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Before yesterdayadventures of the average twenty-something

recovery is a journey, not a destination

I have often talked about my anxiety, and my continual effort to live with it, but I hardly ever talk about my battle with depression and suicidal thoughts, nor do I talk about what recovery means to me. These are things that weigh on my heart and on my mind daily, but I don’t ever vocalize them for a variety of reasons.

There is still such a stigma around mental health issues, and it’s never been more obvious to me than it is now. I have been extremely open and honest about my anxiety issues (largely because those are easier for me to reconcile with myself), and I still have so many people tell me to “stop being weird,” or ask if I’ve “tried yoga,” or wonder why I don’t just “pray harder.” In December, I read a book called Reasons to Stay Alive, thinking that it would be about literally anything else besides how one man patronizes everyone who takes medication to help with their mental illness because he was able to “exercise the depression away.” The doctor who diagnosed me with anxiety didn’t want to give me actual anti-anxiety meds because I was a twenty-one-year-old college senior and he was afraid I’d “sell them on the streets.” Instead he gave me an anti-depressant because those are the same, right?

Every single time there is a mass shooting in this country, people want to pretend to be concerned about mental health, because God forbid we talk about guns. When this happens, it just solidifies this idea that the mentally ill are violent and dangerous, when that’s the farthest thing from the truth. Studies have shown that even the mentally ill who are violent largely only harm themselves. Frankly, if we want to label every person who goes on a killing sprees “mentally ill,” we have a lot of serial killers to let out of jail because they’re not guilty by reason of insanity, right? No. The fact of the matter is, some people are monsters, and there’s no convenient diagnosis to slap on them to make you feel better. Stop pretending to care about mental health, because we all know you care more about your guns than you do my right to go to work without wondering if I’m going to die today.

Okay, that got away from me a little. Back to the topic at hand. One of the reason I don’t talk about my more serious mental health issues or my recovery process is because of the stigma. Another reason is because it hurts. Being vulnerable is an incredibly painful experience. It essentially requires you to rip your heart out and hand it to the world at large. Being candid about my mental health means dredging up a lot of memories I have intentionally buried because it’s what I needed to do to survive. They’re things I locked inside of myself because allowing them space to grow would mean allowing them to creep into every aspect of my life like ivy, until I could no longer disentangle myself from the darker parts of my life. In order to recover, I can’t dwell; talking about my problems often feels like dwelling.

However, I can see that airing out the grievances with my life isn’t dwelling because I’m recovering. Yes, I once tried to kill myself. Yes, I’m often held captive by my depression. Yes, I once had a two-hour-long panic attack at a frat party that was so intense it caused me to black out. Yes, getting out of bed is often a monumental task. Yes, going to work and dealing with teenagers is the absolute last thing I want to do most of the time. Yes, my mental health often leaves me so exhausted that my physical health declines. And while I spend a lot of time being frustrated with myself for thinking that little things like putting the sheets on my bed feel like climbing Everest, the fact is that I’m getting better.

The hardest part of recovery, for me, is that it is a never-ending process. It’s not some discernible point you reach and boom you’re all better forever. Instead, it’s this sprawling maze with no real end goal in sight. My depression and anxiety will never go away; as hard as it has been for me, I’ve come to terms that they’re a part of me. Recovery is very much a one step forward, two steps back kind of deal. There are days when I’m really productive and outgoing, days when I feel wholly myself. There are also days where I literally only get out of bed to take care of my dog and stare at my ceiling for hours, wondering if I hit rock bottom (for the record, though, the answer is always no; I hit rock bottom that time I tried to kill myself, and for all the bad I’ve dealt with since that day, I’ve never once gone back to that place).

I don’t talk about recovery because it’s messy and complicated and hard to articulate. It’s hard to understand that making a phone call is a huge win for me. It’s hard to grasp that not spending my weekends watching The Good Place on a loop is an accomplishment. These all seem like small things, and occasionally, they are. Most of the time, though, these are daily struggles that I have to get past in order to be functional.

I don’t talk about recovery because it makes me feel weak, the fact that I have to recover from my brain’s constant sabotage. I don’t talk about recovery because when I say depressed, most people hear a little sad and a lot lazy. I don’t talk about recovery because when I say anxious, most people hear a little stressed right now. I don’t talk about recovery because it makes people uncomfortable; no one really wants to hear about that one time I almost took a handful of pills (also, no one really appreciates the depression humor that I deal almost exclusively in).

Mostly, though, I don’t talk about recovery because I never actually feel like I’m getting any better. Objectively, I know that I am. I can understand logically that I’ve learned to cope with and manage my mental illnesses. It’s reconciling my emotions with that. Emotionally, I feel like I’m still at step one. In my heart, I still view recovery as a fixed location that I may never reach. As always, I’m harsher on myself than the rest of the world. It’s one of the many things I’m working on. Much like recovery, being kinder to myself is a journey, not a destination.

