Sometimes I underestimate the power of Time…

Today I met and caught up with my one true love and best friend since 2nd grade, Rachel, for the first time in 2 years.  You’re probably thinking that that’s an awfully long time to go without seeing a best friend, let alone talk to them, and you’re right.  Yes, we both lead busy live and she moved to Germany, but a big reason for our time apart was our own personal growth and recoveries.

When I moved back to Keene 2 years ago, my ex who also happened to be one of my best friends and biggest supports decided that it was in both of our best interests to part ways.  As hurt as I was and as horribly as he handled it, it was what I secretly wanted too.  I honestly can’t say that I was mad.  Sad, yes.  But not mad.  For once in a very long time, he finally did the right thing.  Even though I was making considerable progress in my recovery, the year after I had gotten out of treatment was a tumultuous emotional roller coaster for me and had put a strain on both of us that neither knew how to handle.   That aside, we already had a long history.  I did the best I could.  At the time, I never thought he cared enough.  But looking at back, I think he did the best he could too.  He didn’t know how to handle it.  It’d be very easy to blame everything on him, but I can’t.  He made mistakes and I made mistakes.  Helping and understanding people in recovery is extremely hard.  It takes a lot of strength and patience and compassion.  In the end, I believe he knew he was holding me back.

By September, we were done.  Even though I knew it was a good thing, it also left a huge hole in my already very small support system.  I was terrified.  I had never been without him since I had developed a full-blown eating disorder.  He was the one who convinced me to go to treatment.  He had been with me through some of the bleakest periods of my life.  I started to wonder whether I could do it without him…

And that’s when I realized, it was finally time for me to stand on my own.  As much as loved my best friends and knew they loved me, I always felt like I was still perceived as a disordered being.  Whether that inkling was true or not, it was holding me back.  It kept me stuck in the disordered mentality and despite whatever progress I made, I continued to define myself as such.  It was like when you visit or move back to your hometown after college and people still see you as your high school self.  It doesn’t feel good.  So I decided I needed to break away, not out of anger, but necessity.  With already one best friend gone and starting over at Keene, it seemed like the right time to do so.  It was time to be fearless.

Soon after the Fall semester started, I was cast as Janet in my college’s musical production of The Rocky Horror Show.  The impact of that experience is a story for another day, but it became the support system I needed.  I met new people who got to know me as Kristine, not an eating disorder.  When I opened up about my struggles, I was met with admiration and understanding, not judgement and negativity.  I finally was becoming the recovered person I always wanted to be.  I can’t begin to describe how much I grew over the next 2 years.  I was confident.  I was socializing.  I was free.  Not only did I grow, but I broadened my support system.  Now I have an abundance of friends and family who I can count on.  I don’t have to dump all my issues on one person and strain our relationship.

Aware of the transformation I have undergone in the period apart, I admit, I was slightly apprehensive about seeing Rachel today.  What if too much time had passed and we were two completely different people?  But despite that nudge of insecurity, I knew we would slide effortlessly back into place.  Sure enough, it was like no time had passed.  We’re still two kids sunbathing on the playground map during recess.

Maybe I didn’t need to take that much time away from her and my old supports.  Regardless, the time apart gave me the space I needed to grow out of the mold my eating disorder and depression encased me in.  I am in such a better headspace.  Even just over the course of this summer, I feel so healthy – mentally and physically – and I can see that in my best friend as well.  Just in the way we talked and carried ourselves, I could see we both have a confidence that we didn’t have before.  We’re more sure of ourselves.  We may be uncertain about the future, but we’re certain of our worth and growth.  I’m so proud of us.

I hope to continue reconnecting with old friends.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to reconnect with my ex/former best friend.  I never thought I’d say it, but after today’s success, I’d like that.  He crosses my mind occasionally and I wonder where life has taken him.  Wherever he is and whatever he’s doing, I’m sure we’re both happier where we are now than we would have been if we hadn’t parted ways.

Perhaps time and space don’t need to be perceived as bad concepts in relationships, romantic or otherwise.  I don’t think I’ve ever understood the healing and evolutionary powers they possess until today.  Time and space could be my allies.  Taking chances and a tenacious heart could be too.  Maybe I don’t have to fear them so much.  Maybe there are times to stay put and what you want will come to you in time, and maybe there are times to go out get it for yourself.  I’m finally starting to feel comfortable with treading both paths.  Maybe it’s because I’ve graduated and everything is wide open, but for once I’m facing uncertainty with unwavering eyes.

Come what may, I will be okay.

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Badasses can be 5’2″ and blonde

I have countless role models among my family and friends that keep me going.  But I also look to fictional characters for inspiration.

Before the eating disorder and severe depression, my fictional gal pal was Rory Gilmore.  In high school, I easily related to her.  She was quiet, witty, and loved books.  Pretty and brainy – what more could I want to be?

