By Nina Eldridge
Hey there, me-from-a-week-ago. You are homeless right now. Yes, it sucks, it really does. And you don’t even know how long this is going to last. You will put on a smile and tell people you are “casually homeless,” or “residentially challenged.” You are going to laugh and try to find humor in it. You are going to lie and tell acquaintances that the bags you are carrying are laundry you picked up from a friend’s place… Not for long though. Who are you kidding? You are emotionally wrecked inside and you can barely stand up, let alone keep up a brave face. People are going to see the sallow complexion and sunken eyes, and they are going to ask if you are OK. You are going to crumble and start crying the moment someone asks you what’s going on. Emilie is going to bump into you at Strada. You will be in a public place crying onto your cell phone and surrounded by those bags that are holding your life together right now. There is no energy left for appearances, there is no way you can get her to leave by pretending everything is fine. It is a good thing you let your defences down though, it means she will offer for you to sleep on her couch. It beats that plan you had to sneak into one of the grad libraries and sleep on the floor – because somehow you would rather risk Cal security guards and janitors at 6 a.m. than admit to your friends that you need help. Luckily for you they aren’t down to take your bullshit. They are going to be there for you whether you like it or not. You are going to learn to be vulnerable and accept help in your time of need. You are growing, embrace it.
Though friends have offered you couches to sleep on, you still won’t be able to get a good night’s sleep. You will lie awake at three in the morning still haunted by everything that made you run. They are still out there, after all. Are they waiting for you? Do they think you will come home tonight? Who knows. Stop thinking about it. You are making yourself insane. Your stomach churns. You should have eaten. You are not taking care of yourself. Your nails are bitten down and your skin is red from scratches. How long until your hair starts falling out again?
This is why you had to leave. Survival. Basic survival. Somehow packing bags and throwing yourself into the streets with no plan for the night was better than one single moment more in that apartment. They will never understand that, and it is not your job to explain it to them. Right now you need to take care of yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Please.
You are going to fall behind on work. You already are behind. You haven’t slept properly in a week, of course you haven’t been performing as well as usual. You are at your dream school and your last semester here is almost up… but things are going to slip by you even more quickly if you beat yourself up over this. Relax, breathe, it is all part of life, take it all in.
You are not a failure because you left. You are a human being because you couldn’t take it any more. Emotional abuse isn’t funny, and neither you nor anyone else has any obligation to those who engage in it. It is going to take a lot for you to realize this. It is going to take severe sleep deprivation, it is going to take a relapse into an eating-disorder, it is going to take a stress-induced acidic imbalance in your stomach, it is going to take seeing both your therapist and your berkeley connect mentor grimace in sympathetic pain, and still you won’t quite be able to shake the guilt of “making a fuss” about it all. Your feelings are big enough of a deal to make that fuss. Your health and safety are too. You have a right to a secure and happy environment. You are more than justified in your desire to leave. You did the right thing in leaving. Trust your choice and stand by it. This may be difficult to see from the exhausted, puffy-eyed, un-showered perspective you currently hold, but this is the first step to making things get better. And they will get better. They will get harder first. You are going to have insults screamed at you; some of the people that you thought would drop everything for you will be too busy holding on to other things this week, making you feel alone and doubt your choices; and some of your suitcases will be held for ransom… but you will get through it. You are going to learn to stand up for yourself, and you are going to learn to stand up straight. Proud and tall, you are going to come into yourself. Get ready to be amazed by what you can do and who you can be. This is a new beginning.