Written by: Gracie, Facebook manager and contributing writer at Unpolished Journey.
I took the road less traveled. No, I did not willingly choose this road. So maybe I should say I’m on the road I never thought I would travel.
And boy am I glad I am on it. I remember my junior year of high school thinking about my future. I envisioned going off to college in an exotic state like Michigan or Missouri. I would get lost envisioning meeting my college roommate who would stand at my wedding and watch me marry the man that I had met the first day of college freshmen orientation as our hands touched when we both reached for the last slice of “free pizza” that was the incentive to get scared freshmen to their first meet and greet. I envisioned making life long friends, who would share stories about “that one crazy night” where my comrades who would live out some crazy The Hangover Part 4 fantasy with me giving me stories to tell me children after they had finished college. But that’s not what happened. I am not about to be engaged to my college sweetheart. I didn’t meet the BFF roommate and make a scrapbook of the college life and memories that society said I should.
What did I do? Where did I go? What was my road?
Senior year of High school 2010: Intensive outpatient therapy for an eating disorder, which turned into Partial hospitalization treatment.
Freshmen year of college 2011: Two months at college, in choir, dance class, model UN, and soup kitchen outreach group about to pledge Kappa Delta. Then taking a medical leave as my parents packed all of my bags and moved me out of the dorms in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday the 16th of September. Off to a residential treatment program in Lemont, Illinois followed by step down treatment which left me unable to return to school in the spring. So I lived at home, was a part-time nanny, took some courses at the local community college and got a job at Starbucks.
Sophomore year 2012: Ready to go back to school but my roommate decided not to return and I got cold feet and decided to live in an apartment in my hometown and attend community college again. But the eating disorder wouldn’t let go and I found myself in another residential treatment center in Arizona that fall. I again was unable to return to school in the spring and so I worked at Starbucks and applied to start full-time again at the community college in the fall.
Junior year 2013: I moved into my own apartment and completed my first full year of college at the community college. In the spring I applied to transfer to a school in Chicago.
Senior year 2014: I moved to an apartment in Chicago, began classes at my new school, but again the eating disorder surfaces and I began partial hospitalization treatment in the spring while still taking some courses.
Super senior year 2015: was able to put another full year of school together without treatment and lived on campus.
Super senior year (wait why is she still doing this?) 2016: getting ready to finally graduate.
Nobody wants that scrapbook.
I don’t know if Hobby Lobby or Michael’s sells “1st day at treatment” stickers or “Moving out of the dorms with shame” stickers either.
Except I do want that scrapbook. That scrapbook is my life. My life has not followed the road that I thought I would take…the road I thought I wanted. But now that I’m on it, and now that I’m here, I can’t imagine walking any other path.
Around Thanksgiving I always reflect on my gratitudes. I reflect on the people that make up my life, the people who have added such richness to my story and the people that keep me going. I have often made a list of all of the people that have touched my life, and I often get emotional when I look at all of the beautiful people I have been blessed to encounter on my road.
I think about the very first people I met in support group. I think about the wild and wonderful band of women, of all ages that were in my very first partial hospitalization. I remember making a mix tape of recovery jams and laughing until we cried using humor to ease our current situation.
I remember the spring the first spring that was supposed to be my freshman year in college I had was my grandfather’s part time home health visitor. I remember priceless, sweet moments while we ate lunch together and would talk with our eyes. My grandfather was diagnosed with Dementia and so much of our conversations were spoken through the same handful of sentences. He would comment on how delicious the beef soup I made was. And I would remind him that it was from a can. After his passing in the summer of 2015, I grew to cherish this opportunity I would not have otherwise had if I had been in school.
I remember the wonderful women at my first residential treatment center…all of my roommates, and the staff. I remember the long conversations I would have about God with some of the soul sisters I met there. I remember re-writing the lyrics to Broadway songs and putting on shows to distract ourselves around the holidays. I remember sitting in a room with women who shared their most vulnerable, raw experiences with each other at the hope that another woman would find strength.
I think of all of the amazing and beautiful people I met when I got my job at Starbucks. The beautiful teachers who provided me with laughs and support. The friends, confidants and soul mates who are still in my life today.
I think about the diverse group of women I met in Arizona…women from Portland, New Zealand and New York and the chance to live in a small community with women of such varied backgrounds and stories.
I think about my roommates in my first apartment in Chicago, the women who encouraged me to own my life, my story and my independent, female power. And the women I met in my day program in Chicago.
I think about the individuals I have met while being a Resident Assistant on campus in Chicago, which I never thought I would be able to do. I never imagined what being immersed in a college environment again would be like or dreamed that it could be my reality again.
I think about the professor I met during a night class that I took while I was in a day treatment program in Chicago. The professor who encouraged me to sign up for her research trip to Uganda where I met yet another world of truly incredible souls and gained a new family abroad.
And lastly, I think of my constant supports. The family members and friends who have never left my side. The people who watched me stumble. The people who would listen no matter how far I was spiraling. The people who wrote to me while I was away. The people who still call to check in today. The people who are always in my corner. The people who remind me I have a purpose. The people that I fight for when I have lost the strength to fight for myself.
I think of the blessings I have and the beautiful encounters that I have been given. I think of all of the beautiful souls I have been privileged to entangle with…and I can only give credit to God and the universe for orchestrating the most beautiful, wild, humbling, humorous, sometimes painful but powerful life.
I am going to end with my list, the list that I make every now and again where I count my blessings and realize the richness of my road…the road that was chosen for me.
Cora Megan Sara Monica Dominique Tim Megan
Theresa Megan Stephanie Ethan Sarah Carolyn Brian
Hannah Angie Kim Arloa Allison Megan Cameron
Mom Paige Jay Mist Kristin Rachel Abigail
Dad Alyssa Solo Aggie Morgan Rachel Kendal
Anna Jane Mardia Allie Tommy Neil Nada
Mara Ashley Cat Anna Griffin Voni Kim
Natalie Erica Amber Mel Ashlyn Mami Joyce Jane
Tracy AnnaLee Mikey Sarah Scott Judith Beckie
Melissa Brittany Cat Erin Bruno Tori Raliegh
Anastasia Gabbi Nick Mel Danica
Emilee Rubi Kate Megan Jacob
Katie Adrian MaryBeth Ellen Angie
Molly Hannah Sabra Diane And this isn’t even half the list….
Michelle Alex William Mona
Atzimba Issac Sam Ashley
April-Hope Irene Esme Lisa
Matt Jenny Bri Eli
Liz Nicole Brianna Dan
Caitlin Vanessa Roy Pat