Well, a lot more actually.  When I revisited the world of Stars Hollow during my college years, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at Rory.  She was deemed perfect at everything she pursued, denied being privileged despite her rich grandparents paying for everything she did, had a complete disregard for reality, often times treated her friends and boyfriends like crap, and yet somehow she had a parade of followers who worshipped the ground she walked upon. (For a more in-depth analysis why Rory Gilmore is a destructive and completely unrealistic role model for girls, please read this article.  If I could sue someone for plagiarizing unspoken thoughts, I would.)

Needless to say, Rory is no longer an inspiration to me.  But that’s okay.  Her exit made room for a more worthy heroine: Veronica Mars.

Let’s backtrack to 2011.  By then I had gone to treatment, started classes at a new college, and was chipping away at recovered life in Boston.

The first year of recovery is the hardest.  In some ways it’s harder than a year of sickness because you are no longer numb.  You begin to thaw.  Eating disorders stunt your growth as an individual, and when you’re released from its cage, you feel mentally overgrown and awkward.  Nothing is simple.  Word vomit is a frequent occurrence.  You are constantly crying, getting emotional over things you can’t explain.  The entire time you keep thinking you’re more crazy and unstable than you ever were before.  But you’re not.

As 2011 progressed, I was beginning to not only see myself differently, but the people around me through new eyes.  I didn’t like everything I saw… I had never considered that I would lose things in recovery.  After all, wasn’t that the reason why I went to treatment?  To save everything I loved?

But still in the midst of my slow, but steady progress, I was going through what turned out to be the last rough patch with my then best friend and ex.  For a multitude of reasons, one of which being I was finally speaking my mind.

Enter Veronica Mars.

One day I was at the Cambridge Library killing time before my ballet lesson. (Yes, you heard that right.  Me.  Ballet.  It happened.)  I was looking at the DVDs for something that would soothe the usual wave of anxiety after spending 2 hours in a leotard, when I stumbled upon the first season of Veronica Mars.  I remembered commercials for it years ago, but had never seen it.  So I checked it out and an episode later, I was hooked.

If you’ve never seen the show before, Veronica Mars is a modern-day and infinitely more badass Nancy Drew.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good overarching storyline with witty dialogue and an interesting ensemble of characters.  For a show that was originally targeted for a teenage audience, it has some of the best writing I’ve heard on television and delves into territories of social and economical class, rape and slut-shaming, race and ethnicity, sex and gender.  Unfortunately, it only lasted three seasons, but Veronica Mars will always be known to me as the girl who helped me find my inner badass.

Veronica Mars emulated everything I was too afraid to be, but knew I had in me.  She is strong and independent.  To me, there is nothing and will never be nothing more attractive and admirable than intelligence.  Veronica is known and respected for her brain.  That is her biggest and most celebrated attribute on the show, in my opinion.  So I started believing in my own intelligence rather than constantly putting myself down and focusing on my body.

My confidence sky-rocketed, and with confidence, my recovery and happiness reached an uncharted high.

I learned that I can stand up for myself with intelligence and class.

I fight my battles with a quip in my heart.  There is a huge difference between communication and confrontation.  I don’t like confrontation.  I mean, who does?  I find no pleasure in it, which is why it bothers me so much when someone is unresponsive or worse, thinks I’m a bitch.  I don’t like it either, you know!  I still get scared speaking my mind.  But I do it because I’d rather demand respect than sit comfortably in insecurity.  It is not overreacting to ask for what you want and need.  Telling someone that what they do hurts your feelings or bothers you doesn’t have to be an accusation.  When I approach someone, I don’t yell and toss the blame at them.  You don’t have to say hurtful things to throw a punch.  I’ve learned that intelligent and honest words will make a bigger (and more effective) impact.

Veronica didn’t take shit from anyone.  But even with her hard exterior, she had a heart that was just as easily hurt as anyone else’s.  Having a heart isn’t a weakness.  It’s okay to not be tough all the time.  It’s okay to be marshmallow.  It’s also possible to be serious and tough, but still retain femininity.  I like polka dots.  I like skirts and tights and fancy shoes.  For whatever reason, my love of pink apparently makes me soft.  But remember, it’s all fun and games until someone ends up with my stiletto up their ass.

Just because she had been through a lot of traumatic experiences, she didn’t deny herself the desire to love and be loved.  Better yet, her relationships never defined or radically changed her personality.  Having a boyfriend was never a priority.  That isn’t to say when she was in a relationship, he wasn’t important to her.  Quite the opposite actually.  But she embodied the idea that you can follow your dreams and have a relationship.  I feel like we’re taught that you can only have one or the other, and to have them both, you’re putting yourself at risk of losing your way.  But I find happiness in both and believe there’s nothing stopping anyone from balancing the two.

Just like the show, Veronica isn’t without faults.  She is stubborn, unforgiving, and at times takes cynicism to the whole new level of extreme.  But that didn’t stop me from admiring her.  Instead, it helped me accept my own self-proclaimed flaws and move past them.

Veronica Mars didn’t teach me how to be a badass.  It was always there.  She just helped me get a new contacts prescription so I could see that I already had it within myself.

You’ve got it too.  Be cool, soda pop.