About this time last year, I was in a musical. I needed to paint around 15-20 pieces for an art gallery, and I had to have surgery on my knee. I started this post then. At that time it was titled, “What I Do When I’m Stressed.” I never finished it.
The past few days my body has been fidgety, distracted, tense, and tired. I feel the need to twirl my hair and rub my face. It’s uncontrollable. I want to binge eat and sleep.
It’s fascinating. Stress is caused by feeling like I’m out of control, and my body’s response to feeling helpless is to respond with unconscious habits. OKAY?
Apparently, summer is stressful for me. I’m not sure why, but it seems like things boil over in the summer, literally and metaphorically. The reasons I feel this way this summer are entirely different than last year. So much has changed and still so much more could change soon. I’m anxious about the unknown.
Unlike last year, I’m not letting food get the better of me. I have been more devoted to watching my eating habits and cooking at home. I have been more devoted to walking and hiking with Charlie. I’m stressed, but I’m not letting that inform my choices.
Realizing how stressed I have recently become, I have been craving that feeling of complete freedom that accompanied summer when I was little. The closest thing that I’ve found to that feeling is driving by myself. I love the scenic drive to and from work. Driving gives me that little flutter of freedom in my day to day routine. It still doesn’t come close to the completely ignorant and carefree experience of summer vacation.
The past few years, I have been so focused on my goals. I’ve been working on my heart and my head. I’ve been developing skills and experience. I have not thought about the past. Then, I was driving home a few days ago and for the first time, I felt my age. It’s inexplicable. I don’t know how to describe it or why I felt that way. Maybe it was an alignment of my perceptions and my reality. Maybe it was a letting go of a little bit of the child in me. Maybe it was the fact that it seems like every song on the radio is about “glory days” and high school. Maybe it was that feeling of freedom while driving that morphed into a deeper understanding of my place in the world.
I admit, I am, at heart, a nostalgic person, but I really haven’t thought about “days gone by” in awhile. I remember in seventh and eighth grade I had almost a reverse nostalgia. I knew my time as a kid would be short. Even then, it pained me that it would be gone so fast. It used to make me so sad. Then in both high school and college, I flipped and started wishing away the days, striving for something that suited me better.
A few days ago I had a dream about middle school. It was like I was in eighth grade again. It felt so real. I was walking toward my friends, who were lined up with the rest of our class outside the classroom. When we sat down at the wooden desks, I looked through the drawer for the homework that was due. I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t remember what we were studying. Then I realized it was a dream. I said out loud, “I grew up. I’m an adult. I’m not supposed to be here.” I repeated it over and over, and when I woke up, I felt so sad.
“I grew up. I’m an adult.”
That dream was such a perfect metaphor for the moment I had driving. I’m not supposed to be on summer vacation or working on homework. I’m exactly the age I am now. I am exactly where I was always going to be. Life is stressful but it’s exciting too.
You know what’s after summer?
You know what that means?
The school supplies are all out, and when I walk by them, I get inspired to buy notebooks and write my plans in them. I want those crisp new folders. I feel that hope of a new start. I’m definitely okay with that feeling.
“I grew up. I’m an adult.” But you better believe I am going to embrace the energy of the “back to school” season.
It was nice to remember those moments from eighth grade. I was only sad for a split second. Then I went back to sleep and almost forgot about it. Today I ran into one of the friends I saw in my dream. She told me that she was recently reminded of going to the Bill’s Training Camp with me and my family during summer vacation.
I told her about my dream. We share the memories.