On unfamiliar spaces

by Kat

“I don’t recognize this space. Perhaps if I did I could find my way through it.” These thoughts seem to be on loop lately, as I’ve reached the end of the semester with two Incompletes and a bewildering sleep deficit. It’s hard to advocate for yourself when you’re in autopilot, using the social scripts you’ve accumulated — when describing yourself as okay seems to cover a wider range of emotional states. It’s difficult to convey how overwhelmed you’ve felt, while maintaining others’ confidence in your ability to eventually complete tasks.

I’ve spent this fall semester wondering what happens to people like me — those of us who can push ourselves to manage, but ask for how long. I’m three classes, one preliminary exam, and an oral exam away from proposing my dissertation. And yet I sat in front of my PhD mentor talking through options, asking myself if I was capable of finishing my graduate program. Sleep eluded me this semester, even as I visited my old psychiatrist hoping to find a pharmaceutical remedy with minimal side effects. With the insomnia came my lingering self-doubts.

I text myself the statements I want to internalize. The kind words I need to hear when I’m frustrated with my own limitations and fearful I’m worsening the situation.

“You are doing what you can with the the resource that you have. Even though I feel stuck, I’ll find my way through.”

I’ve struggled to find time (or energy) to write this semester. I feel like I’ve been in triage mode this semester: creating new timelines when the previous ones were unmet and trying to ask for help without oversharing. I wanted to find a coherent narrative amongst my struggling through: This happened, so I did that, and that’s why things resolved. I’ve longed for a linearity that doesn’t come so easily.

Perhaps I’m creating a narrative that doesn’t exist yet.

And so she learned to imagine these things were possible, that she could manage, not in spite of, but because of.

What would you think of someone who’d been through all of that, who was where you are now?

She’d be pretty amazing.