 

recovery

kyleejackson

twenty-five.

Today I turn twenty-five. It’s weird, because a lot of the times I still feel like I’m sixteen. When someone needs an adult and turns to me, I still assume they’re waiting for me to find an adult. I don’t know how to be an authority figure (a true tragedy since I work in a high school), or really how to be a grown-up. I’ve been alive for a quarter of a century, but I don’t really have all that much to show for it. And that’s okay.

I have a tendency to compare my life with someone else’s and focus on all the things I’m lacking. I’m sure I’m not the only person to do this. I do it to people I don’t know–my favorite self-deprecating comment is that, at 19, Bryce Harper made his MLB debut while I (also 19) was living with my parents and tanking my freshman year of college. It’s not even something I do intentionally at this point. I just see someone around my age and look at everything they’ve accomplished and wonder why I feel miles behind them in life.

At 25, my life is nothing like I planned for it to be. I don’t have a dream job (or I do, but only for half of my work day), I don’t have a family (unless me and my dog count), I’m broke as a joke (somehow I’m thinking this is just a permanent feature of my life), and I’m still an anxious and depressed mess. I was supposed to have a better life. I was supposed to have the life others dreamed of having. I was supposed to go on to do big, bright, scary things.

And therein lies the problem. My entire life has been measured by the expectations and assumptions of others. Because I live to please, I have spent my whole twenty-five years of life trying to live up to what others expected of me. The truth is, I’m not overly ambitious. I want to love what I do. I want to have someone to come home to at night. I want to go on adventures. I want to live joyously. I want very little out of my life, in all honesty. To help people. To make a difference. To live loudly. But because I taught myself to read at the age of three, I was automatically sorted into the prodigy bin and suddenly everyone had an opinion on what I should do and who I should be. No one ever really cared about what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. I got lost somewhere along the way.

I’m coming to terms with the fact that my dreams and everyone else’s dreams for me are completely different things. I’m learning to accept that I don’t really want those big, bright, scary dreams for myself. I don’t want all the expectations that have been thrown my way because I’m clever. I want to live my life being a high school athletic trainer and quietly making a difference in people’s lives. I want to travel the world. I don’t want to go back to school, or to pursue a more prestigious career, or even to be married. I’m actually pretty happy with my life, all things considered.

I still can’t help feeling like a let down, though. Like I’m nothing but a bunch of wasted potential. I know it’s not true, but anxiety is so loud sometimes. This will probably be a lifelong struggle of mine, because anxiety doesn’t just go away; the same way that a life of people pleasing isn’t just erased by a sudden desire to not be one any longer. Living loudly has never been my strong suit, but I’m working on it. Like so many other things, I keep trying to do and be better.

Today I turn twenty-five, and I don’t really have much to show for it. An athletic training job that I love (even though it comes attached to a teaching job that I don’t), a handful of good friends, my dog, an unceasingly generous family, my gentle heart. My humble hopes and dreams. While I may never live up to outside expectations, I’m content with the way things are (well, minus that teaching job). I have a feeling that twenty-five is going to be a really good year for me, and I eagerly look forward to my future, no matter how messy.

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kyleejackson

forget safety; love wildly

I haven’t ever been that girl who is careful with her heart. I’m too impulsive to take a step back from a situation and consider the emotional damage I may bring upon myself. More than that, I’ve never been one for passing up the chance for something great. Maybe that makes me brave, or maybe that makes me stupid. Jury’s still out, to be honest. The point is that safety, especially regarding my emotional well-being, has never been a priority of mine.

I am a tall girl with a lot of emotions, and I’ve never had an issue displaying them. Emotional regularity? Don’t know her. I don’t worry about being too much or keeping my emotions in check. I ride the wave and let everyone know about it. The depression fog I’ve been in for almost two months now? Trust me, I have not been hiding it. Spending essentially the entire month of July listlessly lying in bed and staring at the ceiling for twelve hours, then turning the lights off and doing the same thing until I fall asleep is not hiding the depression fog. The fog has finally lifted enough for me to have the energy to actively talk about it, but anyone who has tried to live with me or interact with me in any way figured out very quickly that I was Not Okay. I’m fine with that, though. It’s okay to not be okay, or whatever.

