Boy Did I Find Out – Reflections on Summer 2022

When I started the year, I flippantly stated that I wanted to fuck around and find out. To live fearlessly and accept the consequences. To try new things and be unafraid to look foolish. To grab life by the nips and twist.

Well, God decided I really was meant to find out.

Lord did I find out.

I can’t really share the specifics of what happened, but I think its still important to discuss how its made me feel. And after the stuff I’ve been through the past few months, I’ve feel like Shit™.

It is not a secret that this year I have been pretty stressed. I’ve felt a lot of pressure to do well academically this spring. My life has dwindled down to the bare minimums of my hierarchy of needs for food and water, a house to live in, running to keep the serotonin pumping (although its more of a unsteady drip), and work, so much work. All weekends have been devoted to work, most nights I work until I fall asleep at my desk, everything has been a mind-numbing soul-crushing amount of work for what I hoped would amount to a PhD one day.

I’ve always treated my life as incremental goals from where I am and who I want to be, and each day I’m just chipping away at that huge block of marble to reveal my ideal self. Times can be tough, but I’ve been through hard things before, and I thought I knew how to handle it. But life had other plans, and God (or fate or whatever you want to call it) decided that I was about to be put through some of the worst fucking months of my life. My values, everything I knew about how to approach the world, they were shaken to their core leaving me depressed, self-conscious, and isolated.

To put it into perspective over how the stress of life has manifested in my body physically this summer, let me give you a highlight real of the symptoms. When the morning starts, I wake up from terrible vivid nightmares of the bad events happening again, that it was all my fault, and that I am worthless. I get a notification on my phone, and my heart jumps into my throat, because I don’t know if it will be updated information about the situation, or if its just spam. It’s spam. But seeing that information doesn’t change how my body has started to feel, as my conscious brain remembers why I’m on high alert. My stomach churns, and so begins the pendulum between feeling nauseous all day and having no appetite from the stress over how the situation will resolve. I drag myself to campus to work. A colleague makes an offhand comment about how everyone feels this way through grad school. I’m fairly certain they don’t. Another incident happens that afternoon that triggers me. My heart feels like its going to hammer out of my chest. The paranoia spikes, as does the questioning that this is all in my head and nothing really happened. I question what other people know, if they’re judging me, if I’m being watched. I used to always find comfort in the idea that my fears were statistically unlikely. But now I’m a walking statistical anomaly, uncertain of myself and my ability to perceive the world and avoid this happening again. For the millionth time, I go over my case with the reporting services. It doesn’t help that the reporting services simultaneously acknowledge that what is happening is deeply traumatic but somehow it also my fault. I wonder if something is fundamentally wrong with me, I followed everything they said to do and they still insist that it is my fault in some way. They tell me it will all be resolved soon. They said that last week.

With this looming over me, I really haven’t had the energy or even the desire to set cute flirty summer goals for myself. Every day is a battle to get the work done to keep up to pretend I am normal and that everything that happened is fine and life is fine. But life has not been fine, it has been a complete horror show. And I don’t want to write about this summer and pretend that because I got to run outside a handful of times, I’m some resilient girlboss that rolls with the punches and takes failure in stride and outputs meaningful pinterest quotes. I’ve been deeply hurt and affected from the events of the past few months. And I’m still hurting.

Devon Yanko has a really great quote from her blog where she says, ” We don’t have to laud a sucky experiences, but we can be grateful for our own ability to go through tough shit, to survive and the once again live in the light and thrive.” And this summer has taught me more than anything else, I can get through tough shit.

When I think back to a year ago, to two years ago, I think about how much of my life has changed. I feel like more of a competent engineer. I’ve learned an incredible amount about machine learning and control theory, the bulk of which was self taught. Physically I am way stronger from running, and I’ve gotten to run pretty damn far. I’ve traveled to lots of cool places and been lucky enough to meet a lot of cool people. And hopefully a year from now, I will be looking back on this experience with the realization that I have healed. That what happened is something that happened to me, but it didn’t define me. In a year, I hope to be happy again, supported by the same people, but actually able to offer support in return because I’ll have the energy and ability to do so. And the idea that with each passing day, I’m getting closer to the future where this is behind me, that is what keeps me going.

Because I feel guilty about only having a long tirade on how bad things are, especially when universally everything is bad for everyone right now, I wanted to end on things that I am looking forward to in the next few months and current good things in my life.

  • I am looking forward to hopefully forming a committee this fall. I’ve been working with a NASA Space Traffic Management Expert these past few months and he’s been lovely. My confidence has been razed and its been really healing to get constructive and positive feedback from him.
  • I am looking forward to Bubba’s Backyard Ultra in October. I had so much fun doing it last year, and if there’s anything I learned from this summer, its that I have mental resilience in spades. I just need to train so my legs can keep up with my brain’s apparent capacity for suffering.
  • I am looking forward to the World Cup which is happening this year in November? I do not follow soccer religiously but something about the world cup brings out something absolutely feral in me, I love watching it.
  • I’m dog-sitting my family’s dog, and he cuddles me to sleep every night and every morning. I love him

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