Hello, world! I’m alive and well. In case you were wondering.

I haven’t felt like blogging much (obviously), for a number of reasons that will hopefully be clear by the end of this post. But I thought I’d try and come up with a year-ender post of some sort. So here we are.

You know, over the years, I’ve read about, and talked to, creative people dealing with mental illnesses who say that when they take medication, it makes them feel better, but also sort of kills their creativity. I think I’ve been feeling like this for a good part of 2015. I’m not diagnosed with any mental illness (not yet, anyway), so I’m not taking any drugs, but, yeah… There has been a sort of calm in my heart. And this calm isn’t giving me much to write about, or providing inspiration for me to go make some good shit again. I’m still my usual sensitive self, sure, always latching on to things I observe and turning them around in my head, but the intense need to make something out of it hasn’t been there for a while. I guess this means that school, which has been the biggest change for me this year, has worked like an antidepressant for me, and that sounds absurd, does it not? School? An antidepressant? But there you go. Strangely enough, I don’t resent it. Calm is nice. I mean, I was the opposite of calm when the year started. The fact that I usually cry about TV shows now instead of my own life is something I am very grateful for.

Of course, like I said, this is because I can definitively think of 2015 in halves: Before and After, with my life-course-altering decision to study again being the reference. Most of what happened this year has revolved around contemplating that decision, and the consequences of actually doing it. But a lot of stuff have also been learning experiences that I think would still have happened regardless—I’m just growing up, that’s all. 

So, what have I learned and experienced this year?

Number one on the list would have to be how I learned that a great deal of weight is unburdened from your soul once you commit to stop lying to yourself. Truth is rarely ever black or white, so there are valid reasons for pretense, I would say, and there are lies we tell ourselves because that’s the only way we can get up every morning. But I learned that it’s healthier to be honest with yourself. Like, admitting to yourself, “I hate this. I have to do this, and I will try to do it well, but I hate this” feels so much better than repeating “I’m okay. Everything’s fine and nothing hurts” hoping you’ll eventually believe it. Even if you must successfully fool everybody else, you don’t need to deny yourself the truth. Besides, acknowledging something’s wrong, even if you can’t do anything about it right now, means you are aware that you want to make it right, once the opportunity presents itself.

In this vein, self-acceptance has also been such a recurring theme for me this year. I’ve already talked about it in my birthday post. No more fucks to give and all that. Also notably, I’ve fully embraced my introversion, which doesn’t seem like a huge thing, but it is. This is by large due to my reading Quiet by Susan Cain (which I plan to talk more about in a separate post—crossing my fingers) earlier this year. I didn’t realize I was always comparing myself to The Extrovert Ideal, and that I had a subtle, but still potent, self-hatred going on every time I felt like I couldn’t face people and just wanted to be alone instead. (Which is, like, every day?) Because I thought that wasn’t normal. That’s not how people are supposed to behave. You’re not supposed to hate eye contact or text messaging. You’re supposed to want to join social activities and go out on weekends. Shyness is something you’re supposed to overcome, because it’s the outgoing people who are rewarded more. But to hell with “supposed to.” The thing is—quiet and antisocial is my normal. While I may have to adjust sometimes, nothing is wrong with me. I am a textbook introvert. Fact. I don’t need to change. Also a fact. People can go on sharing their life in social media comfortably and it will continue to boggle me, but I’ll also continue having all my settings on Facebook set to Only Me. They’re them, I’m me, and nothing’s wrong with one or the other. We just have different ways of dealing with life, that’s all.

Predictably, all this self-acceptance has led to a bit of budding narcissism. I’ve gotten considerably more vain this year. Haha! I’m now fascinated with stuff like blow-drying routines and matte lip creams and eyebrow gels the way I have never been bothered to before. Just this November, actually, when I met up with the college (1.0) gang again, they were like, “OMG, you’re wearing lipstick!!!” as if this was such a huge character development moment for me. LOL. Maybe it is! Omg, I do wear lipstick now. Granted, I’m partial to nude shades, “no-make-up make-up,” basically, because I don’t think I can pull off anything more drastic, but still. I’ve gotten so maarte. (For me, anyway. :D) I’ve learned to apply moisturizer and all that jazz every night, and last Sunday I put on liquid eyeliner on myself for the first time and I didn’t totally fuck it up. I even had this tiny wing thing going. I’m so proud! Hahaha. Is this, like, a twenty-something thing? Does adulthood entail caring about cosmetics and apparel more than usual? I’ve given up trying to analyze it, to be honest. I’m just really pleased that it’s happening at this point in my life. When I’m sure I’m not doing it because I want attention or because of any member of the male species. I’m doing it for myself, because I want to. It feels healthy. Self-absorption at its finest—but I say that with a smug lip-balmed smile. 