Living a safe life does not interest me. Even though I literally had an hour-and-a-half-long conversation with someone two days ago about how I should really start thinking before I act, I have no interest in actually doing so. Not just because the one time I actually listened to that nagging voice inside my head that said, “Oh, this will hurt if it goes wrong, and you know it will, so please just don’t do the thing,” managed to blow up in my face so SPECTACULARLY that all I can do is laugh at the fact my life has become cannon fodder for romantic comedies and/or Greek tragedies (no seriously, if you’re an aspiring playwright, let me sell you the rights to my latest issues because they’re going to make you A LOT of money). If “I tried it once and it didn’t work out for me,” was the reason I have shunned the idea of protecting my heart, there’d be no point telling you about it.

No, I have no interest in living a safe life, because a safe life is a boring life. Yes, my life is currently a flaming garbage fire because I lack foresight. Yes, it would be nice to not live in a constant state of heart break. Yes, it sucks to know that my actions will cause me grief and then decide to follow through with them anyway. But you know what? My life is a never-ending adventure, and I am having so much fun. I know it seems contradictory, because what can be fun about being chewed up and spit out unceasingly? Well, I’m glad you asked; let me tell you about it.

Because I am not afraid to be hurt, I am not afraid to do crazy things. I’m not afraid to accept scary opportunities, like my new job of teaching Special Ed English I, when I have no clue if they’ll work out. I’m not concerned that I spent a month in a depression fog, because things got (and will continue to get) better. I’m able to chase every wild hare that comes my way–like writing a book (which I’m currently kicking ass at, if I do say so myself) or going on blind dates (which hasn’t really worked out for me yet, but I remain optimistic). Because I am not concerned about my own safety, I get to throw all caution to the wind and dive headfirst into everything, and it’s so incredibly freeing to get to do so.

I love wildly and recklessly and foolishly. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Plenty of people tried to teach me to be more aloof and withholding, but it never stuck. I wasn’t made that way. I am impulsive and optimistic and whimsical. I fall in love freely and easily. “Childlike enthusiasm” is my most defining character trait. I rush into things head first before thinking them through, and I don’t doubt my choices once I make them. It usually ends in tears, but that’s okay. Salt water is cleansing, and everyone needs a good cry every now and then.

I do not want a safe life. I want to feel, to experience, everything life has to offer. For better or for worse. I want to ride every high that comes with a risk paying off–the bigger the risk, the bigger the high. I want to revel in the feeling of anticipation that comes with taking chances. I want to pick myself up from rock bottom. I want to get knocked down a peg or two. I want to get by on pure, dumb luck. I want to have a meaningful life, and I can’t do that I’m not willing to get hurt.

Forget safety; love wildly.

forget safety

kyleejackson

commencement

(Photo credit to the lovely and talented Laurel Guild)

I’m baaaaaack. I seriously cannot believe I took an entire semester off, but I have been so busy and so much has happened in that time, but first and most importantly: I HAVE A MASTERS DEGREE!!!! This semester has been so mentally and physically draining (though I can actually say that about the last two years because this degree has sucked the life out of me), and I am so glad to just be done. While I’m still flirting with the idea of going to PT school, I’m definitely looking forward to a few years of no studying, no textbook readings, and no research papers. Considering I just turned in my 42 page Capstone Research Paper, I could definitely use a break. I am still a little apprehensive about no longer being able to identify as a student, but I know I can always go back when I’m ready and if I so desire. Onward and upward, as the saying goes.

In eight days, I will no longer be an athletic trainer at Moore High School, because unfortunately graduate assistantships cannot last forever. My first job has tested in me in ways I never could have imagined, but those challenges have led to more growth than I thought I was capable of achieving. There have been days when I absolutely hated my job, but those are vastly outnumbered by the days I have been completely in love with it. My kids have taught me so much, both personally and professionally, and I can’t believe my time at Moore is almost finished. As much as I want just two more years at Moore so I can see my first group of freshmen graduate, I am so excited to be able to start some new adventures, and I’m confident those freshmen will continue to flourish in my absence. Heading into my last week of work, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and love for every door that has been opened for me and every event that has led me to this point in time.

So what’s next for me? I don’t know exactly. Right now, I’ve got a lead on a job in northwest Indiana, which is almost twelve hours away from home. I’m terrified to move so far away, but it’d be a great story to tell one day. It helps knowing TJ will be moving with me, because I still need someone to hold my hand when things get scary, and there’s no one with whom I would rather jump off a cliff. There are some jobs closer to home that I’m eagerly waiting to hear about, and I’m excited to continue my career as an athletic trainer, which is something I don’t think I could have said in January. More than anything, I’m excited to see where the universe guides me. I’ve always ended up exactly where I needed to be, even if it wasn’t where I thought I wanted to be, and I have faith that wherever I land this time around, I’ll once again be right where I need to be.

