Lifelong Learning

I have always been a very curious person.

I like to learn about how things work, why things are the way they are, and I enjoy learning other languages like Spanish. I made pretty decent grades all throughout middle and high school. Once I got to college, my mental health declined and I made a series of poor decisions which affected my grades.

However, one thing I’ve realized recently is that grades are not the sole measure of intelligence. There are so many different types of intelligence. Although I do not excel in math, I am a great cashier at my job. My drawer is rarely under balanced, and has never been short more than five dollars. I’m good at cooking. Did that help me pass Biology for Non-Science Majors? No. But does it help me nourish my body so that I can chase my dreams? Absolutely!

I have decided to return to college. I am only going to take one class, and I plan to audit it rather than taking the class for credit. Yesterday I went to campus and signed up for American Sign Language 1.

Bharti and me goofing around in middle school

I was inspired to do this partly because of my childhood best friend Bharti, who has studied ASL for years and is going to grad school soon. The other reason I want to learn Sign Language is to help as many customers as possible. I already have most grocery store words down in Spanish (though sometimes quests for obscure items become a guessing game. “Es la cosa calor o frio? Puedes comerlo? Es la cosa una verdura o fruta? etc.”)

A few days ago, a Deaf customer came through my line. He was shopping for a grocery delivery service which requires us to remove the tax from the order. I was able to recall enough from my high school ASL class to say, “Are you deaf?” to understand his answer of, “Yes,” to ask him if he wanted paper bags or plastic bags, ask if he needed help outside, tell him there was no tax on his order, thank him, and tell him to have a good day.

My ASL is very broken right now, and I have to finger-spell lots of words, but the customer was thrilled that I’d even tried. That is my absolute favorite thing about my job–helping people.

I’ve also recently learned a lot about myself and my inner world. I used to have a therapist who said, “Depression is anger turned inside out.” I’d always deny being angry, all the while being full of self-hate, which is a pretty angry feeling.

Whenever I’m angry, I tend to take it out on my body. I don’t like feeling angry, and the quickest way to diffuse the emotion is to harm myself.

Last night, I had a conversation with someone in my social circle who I do not know very well. I was shocked at how unkind this person was. This person mocked me for enjoying my job, said I probably didn’t make very much money, called me crazy, and on and on. Ultimately, there was a loud noise and I jumped because as a person with PTSD and an anxiety disorder, I am sensitive to overstimulating environments. This person found my nervousness absolutely hilarious and made a snide comment. At this point, I just walked away.

I was seething. I turned on some heavy metal music on the drive home, and started screaming along with the songs. Impulsively, I decided to go to the pharmacy and get razor blades so I could hurt myself.

Once I arrived at the store, I saw my friend from high school who works there. He asked me if I was okay, and I vented to him for a minute, then headed to the razor aisle. I stood there, staring at all the shiny blades.

“Fuck that dickhead,” I thought. “He owes me an apology. Who the hell does he think he is? Why would he say that stuff to me? He doesn’t even know me!”

As I stood there, contemplating which package of blades would do the most damage, I turned around. On the opposite side of the aisle was bath products, things people might use when they wanted to pamper themselves.

I meandered through the aisle. If I was going to get in the shower anyway, (part of my bedtime routine, and also where I normally go to self-harm) maybe I’d get a new body wash or something so at least I’d smell good.

Next I wandered into the makeup section. I buy 99% of my makeup at the drugstore, and I have a plethora of lipsticks that are all pretty much the same shade. “I’m ugly anyway,” I thought. “It’s not like makeup is going to fix that.”

And finally, I saw it. Hair dye. I’ve done everything imaginable to my hair, including accidentally giving myself micro-bangs, and shaving my whole head. I have a complicated relationship with my hair, as silly as that may sound. It currently just barely reaches my shoulders, which is the longest it’s been since I was sixteen. When I had my buzz cut, I would have dreams about brushing the long, white-blonde hair of my childhood, and wake up feeling sad that I had 1/3 of an inch of hair.

Back to black!

Luckily for my parents, my workplace does not allow unnatural hair colors, so I decided to go with black. I put on “American Pie,” one of my favorite songs, and applied the dye. It actually came out pretty well!

During this whole ordeal last night, I decided to turn to God. I am not one of those “pray for the people who hurt you,” kind of folks. So, I prayed for myself. I asked God to please save me from anger, and to help me care for my body in the way that He would want me to. I expressed gratitude, for my family and friends, for a place to live, for a car that gets me from here to there, for my job, and for everything else good in my life.

As I have mentioned before, I do not typically kneel to pray. Not only is it a more Christian tradition than I was raised with, it also reminds me of how I used to kneel down before the toilet when I was deep in my eating disorder and purging every day.

However, sometimes one has to break tradition. So, I knelt down in my living room and offered God my humble prayer. And you know what? An instant wave of peace washed over me. I was able to go to sleep without harming myself, feeling pretty with my newly dark hair.

In the morning, I was able to take a more objective look at the situation. Someone was mean to me. I got my feelings hurt. But I was okay! And today I can choose not to dwell on some random person’s words. In the end, what other people think of me is none of my business. I am secure in the knowledge that I am a good person. And I’m pretty sure God would agree.

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