on trusting yourself

The hardest aspect of my injury was learning to trust my body again.

On the surface, that meant learning how to walk normally. How to walk without two crutches, then how to walk without one, then how to walk without a giant, noticeable limp. Each step brought new challenges. And each challenge boiled down to the same question: how much did I trust my own abilities?

I’d think I was capable of switching to one crutch, only to be sharply informed otherwise by the searing pain across my hip. I’d be sure that today was the day I would cross the room unassisted, only for my leg to buckle after a few short steps. You don’t know humbling until your physical therapist has asked you to touch the wall, and then had to scoop up your shaking body from the floor.

For someone who identifies as proudly (and strongly) type A, for someone who thrives on schedule, order and organization, it was infuriating. Maddening. And profoundly unsettling. I hated that I couldn’t control the problem, hated that I had to adopt a “wait and see” approach for the outcome, hated that I wasn’t sure if I could trust myself. And the minute I took my first pain-free, unassisted, limp-less steps, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t ever feel that out of control ever again.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t really work like that. This summer, I took a leap of faith: quit my job, packed all of my belongings into one car, and drove to Massachusetts to enroll in grad school. I left behind friends I loved dearly, a city I’d become obsessed with, a job I enjoyed and a house I adored. In return, I’m plunging into a graduate program that’s already proven to be extremely demanding, a city where I know only a handful of people, and what can only be described as an uncertain next professional step. I’m not freaking out. You’re freaking out.

The thing about trusting yourself is that it never gets easier in periods of upheaval, even – it turns out – after breaking a major bone in your body. That unsettled, anxious feeling has returned lately, usually at night when I’m alone, finally shutting my books and powering down my laptop for the evening. It’s in those moments that I get hit with the magnitude of my decision, the weight of what I’m missing. It’s also in those moments that I allow myself to think about the opportunities this decision could present. I try not to wonder if I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life. I try to consider how wonderful it’s already been to be in Boston.

I once told someone that I felt like after 2016, I’d survived all the horrible I need to survive, forever. I know that’s not true. As sure as the sun rises, life throws you curveballs. Sometimes, they’re curveballs covered in shit. But I’d sort of felt like I’d earned a mulligan at least for a year or two, and part of me is considering the fact that blowing up my cozy life in the District might have invalidated that mulligan. Is that how fate works? Or is that how you end up slowly driving yourself crazy?

I spent much of this summer living in an in-between world: not working, just playing, not looking at my bank account (gulp), not doing much writing. But laughing, spending time with friends or family that didn’t have to end in “….well, I have a 6am flight back tomorrow”, traveling to Paris, missing what I’d left behind intermittently. But I lived in a fake world, essentially without responsibilities, and it was only when I regained those that I understood nothing would ever be the same.

Still, I’m excited every time I sit down in class, every time I open a book. I’m excited as I start to build this small new life for myself. And I calm myself down by remembering that if there are things to survive ahead, it doesn’t matter if I’m in an entirely new place – I’ve proved my ability to survive and I’ve proved my ability to trust myself.

It turns out that breaking your hip ends up being helpful when you leave your life behind for new opportunities. You’ve already learned how to muscle through pain. You’ve already learned how to take a step (or two) without knowing if you’ll avoid falling. You’ve already learned that, ultimately, you can trust yourself. And that’s really all that matters.

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