As this season in my life changes, I’m experiencing a wellspring of emotion. I feel so accomplished, because I earned a masters degree, I survived the last two years, and my relationships are thriving, There’s this sense of discord, though, because I have literally no idea what I’ll be doing in August (or June, or July, or whenever my imaginary job begins–the joys of athletic training is that there’s no uniform start date so I don’t even know if I should be worried yet, but of course I am because anxiety). I’m finishing the longest chapter of my life–the student chapter–with seemingly no plan to ever continue it. I don’t know what I’m doing, which is nothing new, but is nevertheless terrifying. Of course my anxiety is sky high, because I only had a two-year plan, and guess what: it’s just about over, and the future is still the vast, swirling abyss that it’s always been. I’m excited about that, though, because I have so many options. Literally the entire world is waiting for me, and I just have to pick which cliff I want to jump off.

Overall, though, I feel this overwhelming sense of closure in my life right now, like I’m on the final pages of a really good book and I can finally see how all the loose strings are tying together. I have been living the dream for the past two years, and even though there were times I thought I wouldn’t survive it–or that I was living the wrong dream–I can see the light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. I’m proud of myself, and that’s a feeling I want to continue experiencing.

I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m going to do it with the same ravenous vigor that I have done everything up to this point. I am so thankful for the myriad of opportunities that lie ahead, and I can’t wait to conquer my world–whatever that means. Onward and upward, as the saying goes. 

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kyleejackson

the last first

Yesterday was my last first day of class–as a student at least. Yesterday I started my last semester of graduate school, a day I have been looking forward to almost as much as May 4 (my graduation day, which I’m looking forward to solely for the cute insta caption about being a master, and also because I am so done with the student life). And it’s weird, knowing that this is my last first day of being a student, because I have defined myself as a student for the past 20 or so years.

It’s also weird because I’m aware that it’s a last first–unlike a last first kiss, or a last first date, or a last first that has nothing to do with your love life that I can’t quite think of right now. This is my last first day of school, and it’s different than in high school or undergrad, when I knew that I’d be starting something new in August. Honestly, I have no idea what I’m going to be doing in August because my life has no direction right now, but that’s not the point (wow, it is early to start rambling but here we are). The point is that I have spent my entire life being a student, and in four short months, 113 days to be exact, I will never be a student again.

The great thing about being a person is that you get to assume new identities at will. In May, or June, or July, or August, or whenever, I get to take on a totally new identity, or at least part of one. This is the first time since I was five that I won’t be going to class when August rolls around. It’s kind of scary, knowing that I’m not going to be a student anymore. School as been the one constant in my life so far, and I’m not as eager as you may think to leave that behind. As excited as I am to walk into the vast uncertainty that is my future, I am going to miss the security blanket that is my education.

But I’ve never been one to work with a safety net, and I’m not going to start anytime soon. I jump off cliffs and trust that the universe will guide me and protect me. More than ever, I have faith that the universe will make sure I end up exactly where I need to be. As I once again enter a transition phase (though one could argue I’ve spent my entire life in a transition phase), I’m going to enjoy the moments as they come. For 113 more days, I’m still a student. I still get to bitch about parking, convince Melissa to get dinner after class, stress out over papers that ultimately hold no meaning, and continue to strive for something as arbitrary as a grade in a class. Also I get to update my resume, which I absolutely dread but also am excited about because it means I’m starting new adventures! Maybe if I keep framing this all as a new adventure, I’ll stop being terrified!

My anxiety struggles have taught me to break life down into manageable increments to keep myself from getting overwhelmed. I don’t really have to start jumping off cliffs until March, when I start seriously looking for jobs and thinking about my future. I’m going to enjoy the next two months of transition, of not being a part of the real world, of figuring out which of these cliffs I want to jump off of. After that, I’m just going to take life one day at a time and let the universe guide me in the right direction. I have always had an abundance of faith in myself and in the universe; now I just have to prove it. No safety nets needed.

Yesterday was my last first day of school. I only have 113 more days until graduation. I am going to do my absolute best to love the time I have left. Being a student has been the greatest adventure of my life, and as sad as I am to leave it behind, I am eager and curious to see what my next adventure will be. The world is still waiting for me to conquer it; I’m finally ready to start.

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kyleejackson

a year for renewal

I’ve been thinking long and hard about my resolutions for 2017, because I want to have them written down somewhere for all to see. It keeps me accountable. It motivates me. It encourages me. I wanted to be able to bundle them up in a neat little package like I did my past resolutions, with another catchy moniker like “Be Better 2016.” The problem was that none of them really felt related to a common goal; they were just a bunch of little things and not-so-little things I wanted to achieve in the coming year.

