamed.  The rest of the trip I found it difficult to hear people telling me they wish they had felt that, or how they look up to me at school, or give me any sort of praise.  It felt a lot like I was walking around naked at times and people were just watching, waiting for it to happen again.  Looking back, this is obviously not the case.  I was super fortunate to be surrounded by so many supportive people on the trip, who I can never imagine shaming me for crying.
 I watched a Ted Talk on Vulnerability recently and started to understand why people said it was strong of me to let it out.  From this experience, and finding a connection with Brene Brown, I'm starting to see that this cryfest was a good thing.  How would I have felt if it was one of my friend's letting it all out instead? I would of admired them.  So why should I shame myself over it?

It took a lot of strength to apply to grad school.     

When you grow up thinking that university is not a possibility, you never see grad school as being one.  I have found myself in moments of pure bliss in applying to grad school, but more moments where I am faced with a difficult moment and I want to give up and quit.  While most people stand on the line for starting the race to grad school with a game face and "come at me bro" mentality, I stood in the background cheering on my friends.  When it was my turn to stand up to the line, I was looking around for support.  For people to tell me I could do this, and that I was going to get in no matter what.  Overcoming the belief that these people had to be my parents was one of the hardest things I've had to face.  Eventually, my parents are going to be proud to have a daughter who's a clinical psychologist.  For now, we face a difficult battle of understanding why their broke daughter is spending close to $1000 in applications throughout North America.  

Applying for grad school was really fun once I felt like I could do it!  Every baby step was easy until I had to face my nemesis, the personal statement and reference letters.  Being a girl who has never set goals for herself, or looked at anything in the future, I had to overcome my fear of people seeing me for who I truly am.  It was a tough week getting that statement out.  One where I was encouraged to write about my journey through psychology, where I saw it going, and who helped me along the way.  I felt like my story was embarrassing.  I felt ashamed and embarrassed of where I came from, that at one point I hated the field, and that my biggest role model wasn't a famous psychologist, but my program head who's given me a passion for learning about the humanistic side of psychology.  To be honest, I can't tell you who came up with which theories in psychology.  But I can tell you, with every fibre of my being, I truly believe that psychology is a human science where we need to start looking at people as people, and take a more qualitative approach to research.

My advice if you're going to apply to grad school: Have people who know what kind of support you need.  These people are not the one's who are going to hunt you down to tell you "it's okay, I believe in you!" , these are the people who you can go to and ask every stupid question you could possible have about grad school.  I sent an email to someone asking what their actual degree was.  I sent another email to someone else asking them what "gr" in editing notes means.  I sent an email last minute to a reference begging him to submit something for me. People who want you to succeed and want you to get to your dreams are out there.  Find them.  And be sure to thank them,  genuinely thank them.  No matter how awkward you think it is, they're going to appreciate it. I promise.

Most of my university "friends" have moved on.

And I've moved on from a lot of my university "friends" too.  I don't have many people in my life right now who I consider to be my friends, but the ones I do have I treasure.  From my graduating year in my program I talk to nobody.  Zero. Zilch.  Why? Because I have nothing in common with these people.  When you take away the classroom there is nothing there.  I think most of them are amazing people, and some are terrible. But you know what? That's okay.  Let's take a moment to appreciate the ones I do still have.

Tristan and I, Last Lecture 2013.
The friends that I have kept from university whom have graduated are amazing people.  Tristan is my rock.  People always assume that we're dating because I literally never shut up about how amazing he is.  We have the most hilarious conversations, and the most sentimental ones too.  For most of last year he lived in my room, and half the terrible feeling of him not being at the same school as me is not waking up to him offering me chocolate when I wake up feeling bitter.  Tristan has been so supportive of me applying to grad school.  He's honest with me about the process, and never leaves out the difficult times that came with his experience.  Before I go into a difficult situation, I call him.  Half the time because I know he will calm me down, and half the time because I know he can make me laugh. 

And then there's Erin.  If you could imagine living with me for a year, imagine doing it in a college residence and you can understand why Erin and me are still friends.  We're not your typical "OMG BFFs", but I would without a doubt consider her to be one of my best friends.  We have a tendency to eat too much food when we're together, and I get to live out the events of being an adult with a full time job through her eyes.  Whenever we meet up she's always asking me how school's going, and we talk about cats more than we should.  Erin is the type of friend who understands how important a bottle vs a glass of wine is, and the type who sends you a pair of Toy Story chopsticks from Japan because she knows you'll love them.  Everyone needs an Erin in their life, to remind you to keep things fun and remember the sentimental details of your friendship.

And instead of being the bitter "goals won't get you anywhere but disappointment" girl that I tend to be, I've become a "let's try them out with a plan for 2014" girl.

I want to actually start to lose weight.  Not to find a boyfriend, and not because my grandma keeps mentioning how chubby I am, but because I want to live to cross everything off of my bucket list.  My plan of action is going to be to cut back on my carb intake, start writing VS eating my feelings, and look for ways to get active that don't involve running (yet).

I want to purge the negative people from my life.  Yes, it's hilarious that the girl I dislike is more miserable than me.  Wow, that guy who broke up with me via text message has less of a life than I do.  At the end of the day, how the hell is this helping my life? It isn't.  I've temporarily shut down my social media pages to try and get my life onto a track where I'm feeling more confident in myself and able to express it at a value that is more than a like or a retweet.  I'm going to go through my facebook and decide who needs to be there, and who can go.

I want to read more for pleasure like I did when I was younger.  There has always been emotional issues in my life, but my way of coping with it was never to go and become bitter, or lay in bed for days on end.  Instead, I would read and give myself an easy way to make progress and change in my life.

I want to drink less.  I'm setting aside a limit of three nights out a month.  It's time to take control of things in my life.

I want to save up money.  I'm going to take a little bit from each pay cheque and put it towards my line of credit, and into a bank account of savings.  I will keep at least half of each pay cheque in a "spend how you please" account.  

I want to blog more!  I've always loved blogging but haven't found what to write about.  I plan on finding inspiration in my life, and on the internet, to help me find something to blog about at least twice a month.

Well 2013, you helped me grow.  You gave me life. And hope.  And a feeling of "maybe I can get through anything" that I never had before.  2014, we've got this.  it's time to shine.

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