breathing deeply

eating lunch at New World Deli

Normally, I begin each semester with new pens; fresh, empty notebook pages; a brand-new nalgene bottle to replace the one I left at the gym/library/auditorium. I have goals: do assigned reading before class! don’t procrastinate! do all the yoga! Inevitably, I end up slipping back into old habits, but at least I give it the old college try.

developing a close relationship with Avalon's new Kitchenaid

This semester was different. On the first day of classes, I moved out of my old apartment and into a co-op because I had started a new phase of my life (if you haven’t caught on, that’s a diplomatic way to say “I’m single now”). Due to several factors, I was already up to my neck in financial issues, relationship issues, and emotional issues; on top of that, I’m enrolled in some of the most difficult, time-intensive classes I’ve ever taken. Did I mention I’m also working at both the writing center and a marketing company? Any of these things, on their own, are problems that I can address and deal with, then move on. But on January 17, staring down months upon months of exhaustion and work, I had already started to raise my white flag. I give up. I throw in the towel. Someone else take the wheel.

hanging out with audre lorde and stovetop espresso

For two weeks, I felt helpless. I dreaded dragging myself to school. I lost and gained weight. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t establish a routine that felt right. I had taken on too much, but there was nothing I could really afford to give up. Here are some things I did at the beginning of the semester: cried in the shower (at least three times), ate half a pan of brownies… in bed, went to my professor’s office hours just to tell him that I’m way too stupid for his class.

And then one day, I decided: I will not feel like this anymore. I will not let this semester ruin this semester. I will survive these months.

building a bed (with much help from a friend)

Every time I felt overwhelmed, I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Every time I had to deal with someone who was taking advantage of me, I took a deep breath and let it out slowly (and probably told them to screw off). Every time I needed a break or a cookie or a hug from someone, I took a deep breath and let it out slowly and then I went and got it.

For the first time in a very long time, I am finally giving myself permission to put myself first.

partying with housemates

I’m giving myself permission to stop going to the gym every single damn day. I’m also giving myself permission to skip the occasional discussion section if I want to exercise muscles that aren’t located in my skull.

predicting my future using college M.A.S.H.

I’m giving myself permission to read, and I’m giving myself permission to not read for an entire week if I have to.

I’m giving myself permission to stop trying to please everyone, all the time.

getting pizza and donuts with friends

I’m giving myself permission to go out for $1 beers at The Local, even if I haven’t finished my physics homework yet.

And lastly, I’m giving myself permission to let the blog go a little bit. I’ll update when I can, but my list of priorities and obligations is long, and The First Kitchen is toward the bottom this semester.

spending quality time in the garden

I guess I’m writing this to explain why I haven’t been around much, but also because I’ve learned something important and I kind of wanted to tell you about it. Ironically, since I stopped worrying as much, my stress levels have gone down, my grades have gone up, and I have become truly, genuinely happy with my life. The pictures in this post are the things I’ve made time to do because I’ve rearranged my priorities. You can’t see it, but the girl behind the camera (cough Instagram) is smiling in every one.

except for this one. you can definitely see the smile in this one.


9 responses to “breathing deeply

    • OK.Adam, I know you and I don’t talk as much as we used to. But I want you to know that I miss your frienship and more than anhtying I was really mad at myself that I might have completely pushed you away with my idiocy. You don’t realize how much weight your opinion holds for me. You really don’t. Thanks for being understanding though.

  1. Hi Natalie,

    I stumbled upon your blog by complete accident. I really don’t know how it happened, actually, but I’m glad I’m here. We don’t really know each other, though we had three classes together, and we worked together on a project for Professor Cvetkovich. There was something about the environment of that class that made me feel close to everyone in that class while somehow knowing nearly nothing about them.

    Anyway, I read this, and I was in a similar situation two years ago (near the end of my third year as well) and there’s something in me that really wants to reach out to you and encourage you to allow yourself the time and the space to heal and be happy. Perhaps this compulsion stems from my admiration of you as a student ever since you were that bold freshman in my gay lit class. When I was in your situation, I didn’t allow myself the time or the space to heal. I allowed myself the space to be really miserable and it just made my final year unpleasant. I allowed myself to cry while listening to “Have One On Me” and “On a Good Day” endlessly. I let myself wallow in Woolf. I let myself do so many things that didn’t help me. So I think it’s great that you’re taking a more positive approach to your situation and putting yourself first. For some strange reason, imagining the smiling girl behind the camera is reason for me to smile.

    Forgive my scrambling, and I truly wish you the best.


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