Another significant thing, which you already know: I quit my job earlier this year. And I’ve been on the lookout for any smidgen of regret ever since, but there hasn’t been any. Even if I hadn’t gone on to study again, I don’t think I’ll ever regret quitting. My co-workers have been nice to me, and a job at a government hospital meant being able to help a lot of people who needed it the most, but my getting away from that still feels like Atlas finally letting go of the sky. (Minus the crushing-the-world-thus-destroying-it part. Obviously.)

But—guilt is not something I’m able to shake off. I’m taking Economics (again) this semester and one of the principles emphasized to us is opportunity costthe cost of something is what you give up to get it. The Universe isn’t even subtle at all; the textbook we’re using cites this exact example: …the largest cost of going to college—your time. When you spend a year listening to lectures, reading textbooks, and writing papers, you cannot spend that time working at a job. For most students, the earnings given up to attend school are the largest single cost of their education. Now, doesn’t that just scream me? Zinger! It’s ultimately what separates me from the rest of the students I interact with, now—not my age, although that sometimes matters—it’s that I never actually feel like an undergraduate, or a simple student with nary a care in the world, because I’m not. I have a professional license in my wallet. I could be earning. I could never forget, not for a moment, what going through with this decision is costing me and my family.

So: School. Again. Is it weird that I’d recommend it? It is a test of patience, for sure, but it’s also fun, especially if you really do like what you’re studying about. And I do. Oh, man. I don’t talk about it because I can’t put it into words well, but I really do enjoy my subjects now. Sometimes I catch myself having to arrange my face during my classes just to keep my enthusiasm from showing. (Well, for my major subjects, anyway. Uncredited minors are excruciating.) I’m pathetic. But it’s true. It’s not that much of a chore to study when your brain warmly welcomes all the shit it has to absorb. 

And…there is this perspective you get when you’re a bit older and you’ve already gotten a glimpse of the real world outside of school—you learn to take nothing for granted. I see my young classmates with their priorities still unsorted, and okay, I don’t try to interfere with that because I know they’ll learn at their own pace, but I see that it’s easier, in a way, to focus on schoolwork when you’re a bit more mature, when you know more about how to manage all those distractions. And you learn to respect your professors more, because you finally see them as humans doing their (v. challenging) jobs, and not as torturers out to make your life a living hell. Sometimes I even relate more to my professors than to my classmates! (I really am an adult now. Oh God.) But, also, and I like this bit—professors (and the entire college experience, actually) can no longer intimidate me. When they start talking about failing students and horror stories and struggles yet to come, I imagine myself putting some metaphorical Wayfarers on and smirking. I have survived this shit once, and I can do it again. Ain’t got no room for self-doubt no more, yo.

Oh, and! I like Physics now! This is so startling! I absolutely hated Physics all through high school and college (1.0). I don’t even know how I passed; I had all-too-willingly forgotten all the concepts. But now, after one and a third semester, I kind of see the light. My professor is great, for one. I also think my new university has done a fantastic job of adjusting my worldview to a wider setting—it’s almost like freedom from the shackles of such a hospital- and patient-oriented mindset. I mean, the hospital is a beautiful world, but it sort of just revolves around itself…? It’s hard to explain if you haven’t worked in a hospital for long. Just that…it’s so self-contained, that environment. But yeah, for some people that’s enough, rightly so, and I respect that. However, I personally found it limiting. (As always, isn’t the problem inherently me?) There is a bigger, infinitely fascinating world out there, with much more to learn about. I see that now. Ya know, I’ve even begun to think that (since my current brain won’t allow it) in another life, I’d love to be an astrophysicist. Seriously. That would be so freaking awesome. But yes, a part of me still wants to go back to the hospital (or to medicine) somehow, after I finish my second degree, this time as the computer scientist/medical laboratory scientist hybrid that I would become. I don’t know. But there’s still time to figure out what my heart will ultimately sing for.

Hm, what else? Friendships! It’s almost like I was super alone last year in preparation for the number of new acquaintances I’d meet this year. Being an irregular student means you get so many sets of classmates each sem, and that means lots of new “friends,” even for me, someone who wouldn’t normally speak unless she’s spoken to. Not to mention the Computer Studies cluster is delegated to just one floor in one building in our uni, so you bump into each other a lot. Like, I find myself smiling to a helluva lot of people in the hallways everyday. It’s getting out of hand, really. Sometimes I want to escape to restrooms just so I don’t have to talk to people. LOL. But I’ve also luckily found a set of friends I kind of belong in. (Or more like, they found me?) They’re shifters too so they’re a bit older than the rest (still not as old as I am tho HAHA) and they all totally fit into the “gamer and anime-lover” stereotype that’s super common in our cluster. I’m the odd one out, but I learn a lot from them, actually. I laugh a lot with them. They’re such youths, but it’s hilarious. I’m closest with a girl, but the rest of them are boys, and that makes it a totally different experience from the female-dominated population of BMLS students. (I once joked that it feels like I’ve also taken a Boob Analysis course last semester. Because really. BOYS. Teenage boys. Boys who know I am very open-minded and a medical professional to boot so it’s like they forget I’m a girl and they talk to me about nearly everything. It’s a riot.) And I love how everyone’s so chill. It might be a CS thing. We all have our struggles and the subjects aren’t easy, but there’s next to no pressure, and that’s really nice.

