Of Arts, Letters, and Anxiety Attacks


The night before I start school I am standing in my kitchen, shaking so hard my teeth begin to chatter while my partner calmly makes tea. It is just after midnight, and I’ve just had an anxiety attack fueled by concern over finding my social security card, which my landlord has asked for at a moment’s notice, with threat of eviction if I fail. It’s not due for another week or more, but I am consumed by my need to find it. I do find that hallowed document, clumsy vindication of my privilege, after tearing through every possible location, over and over again– anxiety has obfuscated the fact that it really is in the most obvious spot, the memory box, full of secret evidence of my own sentimentality. The card was signed by me as a child before I had learned to form letters reliably, hand guided by my mother, clumsy capital letters declare my legal name.

Even after I have found the unreliable object, it takes me a long time to soothe myself down. I’m fairly certain that I literally do not sleep a wink– I toss and turn all night, whereas my partner sleeps intermittently, whenever I am still enough to do so. Try as I might, I can’t seem to join his steady sleeping breaths, and so I do my best to at least imitate their approximate rhythm and the position of slumber, in hopes it will actually take. Alas, my fight or flight urge wages on, and I rise at 6:05 to greet the icy dark morning. The grass crunches as I pedal over and onto the street, ice glinting menacingly from the pavement. i take every curve with caution on the brief ride to the bus stop.

It has taken me nine years, more than the span of two bachelors’ degrees, four associates’, and a full PHD with post-doc work to get back to school, but I’m doing it, at least. My perspective has changed several times over, though I still bear the sense of a lack of deserving that I associate with surviving abuse and neglect. Rather than studying literature the way that I had hoped as a teenager, I have decided upon nursing as a practical career path. And to be honest, I am nearly as passionate about healthcare as I am words, so I expect to combine them to great effect. William Carlos Williams was, after all, a physician himself, although I only aim for nurse practitioner, and a damn good one: compassionate, practical, sensitive, kind, and culturally aware.

I am aware this is a compromise. in some sense, but I can not find in myself the dedication required to make my writing do what it must were I to survive solely by that means, or to navigate that most distasteful thing, academia (and how could I even access such a thing, anyways?), or make my writing smash walls the way that sharing healthcare skills can. I know other people who can, who will do these things, and it is some comfort that even if I force my writing into a corner of my evenings and breaks in the day, that is where it always lived best, anyways. My writing grows in crevices and cracks of my overflowing life, and it is good.

There are still doubts, of course, but I hope now that the last of my financial aid for the quarter has come through, I’ll at least be able to sleep through the night–when I’m not taken up with an inescapable urge to write.



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