Well, friends… I did it. I had a MAJOR life epiphany. I did not want to blog this any sooner, as I was afraid that the feeling was temporary; I am so prone to mood ups and downs that completely change my thinking. But no! This epiphany came several months ago, and I have not let go of it since.
So, what is it, you ask?
Well. Here it goes.
I realized that I am alright. I am more than alright. I’m content.
Anyone who read my posts from over the summer knows that I was anything but content at that time. I was carping almost daily about how all I wanted in the entire world was “Rowlingian” or “Kingian” success with my Eternity series, and trust me, what I published on the internet was NOTHING compared to what I was writing in my journal at that time. The whining was UNBELIEVABLE. But more on that in a minute.
Looking back at that time now, at all the whining, all the consternation, all the shameless, neurotic hoping, I realize that I was unhappy, first and foremost, which I kind of already knew, but I also realize that much of it was spoken by the desperate inner-child within me, the one who just did not want to let go of college and face the responsibilities of adulthood. I realized that I needed to believe that I was going to suddenly become mega-famous, be adored and revered as a literary titan, and be saved from my mundane, everyday life because I was in a rut, and I had no idea how to dig myself out. I wanted to live that life so I could be free of the stresses of student loans, finding a job, working a job… I would get to sit on my butt and make millions of dollars and have everyone ooh! and aah! over me. What could be better than that?
Well, lots of things, as it turns out. I wanted all of that, I wanted that life, but that just ain’t where I’m at anymore.
So, how did this epiphany happen? Well, through two things: A sudden health crisis that lasted for one month and is still kind of ongoing, and because of my work.
The first epiphany-trigger is legitimately embarrassing: I had a routine appendectomy. For me, a person with WILD health anxiety, to suddenly be besieged by a potentially life-threatening health situation was my absolute worst nightmare. In fact, as the anesthesiologist was preparing to put me under, I looked back at him as I laid down on the operating table and said, “This is my worst nightmare. You have no idea; this is my absolute worst nightmare.” Everything went beautifully, and I was discharged home within the day. Well, physically, I was mostly fine, but emotionally, I was a wreck. Panic attacks every day, frantic Googling of complications from appendectomies… I thought I had blood clots that would turn to pulmonary emboli and smother my lungs, or make my brain stroke out, or stop my heart in its tracks. I thought a tiny bump on my arm was going to turn into MRSA. I thought every ache and pain was an abscess or herniated scar tissue. I was an utter basket case, to say the least.
But that was not the crisis. At least not completely. The crisis came when, after returning to work, I had the WORST headache of my life. It lasted for days. Now, being a person afflicted with health anxiety, I immediately thought “BRAIN ANEURYSM” which is ACTUALLY my worst nightmare. It always has been, as long as I have had health anxiety, which has been many, many years. So, I went to Patient First, hoping that the pain in my eye was some kind of infection or better yet, just a really bad migraine. But no. Once there, I was informed by a histrionic doctor that my pupils were uneven, which suggested a TIA, and that I was at immediate risk for a stroke. I needed to go to the hospital RIGHT AWAY FOR A CT SCAN, LEST I WISHED TO HAVE A STROKE AND DIE. I mean, really, this guy was running through Patient First to call the hospital and tell them I was coming over, that it was an emergency, blah blah…
Don’t panic. I am going to say now that not only was this doctor wrong, but that he was an idiot. At the ER, they informed me that my pupils were fine, and everything else in my perfectly healthy 23-year-old body was chugging along nicely. But the anxiety got the better of me. For days, I believed that histrionic doctor was right, the other doctors were wrong, and I was going to have a stroke. I returned to the ER on two separate occasions, and on the second (and the last), they did a CT scan (which came back clean) and a spinal tap (which hurt like crazy and made me scream and cry like a little kid but also came back clean.)
So, as I am recovering from these procedures, as I am laying in the throes of a horrible panic attack, I started thinking to myself, “Well, what if I really HAD been having a stroke? What if this were my life? What if this were it?” And that is when I realized that I have been hoping and praying and desperately wishing my life away. I have not been present, at all.
Yes. It literally happened just like that, which I thought was weird, because I don’t normally believe in epiphanies like this.
I returned to work a week later, to my beautiful Pre-K children and my amazing co-teachers, who were so happy to see me, who had been sending me messages through my entire illness, reminding me that they were all there for me, they all missed me, and they couldn’t wait until I came back. Every day since going back to work, even when I have wanted to pull my hair out (days like that are inevitable when you work with children), I have been telling myself that this is where I am meant to be right now. I work with children, several of whom have special needs, and every day, they do something that either totally makes me feel things like a human (my way of saying “touches my heart”) or they accomplish something that to us may seem so little but to them is huge, or vice versa. I love walking into my room and being barraged by hugs and gleeful shouts of “Ms. Tori!” I love being immediately pestered about drawing Rapunzel and Elsa and Sheriffs of Mars, or braiding hair, or helping them build a garage for the cars out of the blocks. I love how they are so eager to do everything from art projects to Math worksheets to huge class discussions about our Letter of the Week or Popcorn Words. As I was laying in bed recovering, I made a mental list of all the things I love about my job, and the aforementioned points are only a few of those reasons. I realized that I have been taking that stuff for granted in a way that is almost offensive. Working with kids is difficult, to say the very least, but, if you’re doing it right, you get back SO MUCH. These are little, adorable, innocent souls who just want to spend time with you, who love you unconditionally, who will probably not remember you (at least not well) in the future, but who love you every second of the present.