And then, in what can only be divine intervention, I saw today’s daily prompt. Renewal. What a fascinating idea. I love words that have multiple definitions because I like overlap; renewal has three different yet somehow related definitions. You can extend a license or contract; you can resume an activity or state of being after an interruption; you can repair something that is worn down. In 2017, I’m going to focus on the last one, but also the middle one a bit.

I will take care of myself, both physically and mentally. I’m bad about stretching myself too thin. My diet is still not great. My mental health is ever-fluctuating. I have apparently forgotten how to sleep. My exercise levels are laughable: sometimes I’ll work out five days a week, and other times I’ll go three weeks without entering the gym. I want balance, but I’m terrible at allowing myself to have it. In 2017, I’m going to allow (and sometimes force) myself to have it. I’m going to start saying no, even though it’s hard–you can’t fill someone’s cup if your pitcher is empty. I’m going to eat better, even though it’s a bit more expensive and kind of exhausting and not always great. I’m going to sleep better, even if that means I finally drag myself to the doctor and get a prescription. I’m going to go to the gym regularly, even though my life is exhausting enough without any extra activity. I’m going to treat myself kindly, even though sometimes it’s hard. I’m going to put myself first for once, because that’s the only way I can truly help others. I want to renew myself.

I will breathe life into others. I want to donate money to worthy causes–I’m still trying to figure out which causes (especially how many because I have no self-control and want to give all my money away to all the people) and how much I can afford to give, but I’m going to do my part to help others I cannot reach. I want to volunteer more: I love HOBY and ASLFL with all my heart, but this year I want to give my time to others as well. Again, still not certain on specifics, but I’m confident I can find some worthy ways to spend my time. I want to be more conscious of my thoughts, words, and actions, especially in regards to how they impact others. I want to build people up instead of tearing them down. I want to support others with what I say and what I do. I want to shine a light on the wrongs of the world and help find solutions. I do not want to speak over anyone, but rather stand beside them and do my part to let them be heard. I want to renew those around me.

I will be a light. I want to use my voice and my privilege for good. I want to change the world; I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to do that, but I’m going to start small. I’m going to radiate love. I’m going to speak kindly of others. I’m going to be a positive person. I’m going to be hopeful, to encourage others to be hopeful. I’m going to do my part to help others see their potential–then I’m going to help them reach it and maximize it. I just want to be a good person. I want to heal the people and things that bad people have broken. I want to renew the world, to leave it a little better than I found it.

Miscellaneous. I want to keep having adventures; in 2017, I want to go somewhere I’ve never been before, like I’ve done every year since 2012. I want to get rid of all the unnecessary clutter I’ve accumulated in the past 24 years. I want to not freak out about turning 25. I want to read more books. I want to write my own, or at least get close. I want to expand my horizons. I want to continue learning. I want to write better, to learn to draw, to embrace all my ecstatic impulses. I want to take more pictures. I want to be more present in my own life. I want to make new friends. I want to strengthen the bonds I already have. I want to live each day like it’s a celebration. I want another tattoo. I want to look back on 2017 the same way I look back on 2012 and 2015. I want to have some permanence. I want to prepare to become a foster parent. I want to be content. I want to be a revolutionary.

I want to be renewed. 

via Daily Prompt: Renewal

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kyleejackson

be better 2016: wrapping it up

Look, I know we’ve still got a couple weeks of December left, but I’m going ahead and reflecting on how my resolutions for this year went, because it’s time to start thinking about what I want for myself out of 2017. And honestly, 2016 has been such a fantastic shit show that I’m ready to just be done with it, you know? 2017 promises me some permanence, which I haven’t had in a very long time; you can’t blame me for running toward it with open arms. So let’s talk about 2016 for the last time, shall we?

I will stop being sorry for existing. In June, I’d made very little progress towards this. It was still my instinct to be invisible, to take up as little space as I could, to pretend like I don’t love being the center of attention. But I’m sitting here in December realizing that I’m actually killing it on this one. I don’t know what happened, but somewhere between now and then I have embraced my role as a kick-ass woman and I’m demanding that everyone see me. I am not going to hide in the shadows any longer; it’s time for my blaze of glory.

I will stop making excuses. This one has changed with time. At the beginning of the year, this was all about not letting my fear prevent me from doing external things–tattoos, traveling, nose rings. I wanted to live boldly, and that was what I thought that meant. I still want to live boldly, but it’s more internalized. I’m not letting my fear of other’s opinions affect the way I use my voice or if I even use it at all. I still need to reflect on what I want this to mean now; I want to stop holding myself back on the big decisions rather than just the small ones. I want to live boldly, and I want to be fearless, but I’m still not exactly sure what that means to me anymore. Maybe next year.

