“You need to do some meditation and realize you have to let people care for you,” one of my housemates texted me recently.
I dismissed it.
See, I thought I had checked off personal growth on my to-do list months ago.
Last summer, I had an internship in Columbus. I lived on my own for the first time, paid my bills, exercised regularly, cooked dinner and packed brown-bag lunches.
I even signed up for a Columbus Metropolitan library card, and registered for adult summer reading!
I felt confident in myself, in my abilities as a budding journalist and in the healthy lifestyle I built for myself.
After moving myself back to Oxford for my senior year, I thought, Hey, I think I’ve finally got it together this time around.
But my summer was a bubble — a beautiful, shiny bubble — but a bubble nonetheless.
Sure, I developed better coping mechanisms to deal with my anxiety and drank coffee in a thermos while riding the bus to work, but that didn’t make me an “adult.” In fact, neither did my plans to apply for internship and job opportunities post-grad, ace my classes and juggle my commitments to The Student.
In my head, all of these plans and “adult-like” decisions meant that the worst of my issues was behind me.
My sense of self worth and my rocky relationship with my parents didn’t completely course-correct just because I spent I three months living alone.
And, while I did spend the summer becoming comfortable in my own skin, that didn’t mean I had the slightest clue on how to let new people into my life.
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So, when I met a boy at a Halloween party this semester and we hit it off, I had no idea what I was in for.
The night we met, he brought his comforter out onto the roof of his house so we could look at the stars. He asked for my number, cooked me dinner and said things like, “Ceili, you’re awesome!”
And I panicked, because this was not a part of the plan.
I had just gotten around to being okay with myself. There wasn’t room for another person.
My brain sputtered out every excuse in the book for why I couldn’t handle this. I’m too intense. Too messed up. Too anxious and filled with baggage
And, if I’m being really honest, the idea of allowing someone to understand all of my neuroses forced me to reconcile with the fact that I don’t think I deserve to be happy with someone else.
A pretty clear indication that I, shockingly, have not solved all my problems.
But, as I’ve come to realize — through many angst-fueled conversations with one of my best friends — neither have most, if any, human beings.
Unfortunately, self-improvement is a life-long endeavor, no matter how hard I try to knock it all out in one summer.
Years ago, a friend told me, “You can’t treat your life like a project.”
I’ve found myself slipping back into that mindset over the past semester. It’s an easy and harmful habit to sink into. I’m trying to remind myself my mental well-being can’t be checked off in a neat little box on my weekly to-do list.
Personal development, I fully acknowledge, continues way past college and — I can only hope — my own growth will extend far beyond the three months I spent in Columbus.
Over the summer, I learned how to live on my own. Now, I am learning that I am imperfect but also deserving of love. We all are.
As I look back on senior year so far, and as I look forward to my last semester of college, I am writing this as a promise to myself. I won’t think of myself as a failure just because I haven’t “solved all my problems,” and I will try — as best I can — to let others care for me, too.