There are days I feel quite old among my classmates (I can’t even call them my peers, yikes) (some of them were already born in the new millenium! I cannot) but for the most part I actually fit in, shockingly. People seem to always be surprised to find out I’m 22. I’ve been told that I look 18/19 (and I’m not sure I should feel flattered about that haha) so until I’d pointed out that I was a second courser they’d never actually thought I was that much older than them. A friend even said her first impression of me on the first week of school was like “fresh meat excited for the coming school year.” Like, WHUT. Thankfully I look older to her now that she knows me better. “50% more mature,” she says. I’ll take it. Lol.

But perhaps my most favorite bit about 2015 was how I’d been given a brand new clean slate to work with. When I started studying again, absolutely no one knew me. No one had any idea who I am, what I’m like, what my interests are, what I’m capable of, what baggage I’m carrying. I’ve never had this level of anonymity since, I don’t know, pre-school? So I was completely free to be whatever kind of student I wanted to be, and I grabbed the chance to fulfill my dream of invisibility. For all my academic life, I struggled with others’ expectations of me, and there I was, last June, with absolutely zero expectations from anyone. No one knew me, so no one expected me to have all the correct answers. In group works, I didn’t become leader by default. I never felt like anyone was relying on me to do well besides my own self. And I could appear and disappear whenever I wanted to, walk around in school without having to make eye contact, stay in the library and be alone without being tagged as anything. I got to be an ordinary student, with the only extraordinary thing about me being my previous degree. (Which I don’t even parade around or anything. The only way you’d know is if you ask.) (And honestly? People don’t care. It’s so not a big deal. I love it.) It doesn’t last, of course, this invisibility, because as the academic year goes on, you get to know your classmates and your classmates get to know you (and your grades…) but I relished every minute I had as no one. I’m so thankful for it.

And, well, since we’re in the topic, I did pretty well for my first semester back in college. At least once in my life I could say I managed to get a perfect 4.0 QPI for a semester. It’s certainly not the most life-changing achievement, but it’s something to remember 2015 by, especially since I don’t think I can pull it off again, hahaha. And it has been nice to discover that despite not doing anything technically academic since 2013, I’m not that rusty after all.

In other more shallow matters, I got a hand-me-down iPad from my brother on my birthday and it has changed my life. I never really thought I needed one (and I still don’t, technically) as I already have a laptop and an iPhone, but then again, I didn’t know how much a tablet could be so convenient! Especially for a student. Pretty much all my textbooks now are pdfs, along with our lecture notes, so I can carry basically everything in one device (which I used to do on my phone before, but the screen isn’t as big, obvs). But more than that—I’m using it to explore the world of comic books, and it’s made it easier for me to watch TV series. Which I have been doing a lot of. I still don’t have the patience for anything that has more than thirteen episodes per season, but considering I’ve spent years not really following TV shows, it’s a big change for me! (Unnecessary storytelling: I am SO obsessed with David Tennant right now. I feasted on Marvel’s Jessica Jones and Broadchurch and Doctor Who Series 1-4 this past month and have even started listening to How to Train Your Dragon audiobooks because he narrated them. I cannot and do not want to stop. Lol) (Scottish accents are everything). Anyway, what I’m really trying to say is—that’s my excuse for what has been quite a lackluster year of reading. Shows and movies over books. Lately. I mean, I’ve still read past my goal of 50 books but I feel like it’s such a far cry from the last few years. Not to mention, when I don’t read much, I also can’t write well. So it’s been a struggle. I don’t really berate myself for it, though. Books have always been where I escape to, but this year I didn’t need to escape from my life that much, and that’s nothing to complain about.

So…that has been the year that was. Non-explosive. Kind of gray. There hasn’t been too much of one thing, and there’s been a little bit of everything. But I appreciated that. Like I said—there is a calm in my heart that wasn’t there before.

And more than anything, it was The Year I said No to Them and Yes to Myself. All my love to everyone who helped me make that decision and who stayed on my side in spite of it.

(Especially the Universe. Which has been so noisy this past year, in the form of literary quotes that somehow always found their way to me in the most perfect of moments. They stirred my soul and made me brave. I’ll be sharing them in the quote blog under the tag Series: 2015, just in case they may help you out, too.)

I’m pretty excited for 2016. Allons-y!

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