As a Chronically Depressed Person™, I almost always have nightmares. But as I look toward returning to school, a place that I have spent much time being fairly miserable, my dreams have become much more specific (ask me about my Donald Trump tennis match for the Presidency dream sometime).
In a recent dream, I found myself walking up the stairs past my friend who passed in November. In the dream, I saw him—his face expressionless as he walked down the stairs listlessly—and in dream logic, I knew he was dead and I concluded that I was hallucinating. And I also came to the dream realization that I would hallucinate him until I left campus for good.
I am deeply apprehensive about returning—every event in the first three months of business school will hold some kind of significance that relates to him and our friendship—but also somewhat eager, looking to rip off the Band-Aid. My dream seemed like an acknowledgement of my subconscious worry that this one event will haunt me for the rest of my life.
In the past eight months, I’ve screamed and cried and raged at the world for being so cruel. It is easy for me to feel like I got the worst life has to offer, but it is also easy for me to recognize that my life has been far from terrible. In the winter, I gave a classmate of mine a ride home and asked about his day. He sighed, and said it had been tough because he had found out his friend from home had passed away. Home, for this classmate, is Yemen, and in that brief exchange I realized that my singular trauma, this awful event that had no reason, was nearly an everyday occurrence for people all over the world.
Now, comparing traumas is never a good idea and everyone’s experience is valid and meaningful. I sincerely believe that. But as I sat and ruminated over the next several months, I started to catalogue the awful events that have happened to those I know and love. Some people willingly opened up to tell me about the traumas in their lives, and I started to realize that this one event was not the definition of my being—something I had started to embody daily. It can’t be, because I had almost 29 years of life before it—and some of them were terrible and some of them were wonderful and through all of them I learned and grew and changed.
Some people say that life and/or God won’t hand you anything you can’t handle. I don’t really believe that—that assumes there’s some kind of rhyme or reason behind the terrible things that happen and the deity that I believe in is far too much of a clockmaker for that kind of hands-on involvement. No one was trying to mold me into a better worker or a better leader or a better person by having me go through something terrible. But that also doesn’t mean I can’t become a better person or build resilience because of it.
In my day to day life, I slowly am losing that once irrepressible urge to talk incessantly about this one event and this one person. If this blog shows anything, it’s that I like to put my feelings into words because it makes those feelings digestible for me, and cements them in a way that I don’t often realize is happening until I’ve clicked “Post”.
That’s not to say that I’m healed or “over it”—but more that I still have so much else to work on and figure out about myself that my brain doesn’t override any other thoughts with one presiding memory. It’s still there and it’s still raw and it still hurts and scares me. But all I can do now is give it more time, and keep trying to improve in other ways every day. And in the end, that’s what my friend would want. I can go back to school and finish my degrees because to not do so would be to dishonor him and myself by reducing us to a single date in time. He was much more than that, and so am I.