Right now, I am continuing to experience rather severe abdominal pain, which has resulted in two ER visits AND an MRI, and yesterday, when the pain became so excruciating at work that I could barely stand, one of my little girls walked up to me, hugged me, and said, “Ms. Tori… What I want more than anything in the entire world is for you to get better.” And I held it in then, but later, I cried over that, because is that not the most lovely, adorable, perfect thing that has ever happened? I am lucky to experience moments like that, certainly, but I am lucky just to be a part of their lives, even if only briefly. And when I move on from this job, when I go to grad school, get my PhD, and move on to teaching big kids, I will find being a part of their lives, even if only briefly, just as fulfilling. The greatest teacher I ever had was a college professor. He changed my life in one two-minute interaction. If I can encourage a student the way he encouraged me, if I can intervene, however discreetly, when I know they need guidance, then I will continue to feel that I am doing meaningful work.
How does all of this relate to my former dreams of being mega-rich and mega-famous? Well, I realized that the world needs more teachers than it needs mega-celebrities. And also, as I am getting older, I am looking at myself more objectively. In college, I felt the need to be the loudest, most opinionated, most read, most intelligent, smartest girl in the room. I thought I was always right, that having an opinion on LITERALLY everything was required if I wanted to impress people. Having opinions is important, I know that still, but I don’t feel the need to take up all the air in the room, to bloviate about why my opinion rocks and someone else’s stinks. I don’t feel the same egocentric streak in me, the one that whispers that the solar system revolves on a Tori-centric model, that the Earth’s gravitational pull is a direct result of me and my brilliance. I don’t feel the need to embellish or to outright lie in order to make myself seem more intelligent or cooler. I don’t feel the need to one-up every story with a bigger, better story of my own. I don’t have time for people who are still stuck in that mindset, who can’t step back and observe themselves, who need attention and recognition and props and kudos and oohs! and aahs! I recognize those traits not as a sign of “coolness” but as a sign of great insecurity. I don’t find many things impressive, not that I really ever did. If people brag to me or to the world about their supposedly wonderful lives (which happened ALL the time in college and continues to happen today), I don’t buy it. I don’t have time for that kind of silliness, for braggers and liars and man-children or woman-children. I try to be kind to those people, to ask them about their lives, but I sift through their answers for what is true and what is more than likely false, and I have discovered that I am freakishly skilled at making the determination between truth and fiction. I don’t look back at any decision I ever made and think, “Well, maybe I should have done this differently, because then I could have done X, Y, and Z, or maybe I could have been here, or there, or everywhere.” I don’t live in the past. I have never been one to look at the social media pages of people I used to know, and I still don’t do that, not because it’s painful for me to look back, but just because I simply don’t want to. I don’t have the mental energy to give to old friends or old flames, or to old times, even. I don’t regret a single thing I have done over the past year. I don’t regret a single decision I have made, or a single moment of unhappiness or uncertainty or angst or anger. I am happy now, so I regret nothing.
When I read my journal during my recovery, which was a chronicle of my senior year in college, I saw some great things: my passion for learning, my love of being involved in school, my love for and loyalty to my friends, my sadness, my fear. But I also saw what makes older people cringe at my generation: I saw self-entitlement, a belief that God or Fate or the Universe should reward me for past struggles by making me famous, or that everyone should be looking at me all the time, and talking about me, and thinking about me. I saw a belief that everyone else was the problem and I was just an innocent victim of Evil, Horrible, Awful Circumstance. I saw a belief that I should be able to sit on my butt and wait for some miracle to save me from adulthood, and I cringed reading all those entries, the same way I cringed back then when I thought about working a 40+ hour work week, paying my own bills, taking control of my future, and getting my head out of the clouds. I am still terrified of adulthood, of leaving this dream behind completely, but I am also actively taking responsibility for my own life, for my own happiness, every single day.
This sounds crazy, I know. This sounds like something that could only happen in a wannabe-inspirational movie. But I know that A LOT of my post-graduate friends, from Stevenson and from other schools, have had similar epiphanies. Hell, my friends who DIDN’T go to college made these strides and came to this conclusion a LONG time ago. I know a lot of people who HAVE NOT had similar epiphanies, who still operate their daily lives under the delusion that the world revolves around them. And I don’t say any of this because I think I deserve props for my “maturity” or for my new way of thinking. Like I said, I am still struggling with this new mindset, I still fight that egocentric inner-child that wants to believe the world revolves around me. I don’t write this because I think other people should feel this way, or because I am defending my generation a little bit. Well, okay, I am defending my generation a little, because we are so often called little narcissists or perpetual children. But there are a large facet of us (I think there are WAY more of us than we let on) who grow up and change their thinking, or who have never thought that old, immature, egocentric way before. There are also MANY who do not outgrow this thinking, and I recognize that, too.
So, what does this mean for Eternity? What does this mean for T. Rudacille, the writer? Never fear. I will ABSOLUTELY be finishing the series, and I will ABSOLUTELY continue to write. But I will not spend time self-promoting, simply because I just don’t want to. There are many, many Indie Authors working 40+ hours a week, taking care of families, seeing to their responsibilities, and still self-promoting, and believe me, I commend them. But I can’t do it. So, this blog is going to sit on the way, way, way back burner for a long time. Or, if I do write, the content might be very different. Or it might be the same. I don’t know, we’ll just have to see. I am going to write my books, my blog, and whatever else, simply because I love to write, not because it is going to save me from the big, bad adult world.
This is goodbye, for a while. One day, I might re-join the cybersphere, but in the meantime, I am going to keep my ducks in a row now that I have gotten them in a row. I am going to hope that I continue on this path, and that tomorrow, I don’t wake up aching to be J.K. Rowling. I am going to try to remember what it was like to write just for the sake of writing. In short (too late, I know), I am going to just live out here. Cuz I am happier and more content than I have been in a long time. I am good. Really good.
So I must be doing something right.
-T. Rudacille (Tori)