It’s 1:34 pm on a Wednesday afternoon. I am still wearing the clothes I slept in under the oversized shirt I wear when I paint. Six weeks ago I would have been preparing for my psychology class, annotating notes on Erickson and Maslow and psycho-social development. Probably anxiously picking at my nails, simultaneously overwhelmed and purposed by the prospect of six thousand words due in two weeks.
Everything is submitted now.
The day I submitted my last paper was less of an emotional roller coaster, more of a washing machine. A roller coaster seems too ordered. A weird mix of relieved and grateful, ready to break down and cry in the aftermath of a particularly taxing psychologist appointment that morning, a small, tentative sense of pride, and anxious because, well, an anxiety disorder. All the feelings, none of them exactly discernible.
I think, on reflection, that I worked hard. Regardless, somehow my perfectionist brain can’t help but pick apart the last five months, place fail 2’s on distinctions, note that I was employed but only just, that half my papers had extensions on them. Pick, pick, pull apart.
That aside, I am done. My creative energy does not need to be reserved for essays on cross-cultural work and reports on early childhood development. I am a qualified youth worker. (Hilarious to me, as I feel eternally seventeen, a youth myself.) My time is (mostly) my own again.
I get this weird combination of emotions whilst studying. I am fond of the idea of being an academic. Contrary to my overtired, overstressed, overstimulated breakdowns, I enjoy writing essays and collecting research. I want to be intelligent and I’ve spent the last three years in tertiary education working for it.
I also want to be some kind of artistic mess. Copy my fourteen-year-old self and sit up trees writing stories, embrace the messy seventeen-year-old covered in oil paint, perpetually late to any class following art or a free, locking herself in the art room every spare moment.
I want to tell stories and paint my life away, I want to be up at 3am buried in psychology texts, I want to work two jobs and somehow never burn out.
I am learning again and again that this is impossible.
I’ve had to let things fall by the wayside. Not always a pleasant experience, some days I’ve felt like my entire life is as messy as the room I’m living in. If I could only reset everything I would feel a little less catastrophic, a little more human. But there isn’t time. Sometimes between classes and work and psychologists and medicals and assignments and crying and meetings, there isn’t time to collapse into a freshly made bed. I don’t have the answer to balancing mental illness and work and study and just living. Perhaps there isn’t one, maybe this journey will be up the steepest hills every step of the way, and maybe that is what I should be counting when my grades come in.
Regardless. I am done with this chapter, I can scratch my signature on the dotted line and move on to the next, full of its own challenges and nights out and Sunday mornings and breakdowns and breakthroughs.
Today is a Wednesday afternoon and I am in my bedroom covered in paint and my speakers are playing worship music and I know I have to call Centrelink and universities but right now I have a tube of gold gouache and a painting to complete. Maybe for an hour more I will breathe in and out with every brush stroke, then I will try not let anxiety swallow me whole and be an adult once again.
I’m cautiously optimistic about the next few months. Terrified, more often than not. I’m moving out and changing jobs and universities but for a single Wednesday afternoon, that doesn’t matter.
All my love,