I am dedicating the upcoming months to my mind, body, and soul—and the flow between these intermeshing entities. For a while now, my surrounding environment has put my mind-body-soul off balance from its more neutral and natural state. I am dedicating the next year to bringing back what has been buried deep, deep down into my being. The spirit that has carried so much of me in my short time alive has not left me, but rather, has become so repressed that I, instead of being one with the spirit, have learned to become its distant observer, unable to engage, only able to intellectualize.
I want to take time to listen more deeply to myself in a way that doing less and spending time alone at Tufts doesn’t afford me. My heart yearns to be outside with the mountains again, to take my time eating and breathing. The spirit that is so much of Claire—the Claire my HKIS friends and my family knows—that is filled with laughter, hope, and an eagerness and sheer exuberance for LIFE has been buried so deep inside. I don’t want to say I’ve lost it because I still feel like that core of me is still there, just in a retreated state. Because it makes up so much of me, I don’t think it can ever go completely missing. It’s just chilling, taking a little break deep into my psyche.
Things inside (mental, physical, emotional) are off balance, and have been for the last couple year. In the last month or so, with the support of my family, I have come to see the severity in these physical, emotional, and social imbalances. I think when I was away from home/family, I tried so hard to keep up an image of control and okayness that I started convincing myself and others of it. I became better at creating this illusion than actually listening to myself. When people tell me I make them feel calmer, that I send a “everything is going to be okay” vibe, I feel flattered but also disingeneous because I know deep inside, even if I’m unwilling to admit it on the surface, I’m not okay either. In fact, I’m far from okay. But I don’t know how to share my not okay-ness with others in a way that doesn’t hurt them.
When I’m extremely stressed, my instinct is to hide away in my little corner of the world, put my head down and “suck it up”. I don’t want to complain too much to others because I’m afraid they’ll look down at me as a pathetic snob. I don’t want to complain and end up triggering stress in them. So I choose to not leave my dorm room, only seeing a very select few friends. Scanning over my current state of reflection, the thought “Wow, I never thought this would be the point I’d reach one day” keeps surfacing. To be honest, none of what i’m saying is radically different to what a lot of thinkers/believers/humans have been offering the world, but I guess I couldn’t truly understand until I clocked in more time of this little planet of ours (just a euphemism. the earth doesn’t belong to us… belongs to all beings!). It’s these personal experiences that connect us to others, whether it’s through art/spoken word/movement/etc.
My body has told me repeatedly through my missing period, acne, trouble sleeping, loss of energy, etc. that things are off balance. Continuing to ignore these signs is disrespectful to myself because this body that allows me to breathe and live and feel and love deserves immense attention, care and appreciation.
Listening to my body, feeling with my heart, and honoring my mind is a form of compassion towards self. Below is a laundry list of physiological signs I’ve encountered since college that I’ve only recently started to connect together. When these things have been the most painful/persistent have been times I shut my mind off from my body, firming drawing a line between the two. But time and time again, the messages push through and I am left simply awestruck by the body’s intelligence. It knows me so well. And I’m so thankful for it. As long as I listen to it, I think I’ll be okay for a while.
- irregular/missing period : my period has been irregular since coming to college. in the first semester, i had one period during pre-orientation in august while i was backpacking through new hampshire (lol it wasn’t that bad), another one in september, and another one in october. then it went missing in november and december (hello? friend…? where’d ya go?). i didn’t consciously recognize the stress accumulating over the first semester as my self-awareness was overshadowed by my excitement and all the energy pent up over four years of a miserable, suffocating high school experience. over that first winter break, i went home to beijing and hong kong and took a family trip to thailand in between. even with all the commotion of travelling frequently in that month, i was super relaxed because i was with family and at the end of the month got my first period in a few months. i went back to school for my first spring semester of college and had a fairly regular period (omg my memory has failed me… thank you for self-quantification or else this would have continued on as a reconstructed memory) i crossed that out because based on my tracking data, i didn’t get a single period my spring semester LOL… that makes al ot sense because i was super stressed out all the time organizing for the fossil fuel divestment campaign at tufts. i culminated my first year with a sleepover (read: sit-in/protest/action) in Tony Monaco’s office i took a leading role in organizing and executing, negotiating with administrators took a really heavy toll on a already burnt out mind-body-soul. at the end of my first year, i returned to beijing, where i spent my the next four months of summer. my period returned and came on time every month. upon returning to tufts for my second year, my period became irregular and nonexistent once again. my period then went missing from november of my second year till this month. i got my period this month because i took progesterone pills so i’m not even counting it as naturally-induced. (shout out to mainstream technology for making period tracking easy, despite being super gendered and sexist!!! not gonna do a promo cuz i don’t like how it suggests i should want to be pregnant and like pink and flowers becuase i’m a woman with a (some times present) period)
- lower back pain. i get it sometimes before my period and when i’m stressed. my lower back pain got pretty bad at the end of the spring semester we just had, probably because i was super overwhelmed and weighed down by finals. when the pain was at its peak i didn’t even consider stress to be a cause of it, but i think it makes the most sense. my lower back pain landed me in even more doctors appointments. i don’t like getting scanned and probed like a specimen.
- acne. my skin has never been flawlessly clear but it’s gotten so much worse since i’ve gotten to college. my skin has been a source of a lot of low self-esteem. when my skin is bad, i don’t even want to go out to see people because i am paralyzed by my fear that people are looking and judging me based on my skin. i know this is not true and it probably says more about how i see myself than how others see me. it’s me projecting my own insecurities onto those around me.
- loss of energy. my energy levels plummeted hard this past year. everything seemed like too much effort. attending an event was too much effort; walking to dance class was too much effort; engaging with people on the street/in class/at events was too much effort. i don’t know where bubbly claire went, maybe she was taking a long nap inside, but now it’s time to come out and play!
Making the decision to take time off school is me saying no to the idea that work (capitalist productivity) always comes before rest and self-care. In the back of my head, I still feel somewhat guilty for making this decision. My dad, however, put it into perspective a bit that I shouldn’t feel bad for taking this opportunity. When he was my age, he didn’t have the means to take time off. What he’s done to provide for our family is wanting to increase the flexibility and possibilities we have in our lifetime. I think i’m starting to better see the ways my dad shows his love for us. I’ve always known it means that he provides for us, but I’m seeing now how that might mean seeing his kids enjoy and do things he once dreamt of doing. I think he’s more relaxed about my job prospects because he knows it’s not choosing a specific career path that’s important but understanding who you are as a person. He understands that college is a time to do the types of thinking we’ve been doing to shape how we go about the rest of our lives. I’m feeling grateful to have a dad like him, despite the rougher patches.