I got caught in a rip current once. I was swimming off the coast of Florida and suddenly I looked towards the shore and realized I had drifted dangerously far out. I immediately panicked, but in true form, I didn’t cry out or attempt to signal anyone on the beach. Even as I was pulled further away I remained quiet, putting real effort into NOT drawing attention to myself. I swallowed copious amounts of salt water, cursing and spitting and furiously willing my limbs to keep working despite their exhaustion. Miraculously, I made it back to the shore, albeit a good two miles from where I had started out. This is not to say that I’m such a badass that I can conquer the ocean with my bare hands, but should just give you a reference as to the lengths I would go to avoid asking anyone for help, or be appearing to be out of control.
Fast forward eight years to the present day and it’s three in the morning and I’m sitting in my bed in the house I recently rented. I just had my first good cry since the boys and I made it back to America from Japan almost two weeks ago. All I wanted to do was take a nice, hot bath, but apparently, my old water heater only knows how to maintain hot temperatures for like three seconds, so I stepped into a frigid bath and promptly sat and sobbed for a while. It happens. So now I’m lying here wide awake, overthinking like a champ and ready to get it out of my brain space.
The past two years living in Japan I felt like more of an intangible presence than a real person. This awful wonderful social media culture allowed me to connect with you from across the world, but only on a very superficial scale. What starts off as real, raw emotion is shared through so many filters and edits that by the time it reaches another human it’s high fructose corn syrup, carefully packaged and safe for consumption. I was able to interact but on my own meticulously controlled terms.
That meant that every heartbreaking experience or dark thought was made lighter, prettier, and easier to swallow. Refined. I learned how to be honest without divulging details. I learned how to project a certain image of myself without putting in the work to fit that ideal. I learned how to drown gracefully, even as I quietly choked and struggled. I found that as my persona was fed, my real self-starved. As a result, when I’m separated from this calculated image I’ve created, I’m not entirely sure how to behave. Although I perpetuated the disconnect as a form of self-preservation, I’ve found that when a lot of people know of you but no one really knows you, life can start to feel very lonely.
I didn’t expect moving to be a quick fix, but I guess I also wasn’t prepared to feel so overwhelmed and insecure. I’ve questioned myself and my decisions in ways I never have before, which has been a new and terrible sensation. After tonight’s polar plunge I let the anxiety build to a fever pitch. I thought about all the mistakes I’ve made the past year, all the times I disappointed myself or fucked things up. I thought about every awful what-if and every worst-case scenario. I imagined all the ways I could fail. Then I remembered that time in Florida when I got caught up in a rip current and I fussed and fumbled and still managed to get myself out. I’m not where I want to be yet. I’m not who I want to be yet, but I know what I want and I’m going to get there eventually.