The other day I went through the first photo album I ever made—like an actual album with the glue and plastic covers. I made it sometime in the early 2000s and it is filled with pictures from my freshman year of high school through the first half of my senior year. They are fun and cute generally—lots of plays and dances. But that was high school for me. That and church choir.
One picture stood out to me though. I was at my friend’s house sometime in the fall or winter of my senior year, so 1999. She took a picture of me sitting at her computer (a dinosaur). You can’t see what I am working on, but I remember very clearly. I was filling out an application to Baylor University. I hadn’t told anyone I was going to do it.
It had been in my mind that I might because the friend whose house I was at was planning to go there, although I’m not sure that she had made that public knowledge either, and my best friend was going to go there. Everyone thought that I was going to go to The University of Oklahoma. I had already been accepted, but I didn’t have any friends going to OU. I was afraid to go off on my own. I was already depressed. I didn’t think that I had it in me to strike out on my own. I felt too weak.
My parents were quite surprised when I said that I was going to attend Baylor, but they let me make my own decision. I thought that I would be happy because I was going to room with my best friend. At OU, where my sister had gone, I could never do and be all that she was, and I didn’t really want to anyway. But I felt that I would be expected to be like her. I would join her sorority and everyone would expect me to be her all over again. And if there is one thing I am not it is my wonderful sister. So I went to Baylor.
If I thought of myself as having made mistakes in life, this would probably be at the top of the list. I felt like I was suffocating there. Everyone felt fake. I remember people from my hometown talking to me that had completely ignored me my entire life. It felt weird. It felt unreal. I was already losing touch with reality, so rushing to join a sorority was practically surreal. It was a bad trip. It felt fun at times, but it always had the worst come down.
I remember being in physics class and a boy who had never talked to me turned to me the first day I had on my sorority shirt and started chatting me up. I wanted to punch him. I hadn’t existed without those greek letters. And it made my life seem so meaningless. I felt so alone. I would sneak out behind my dorm and smoke cigarettes, which I wasn’t supposed to do (sorority rules) along with chewing gum, walking on grass, forgetting to say hello to people I didn’t know. It was ridiculous. It was a game that made me want to kill myself. Literally. I chose death over that life.
Some people love that stuff. I don’t. But I was born into it and too young and unsure to step away. I thought that that life was my only option. I hated all the rules. I hated being required to be friends with people because of a social organization.
After my suicide attempt—which happened the week of our initiation, I received one message from my “sisters.” It was a small card with some generic flower or pleasant phrase mailed to my parents’ house. Inside were 2 sentences. 1. They hoped that I felt better soon. 2. Could I please return all of my sorority stuff so it could be given to someone else?
I doubt I need to analyze or explicate that for you. People are strange. Priorities get skewed and reputations become more important that people. But some people love that stuff.
So when I look at the picture of me applying to Baylor, I wish so desperately that I could scream at myself, “Stop! Don’t do it! It’s the beginning of the end! Run away! Stop!” But I can’t. I can’t do anything about the past.
But I have to remind myself that I might have missed some good things if I hadn’t been in that situation. I met a couple of people then who have made very happy at different times in my life, and I don’t know if I would have met them if I hadn’t been so miserable where I was. I also wrote quite a bit during that time as a way to escape how miserable I was. I read a lot, and I listened to a lot of music. I found ways to escape until I felt I wanted to escape forever.
I’m not quite sure what this post is about. It’s about me. And what should you take from it? Maybe that high pressure social constructs can drive a depressed person over the edge. Maybe that sometimes we get so caught up in the game that we miss an opportunity to see people who are in need. And maybe some people just don’t care. And that’s okay, I guess. I had enough who did care, and I certainly learned a lot about friendship and truth.
I look at this picture of me willingly asking to walk into the darkness without knowing that it would be so dark. I didn’t know that this was a mistake. I didn’t know that things would get so terrible that I would lose my mind. And so I don’t think of it as a mistake. I think of it as a turning point. The moment where I took a steep path down into a shrouded valley. A valley that I came back out of. A valley I try my best to stay away from but I don’t always succeed. And this picture is when I took the quickest path there.
No regrets. No mistakes. Just choices and consequences. Just life. Good and bad, keep moving forward.