by Shira Perton
You know those moments when you feel like you got it together? Like you could just plug in your headphones and run off into the sunset, or win an Olympic medal? Or even those movie moments, where the music picks up, the main character suddenly has it together and is magically walking to the beat of sunshine with no more worries. Well that wasn’t me, for a while. I was the washed-out version of an old picture you’ve hung on your dorm room wall one too many times; crumpled, slightly ripped, still intact but not quite as resilient as it once was. I was that white pair of shoes that at first appear clean, yet, upon closer inspection, are really more of a sidewalk grey.
Why? I honestly don’t know. I could chalk it up to a breakup, not knowing how to say no, spending my summer giving to others when I did not realize that the person I needed to give to was myself. I could try saying it was from traveling, not sleeping enough this summer in attempts to catch the sunrise. I was unsure about my future. Was I making the right choice in remaining a biology major? Regardless of what I was feeling, I was in a slump. For the first time, I was angry at myself for not understanding, for not being able to write about my emotions. I took it out on myself, thinking that I needed to reevaluate my choices, validity and integrity as a human being. Feeling lost and misunderstood, this little girl did best what anyone would do when feeling overwhelmed- I exploded, in a fantastic eruption of emotions and thoughts.
When a room-temperature seltzer bottle explodes, it is because the solubility of a gas is inversely proportional to the temperature of the liquid. The warmer liquid cannot contain so much dissolved gas, causing the bottle to erupt with fizz, overflowing everywhere. Shira, meet seltzer. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to deal with emotions, and, like soda that can’t contain it’s gas, I was unable to hold all these thoughts inside. My friend and I joke that my memoir will be called The Life of The Emotionally Unemotional, and it was that same friend that I turned to when I needed some advice. I was a seltzer bottle at that moment, exploding from the increased pressure, and I was suddenly beginning to see clearly — as the seltzer fizz begins to settle — with a sudden clarity of what to do.
Pouring out how I had recently been feeling was enough to allow me a little air to breath as my seltzer eruption began to subside, and I entered a calmer state of mind. My friend simply replied, “Shira, the only way that you will not be in medical school is if you decide to not to be there. You need to think about why you’re doing these things, because when you do something, give it your all, and if you’re not saying F*** YES, then take a step back and try something new.” Sitting in Washington Square Park, it hit me. As much as I can be my biggest supporter, I can also be my worst enemy. At the end of the day, I was the only one holding myself back. I was experiencing so many negative emotions, because I could not look myself in the face and say, “Shira, stop.” There is a defining moment in the movie Cool Runnings where a character looks at his father and asks, “what do you see?” “A little boy,” his father responds. He adamantly puts his foot down and denies the opinion, ultimately proving that he is anything but that (side note: if that reference went over your head, please go watch this movie a.s.a.p ~ your welcome). I spent so many nights feeling alone, crying in the darkness of my room so that no one could hear, waking up early and disappearing into the crowd thinking that somehow, I would stumble upon myself and be okay.
Life doesn’t work like that.
Sometimes, we go through a period of grey. We all experience it differently, but it’s that inexplicable feeling inside of you that you’re running and running but not getting any closer to that finish line. But you know that saying, once you’re down you can really only get up? That’s what happens. It’s not necessarily something that we can talk about, that we can put into words. We don’t always recognize it happening either. Sometimes, it just hits you – I left that park as a completely different person. I was ready – ready to stop throwing everything into the ever-growing pile of excuses under my bed, finished with pushing people away, and done with being so upset at myself for not understanding. Sometimes, these periods help us have the best breakthroughs. These are the times that we learn the most about who we are.
So cue that music, whatever jam works best for you. That happened for me — no earbuds necessary. I was walking on sunshine and, although I’m a stiff dancer, I had rhythm. Nothing crazy changed, maybe the lenses on my glasses, but when I looked in the mirror I recognized the eyes staring right back at me, and everything made sense.
A trick for seltzer bottles that’ll keep them from bursting is refrigeration. A cold carbonated liquid can hold more dissolved gas than the warmer one, averting any potential explosion. And just like seltzer, my temperature, whatever you want to call it, changed, allowing me to compartmentalize my feelings and figure out effective solutions that would avoid a relapse of the past month. I was watching myself in third person. I saw Shira making the right choices and feeling good about them. There is a huge difference between looking and feeling, and I was feeling. It was a magically blissful experience. I felt ready to run that Olympic race and win that Nobel peace prize.
Although there will always be bumps in the road, I’ve put the days of being Alice falling down the rabbit hole behind me. Rather, I’m opting for climbing mountains, to see and experience new heights, to feel like the only one yet the smallest entity in the atmosphere.
So, to whoever is reading this, regardless of who you are and how you found it – hi! Sometimes, life does not go as planned. Occasionally, we find ourselves at a dead end or totally missing our subway stop, ending up lost somewhere, knowing, likes Bugs Bunny, that you should have “taken that left turn at Albuquerque.” We end up with a load of experiences from that missed turn or change in route. We may find an even better version of ourselves at that dead end. Sometimes, our lives are like Pokémon Go, and we walk around blindly trying to find one thing and stumbling upon another. Yet let me challenge you to look up from the phone and looking for an intended goal and just experience. Let the world show you the colours of the wind or something like that. Watch as leaves change from green to abstract and live. Watch the street performers doing what they do best, and feel the rhythm, feel their expressions. Chill your soda bottle before drinking it, and allow your friends to show you their genuine smiles, and just take it all in. Every breath, every sight, in your own way and live.