I am always thrown off guard when my past drifts into the present, suddenly making me feel like I am living in the Twilight Zone where nothing makes sense in the ways I think it should. I found myself wandering by the West Side Market on 7th and 14th this afternoon. My classmates and I used to go in there every Wednesday (in the moment the fact that today is also Wednesday was lost on me) between our classes at Pratt, just across the street. I have not been into the market, or surprisingly, in that particular three block radius, since graduating a little over three years ago. I paused for a moment thinking, “I can’t go in there. Let sleeping dogs lie.” Then, something inside of me prompted me to walk through the doors. It was lunchtime and I was hungry after all.
I found myself amidst a familiar sea of foods. I still knew my way around the store like the back of my hand. I passed the cheese section, the sushi counter, and found myself at the sandwich refrigerator. I found the vegetarian sandwich I was looking for then proceeded to the vast rows of freshly prepare, pre-packaged salads. It was there that I suddenly felt myself become overwhelmed. I was having bizarre flashbacks and feelings were washing over me like crashing waves, feelings I haven’t had for a while, feelings that had nothing to do with how my actual day was going. I no longer felt like I was me, at least not 2012 me. I started feeling nervous, unhappy, and dare I say it…miserable. I was overwhelmed, not by the choices, not by the fact that the selection had varied ever so slightly and I found myself with new choices and old favorites no longer stocked, but by the feelings that kept washing over me. I was on the verge of tears. I felt immobilized, standing there in front of the tubs of salads stacked high above my head.
I don’t know that I was ever able to truly admit it to myself, but I was miserable during graduate school. I suppose that should have been my first clue that a career in the field I was studying was not going to work out so well. On some level I was aware that I was unhappy. I chalked it up to moving across the country, all of the personal work, digging up and sifting through of the past that was required in the program. You can’t be a therapist if you aren’t willing to take your own skeletons out of the closet and dance with them a while. Plus, the actual work was emotionally taxing. I had been caught of guard, unprepared for what the program really entailed. It’s hard to be at ease and happy when things aren’t what you expected.
It wasn’t until this afternoon that I was able to see that period of time, clearly, and with enough distance to be objective. I was confused. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t feel like I fit in, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to. The relationships I had with people in NYC at that time were not, for the most part, healthy. I was miserable. I think the reason I can freely admit that to myself now is that I am not miserable. I have healthy relationships with the people in my life, for the most part. I no longer feel a need to force myself to fit in places I don’t want to fit in. I still get overwhelmed and confused, but even these are of a different variety now.
I briefly contemplated picking up the corn salad or the cous cous and spinach salad I used to get regularly while in graduate school. In the end I decided to go with the chickpea pesto salad that did not exist on the shelves while I was a student at Pratt. Sometimes it’s good to move on and give yourself a fresh start. It may be another three years before I venture into the West Side Market again though.