Grad School #1

Depression looks like a lot of things.

Sometimes I feel too tired to carry on.

I know this is probably not what we expected of my first grad school post. To anyone I’ve alarmed or disappointed, perhaps you engage with another blog. I spend too much energy trying to meet the expectations of people who don’t pour into me.

I told my aunt, who is from Chicago, about how hard a time I’ve had fitting in here. The Midwest, for better or worse, is unlike any place I have ever lived. The people are simultaneously skittish and genuine. They avoid and evade until they feel comfortable, at which point they expose themselves completely–too much, sometimes, honestly. Black folks don’t look each other in the eye on the street.

And then there is me, learning to drop the weight of the world’s expectations without also dropping my own. When I first moved to Illinois, I didn’t have the energy for pretense. I spoke in the octave I find most true, a few decibels lower than most people who know me are probably used to. I was honest about where I struggle–I am terrible at email; I don’t reply to texts in anything appropriating a timely manner but if you call, I will answer; I’m not great about eating so, yes, dinner–anytime; my mental health persistently veers south of “fine.”

I was transparent, and what I find myself sobbing on my living room couch about, in the beautiful apartment my bay area homies would kill to afford, is that despite my honesty the world continues to have unrealistic expectations of me. I spend 3 hours on email and have 35 more by the time I check later. My building mate continues to text about utilities. My cohort invites me to drinks but not dinner.

I go to the counseling center to find a local therapist. I send my insurance information. She never follows up. I don’t have the energy to try more than once.

On some level I hear my mother’s voice “you have so much, what are you crying for?” I know this is unhelpful, but always her voice is the one I hear in my lowest moments, the one telling me that I am entitled, inadequate, unworthy. I try to let this go, but when I inevitably find myself in the hole again, hers is the voice right beside me. I suspect, in her moments, the voice she hears is her mother’s. I try and fail to let this go, too.

My aunt told me that I fit in already, and to give people time to earn a place in my space. The idea that people might earn access to my energy, rather than the burden of proof being my responsibility, nearly breaks me. This is about when I start sobbing. I record a voice note to one of my best homies, hear the trill in my voice that I once again can’t shake, the upspeak that follows me off campus and onto the phone.

“This place will do that to you,” the only other Black person in my history program says. I don’t have the energy to avoid pretense. The truth is so uncomfortable and I am so tired.

I am so tired.


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