The first revision

 


I used to call myself a writer.

 

Writing was always my way of simultaneously getting closer to and farther from my feelings—analyzing them in detail while placing them outside of me onto a blank page. This blog, in particular, was my pride and joy for years, the place where I wrote most freely. But as I swam into the depths of grad school, I found myself drowning in research, heartbreak, low self-esteem…

 

I stopped writing on paper, and started writing in my mind—a self-narrative of worthlessness, a story of shame.

 

After five long years, I officially graduated last month with my PhD and will be starting a new job in November. When I should have been celebrating, I sulked about how there was no big moment, no graduation ceremony, no night out with friends in this pandemic world. Instead of recognizing my achievements, I complained about how nothing felt different, how I was still working long hours trying to wrap up my papers. I felt like I didn’t even deserve the degree, and that the journey to get here was not one of growth, but just a giant mess that I managed to barely scrape my way out of.

 

After another day of moping last week, I went out for a run around the neighborhood and took a turn that I don’t normally take. The street looked familiar to me, and I suddenly realized that I was running past the house where I used to get tipsy, where my classmates held parties, where I laughed with all the giddiness of a first-year graduate student. Where I was a different version of myself, a version that didn’t make it to today.

 

Sometimes I think back on that naïve girl, with all her optimism and without all her tattoos, and I wish that I could go back. Back before she realized that she wasn’t going to save the world with her research. Before the imposter syndrome sunk in. Before she learned that some men don’t take no for an answer. Before she started going to therapy. Before she buried herself in work, only to lose all interest in it.

 

But as I ran past that house, I realized that I had been living in this story that I’d actually outgrown. A story where life got the best of me, and I gave up. A story where I’m a victim, where I got lost and couldn’t find my way out.

 

The truth is, I did find my way out. I made it to the other side. All this time, I had become so fixated on all the negative aspects of these last few years that I didn’t even notice how much I’ve grown. I longed for graduation photos and a big night out, as if I needed proof that something had changed, when in reality,

 

the change has been happening for a long time.

 

I’m not that innocent first-year anymore, and there are a lot of memories that I wish I could undo from these years in between, but I have climbed to the top of the mountain. I have been hiking the ridge for longer than I realized, huffing and panting on an uphill that I had already passed, and forgot to take a look at the view.

 

I used to call myself a writer. Writing helped me reflect, helped me better understand who I was, who I wanted to be, and how to get there.

 

Maybe, with this post, it’s time to reclaim that identity. It’s time to pick up the pen and rewrite the story that I have been telling myself for far too long. I am smart. I am worthy. I am confident.

 

This is just the first revision.



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