I will prioritize my education. Whatever, we all knew this one wasn’t going to work out. I still hate school and will probably never return to higher education after I finally get this degree. I somehow have resisted the urge to drop out, though, so that has to count for something.

I will treat my body better. I’m starting to realize this will be a life-long struggle with me. The thing about being mentally ill is that sometimes I see my body more as a prison than a miracle; I doubt this will ever completely go away. I’m making progress on still taking care of myself, even when I feel trapped in my flesh prison, but there’s still a lot of progress to be made. I’m taking this one day at a time, because that’s really all I can handle right now. I’m the closest to being a “normal, functional human being,” than I’ve been since high school, and I’m making some serious progress on the nail-biting thing (though they will always be much shorter than everyone else’s because long nails are disgusting and this is a fact). That’s enough for me this year. I’m doing better, and I’ll continue to do better.

I will keep growing. Another life-long process, though I wouldn’t really call it a struggle. I love being able to expand and lengthen my reach; this is a culmination of all my other resolutions. This is about finding my voice and channeling it for good. I’ve got a lot of things in the works that I’m really excited about, and I feel like I’m where I need to be in order to make the impact I want to. Helping people has always been my top priority; I am not going to limit myself to just helping them through athletic training anymore. As bad as 2016 has been, it’s gotten me here, and here is a pretty good place to be. I’m ready to be the light in 2017.

I will be kinder to myself. I am. Of course I still beat myself up when I do stupid things, because I know better by now, but I am overwhelmingly, unceasingly, amazingly more gentle with myself than I was in January. There are still things about my life that I dislike, but I just have to keep reminding myself that this is all temporary. 2017 will bring me permanence, and with permanence comes serenity. I’ve been stuck in this transition phase for almost three years now, and I’ve just got to figure out what I want to do with myself after I finish my grad assistantship in May. I have no idea what that is, but I’ve got time to figure it out, and of course it’s only a stepping stone to my true dream: to get to write and make art for a living. I still have faith that I’ll get everything I want, and that makes it so much easier to forgive myself for the decisions that have gotten me here. Here is a pretty good place to be; I’m okay with the way my life has turned out thus far.

I’m ready to say goodbye to 2016. I’m ready to move forward, to leave this chapter of my life behind and see what the future has in store for me. I wouldn’t want any other life than the one I’m living right now, bad times and all. 2016 has brought me so much growth, self-awareness, and ambition; 2017 will be about putting it into action. Here is a pretty good place to be, but I can’t wait to discover where I’m going to next.

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kyleejackson

more light

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s last words were, “More light.” Fitting that a writer and philosopher would go out with these words, words that describe something that society has not stopped seeking.

I’m always searching for more light, both literally and metaphorically. I’m not one of those people who like to just sit around in darkness. I turn lights on as a pass through rooms, as soon as I wake up, the minute it gets a little less-than-optimally bright. It’s currently 12:42 on a sunny afternoon, and I have the blinds open on both windows in my living room, the overhead light is on, and the lamp in the corner is on. I am constantly following the sun as it traces its pattern in the sky, racing time to get just a little bit more sunlight. I sleep with my television on because darkness is unsettling. More than anything, I just want a little more light.

Darkness is unsettling; I just want a little more light. I want to be that light. This is where things get messy and complicated, because my three word self-summary is ‘messy and complicated.’

When I talk about metaphorical lightness, I don’t mean it in a ‘lighten the mood,’ kind of way. I actually don’t mind when things are serious, which might be shocking because I’m always joking around. There’s a time and a place for being reflective and real and raw. There’s a time to be quiet; the trouble is that most people are uncomfortable with it. I used to be, but I’m learning to appreciate meaningful silence. I’m learning to be comfortable with being alone and introspective–a continuous process for someone who is so extroverted it hurts. No, when I talk about lightness, I’m not talking about a break from the heavy. In fact, we need to embrace the heavy in order to find more light.

The world is an awful place most of the time. There is so much hate here. We live in a world full of prejudice, hunger, oppression, and poverty. Every single day since the dawn of time, people have woken up to the choice of continuing that or changing it, and they chose to continue. Most people always choose to continue. It’s easy. Why try to actively work for change when they can just be good people? Why not indirectly allow bad things to happen? It’s not like we’re the ones contributing to it, right? We’re just not standing up for change, and that’s different.

At the same time, the world is beautiful because there are people who wake up every morning and choose change. There are people who refused to be silenced and fought for what they believed in–Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Robinson, Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Malala, the list goes on and on. Change has come from the sweat, tears, and often blood of those who were victims of oppression. It’s about damn time those of us who are lucky enough to be in positions of power fought alongside them. It’s about time we bled for them, too. There is so much potential for love here, if only we cultivate it.

