I don't fall apart often, but when I do, I do so in spectacular fashion. I am nothing if not dramatic. I've always been a person with gigantic emotions, dramatic tendencies, and proclivity toward extravagant language. I feel everything on a magnified level- love, joy, sadness, and hate. Everything is a big deal to me. Apparently, this is because I'm an 8 on the Enneagram. Whatever the reason, I've learned a lot about myself over the years and am starting to understand why I respond to everything with such passion. I started diving into the Enneagram again this summer and I think I'm an 8 with a 7 wing (which apparently, the personality type of dictators. Awesome). This seems relevant to my summer meltdown because I am good at avoiding things I don't want to do. Of course, I still do the generally unpleasant things that are required of life, but generally speaking, if I don't want to do something, I figure out how to avoid it. Unfortunately, this summer my unstoppable force met an unmovable object- Greek School.
Greek school was the worst academic experience of my life. I am generally a good student who loves to learn, so school has been a mostly positive experience for me for the last 20-something years. But Greek School broke me. With over 100 new vocabulary words a week and complicated grammatical concepts every day, it was a relentless pace of studying that I couldn’t keep up with. I'd never been so discouraged, angry, and stressed about school before. My TA was incredible and the professor is a master of the Greek language, but it still didn't help. I kept hitting new depths of hatred, discouragement, and general IDGAF-ness it. All this, over a class. I told you I was dramatic.
On top of this intense hatred of Greek, I've also been in Atlanta. Which, last time I checked, is not Seattle. Summer in Seattle is my favorite thing in the world, and I have missed it so much it physically hurts. I missed Seattle during my first year of Seminary, but not like this. This summer, I have missed my people, the mountains, the ocean, the lack of humidity, and the life that I got to live there, with all my soul. I find myself dreaming of what my life would be if I still lived there.
Adding to my own personal crisis, our nation has been in crisis for the last 8 months. For many Americans, this country has always been in crisis, but the last 8 months have certainly magnified it. There is a collective stress, unrest, and exhaustion that this Presidency has brought. Trying to follow the news is almost impossible, and I’m practically glued to Twitter, trying not to miss anything. I almost wince when I see a NYT alert on my phone, wondering what horrendous thing 45 has done next. I spent the month of July relentlessly calling my Senators, working for my political advocacy non-profit, and trying to stop the Obamacare repeal. I was thrilled it was stopped (no thanks to my useless GA Senators), but even that feels like a small victory because there are no real solutions in the near future. Trump could still destroy the markets just out of spite for Obama. I feel as though I've absorbed all the criticism, sadness, and agnst of our political landscape and am drowning beneath it.
As I look back on the roughest 6 weeks in my recent memory, I realize that this summer was more than just being miserable in school, it was a stripping of my identity. My closest friends were far away from me this summer, leaving me isolated and lonely. I could barely get people to go hiking with me, the space where I feel most alive and at peace. Add all this to the fact that I haven't been in ministry for a year, and I feel like a shell of the person I used to be. Who am I apart from my work, my academic success, my hobbies, and my community? Is there any of me left?
I’m used to being healthy and happy. I love being a good friend, succeeding in school, finding purpose in my ministry, and having free time for fun and for rest. This summer stripped all of that from me. I wrestle with my own imperfection—both desperately wanting and striving for perfection, and feeling trapped in a façade of proficiency so no one knows I’m hurting. Take away any measure of success to hide behind, and I’m a mess.
And so, in the mess lies the real work. The work that we all have to do, the work that I have avoided. Being a full and mature person requires facing our weak, messy, angry, sinful selves. I can’t rely on my own self-sufficiency to mask my flaws. I'm a whiner by nature. It's by far one of my worst qualities and something I'm clearly still working on. As someone with big emotions (and as an extrovert who needs to verbally process), how do I deal with emotions in a healthy, responsible way? I don't want to just post whiny blogs, but I also don't want to present a fake, shiny internet persona. I'm not even sure that I want sympathetic Facebook comments saying, "I'm sorry :( You'll get through this."
It was the worst summer ever, sandwiched between some of the best summer trips ever. It's never just one thing. Even as I look at all the frustration, I know my life is so easy compared to so many and even my "worst" problems this summer were temporary. I'm still learning how to validate my emotions while keeping them in context with the greater suffering in this world. I couldn't have made it through this summer without approximately one million phone calls, text, snapchats, and facetimes with my friends and family all over this country. It takes a village to survive Greek School, apparently, and I'm so glad you're all in mine.