In the past, I’ve been guilty of indirectly allowing oppression to continue. I’ve chosen not to donate to those in need, to stay silent while others were shamed for their skin color or religion or sexual orientation, to pass up my chance to be both an advocate and an activist. I can’t do that anymore. I cannot sit idly by while the darkness presses in on those less privileged than I am. I cannot hide my bleeding heart any longer. It’s time for me to make a difference, to become that revolutionary I’m always talking about. It’s time for me to do my part. It’s time for me to stop seeking more light and start giving more light.

I’m a very non-confrontational person. Sure, I may argue with someone every now and then, but usually not over the important things. I don’t like to hurt feelings or condemn people. I’m afraid of being too loud, of saying things that, even though they may be right, hurt those I love. I’ve always struggled with whether or not what I believe is the right thing or the wrong thing because it’s so radically different than what those around me believe. However, as I’ve gotten older and gotten to experience things those around me never will, I realize that I’ve always been right. My heart has not led me astray. I believe in the right things–equality, justice, kindness, love. It’s time for me to not only use my actions to convey those beliefs, but also my words. It’s time to stop being afraid.

It’s November, and the time for resolutions is rapidly approaching. My mission to be better in 2016 has been pretty successful (at least I think so; I’ll have to actually look at what those exact resolutions were and see what progress I’ve made, but it feels like a lot and that’s worth noting as well). My goal for 2017 is to be louder, brighter, so kick-ass and compassionate that you can’t ignore me. I’m still figuring out exactly what that means, but I’ve got a few ideas.

I’m going to continue to give back. I’m going to continue to pour my time, energy, and money into HOBY and ASLFL because young people are the future and the strongest revolutionaries there are; they are more than worthy investments. I will continue to work with high school children through my job, because breathing life into those in need is a full-time job, not just something to do for three weeks out of the year. I’m going to start allocating money to donate to worthy charities–ones that fight to end hunger and poverty, ones that provide safe spaces for women, people of color, and the LGBT+ community, ones that spread love. I’m going to do my part to be an advocate, because I’m not sure I’m ready to be an activist just yet. Maybe in 2018.

I’m going to use my voice for the things that matter. I will not ever stop fighting for the rights of those who do not have enough. I will not ever stop caring about those who are suffering. I will not be stifled. If I cannot find more light, I will become the damn light. I will shine so brightly I can be seen from miles away. I will become a lighthouse for those who are lost and hurt and desperately need a safe landing. I want not only to make a difference in the world, but to help others make a difference. I will foster creativity and intelligence and every ecstatic impulse and spark of madness I see. I will fan the flames of revolution.

You remember that list I made of people who fought for change? You know how I said the list could go on and on? Well, any list I make, or most people make, wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface because so many who fought for things like the women’s right to vote were overlooked because they were minorities. I don’t want to overlook anyone. I don’t want to speak over anyone. I want to support those who know more about things than I do, while still educating those who know less. The Black Lives Matter movement can never truly be my fight because I’m not black; however, I can actively support that movement by advocating for those who are black and not making it about me. It’s not about me–none of this is about me, really. Please do not take this that way, because that’s not my intention. Both this post and this mindset are about all the people who  get ignored because their suffering makes others uncomfortable. It should. Take that discomfort and fight for change. Please, help me fight for change.

Every day, I wake up with the ability to choose. Every day, I will choose change. Every day, I will choose more light.

 

more-light

kyleejackson

responses to the phrase “you look tired”

  1. I am. I am so, so tired. Do you know why I’m tired? Because life is exhausting.
  2. I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in a week because I’m convinced there is a person living in the attic, in my closet, and under my bed, all simultaneously. I’ve reverted back to sleeping with the TV on, which helps the paranoia but not the insomnia.
  3. Before that, I had an issue with sleeping because my brain thought I was being buried alive even though I was clearly lying in my own bed. Being mentally ill is so much fun, yall.
  4. The dark circles under my eyes are really just the waterproof mascara I accidentally bought that will survive the nuclear apocalypse.
  5. Screw you and your normal sleeping habits, Helen.
  6. I’m aware. I’m a slave to the human trashcan aesthetic.
  7. This is what graduate school does to you, kids. Higher education is for the birds. It’s unfortunate that I made the decision to be a bird.
  8. My life is one existential crisis after another; thanks for adding another one to the list.
  9. You know how when babies are born the parents never sleep because the baby never sleeps? I’m both the parents and the baby at the same time.
  10. I know that’s just a polite way of telling me I look like shit.
  11. I appreciate your concern. Let me repay you for your kindness by telling you my entire life story. It’s only fair.
  12. Isn’t it so nice that my outsides reflect my inside? Takes all the guess work out of things.
  13. Aren’t you tired too? Please don’t tell me I’m the only person who is completely overwhelmed by their questionable life choices. What do you mean I’m the only person here who is ten weeks behind in a class they’ve only been in for ten weeks? Is that not normal college student behavior?
  14. I’m cutting out sleeping in order to prepare for my hibernation this winter.
  15. I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Oops, did my weird habit of joking about my depression make you uncomfortable?
  16. Dude, I know I look tired. I own a mirror. Multiple, in fact. Does it make you feel better to point out the obvious? Well, here, let me point out some obvious for you: I look tired because I am tired. Are we done here? Great, I’m going to go take a nap. And by “take a nap,” I mean watch Netflix in an effort to avoid doing homework or play with my dog or go to work or do the countless other things I have to do that are more important than feeding your ego.

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kyleejackson

why i can never stop writing.

Originally posted on My Trending Story (which you should totally follow me on because there’s stuff there you won’t see here and vice versa).

Can I confess something to you?

I hate writing. Absolutely loathe it. Every time an idea pops into my head, I silently groan as I write it down so I won’t lose the words. I dread the empty spaces in my day when I’m alone with my laptop or a notebook and I just have to create something. I hate writing, but I can’t stop.

I can’t stop composing little scraps of prose in my mind. Today I was loading the dishwasher and wrote an entire stanza of a poem inspired by a Buzzfeed article I read. I can never escape my words. There’s no telling when my thoughts will stop racing and chasing down rabbit holes and provide me with a couple lines of pure magic to turn into a blog post or a poem or a letter to go into my shoebox of impossible things. Of course, I can’t just leave them alone. No, I have to pursue them, to spend hours upon hours finding more words to string together in a pleasing format in order to tell a story.

I hate writing because it’s often painful. It often requires me to think about things I don’t like thinking about, to take a tiny ounce of truth and stitch together enough lies to change reality. It makes me stare at a blank page for hours on end while internally screaming about how I’d make much better progress if I just put words on the page already. I have to be witty and insightful and clever and beautiful and raw and vulnerable, and I’m hardly ever all of those things at once. I have to find the perfect words, and words have always been so flighty for me. And then there’s the whole “needing to have something to say” thing, and sometimes I just don’t. Or worse, I do, but I’m too scared to actually say them.

What’s worse: Having nothing to say and all the time to say it? Or having too much to say and not enough time to say everything? I don’t know, but something tells me I’m going to find out the hard way. Maybe I’ll write about it.

Because I can’t stop writing. I can’t find the strength or the sanity or the impulsivity to just let the words be forgotten. I can’t fight the ecstatic impulse (thanks, I’ll Give You the Sun) of creativity, of artistry, to paint the world with my words, to shape a world out of my words. And there is nothing more painful, to me at least, than to open myself up to creativity, to create something out of nothing but a song in my heart and strings of letters rearranging themselves in my mind. The metaphor about pulling teeth comes to mind every time I sit and look at the hastily scrawled notes and try to figure out which story to tell next, which part of my soul to give the world, to rip my heart out of my chest and hand it to anybody who asks for it.

I’m kind of, maybe, a little obsessed with Vincent Van Gogh because he’s kind of my artistic soulmate; if one of the greatest artists in the world would ever consent to deal with all that that entails. But you see, I’ve always felt this pull towards him, like we’re kindred spirits and I just have to dig a little deeper to figure out why. His paintings are so beautiful and hopeful, but if you know anything about my friend Vincent, you’ll know that his life was sad, that he was sad. In fact, he apparently wrote in his suicide note that, “This sadness will never end.” So here I stand, a twenty-three-year-old fledgling artist studying the juxtaposition that is Vincent’s sadness and his art’s inexplicable cheer and wondering how. I cannot make happy things when I am sad; I cannot make sad things when I am happy. So I stand at the crossroads and wonder how. How can I be a great artist when I can’t master my emotions enough to write beautiful things regardless of how un-beautiful I feel?

But I keep trying. And that, more than anything, is what draws me closer towards Vincent’s brilliance. I keep writing, even though it isn’t always good and even though much of it goes unappreciated. I keep writing because I keep finding stories to tell. I keep writing because my voice has not grown weary, and because I have an artist’s soul. Like Kate Chopin wrote in The Awakening, “To succeed, the artist must possess the courageous heart.” Vincent had a courageous heart and kept painting, and he is now considered the greatest artist to ever live (even if it’s only to his artistic soulmate). I have a courageous heart, so maybe one day I’ll be considered the greatest writer to ever live.

Until then, I will keep creating universes with my words; continue writing something new, something old, and maybe even something perfect.

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kyleejackson

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