School. Life. Change.

My first year of school is done. I can’t quite believe it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about change, about how everything is changing.
I was with some friends the other day and we were talking about our proudest moment. The first thing that popped to my mind was the past seven years. School is so different now than it was seven years ago. Everything is different. I couldn’t be more thankful, I couldn’t be more blessed.

Seven years ago was the summer between my Sophomore and what would have been my Junior year at UArts. Half way through my Sophomore year, I dropped out of classes. I started second semester not making it a single week where I made it to all my classes. Around midterms, I stopped going entirely. I couldn’t leave my house. If I did leave my house and needed to go anywhere in Center City, I took long, circuitous routes as to avoid the UArts dance buildings. I spent the entire time outside of my house, terrified I’d see a classmate. I heard their whispers, the comments they made behind my back, and I couldn’t take it. That summer, I didn’t sleep. I would stay awake until the sun came up. I’d sleep from about 8am to 1pm. I’d work 2pm to 10pm. I’d stay awake until 8am and the cycle would continue. I lived in my awesome apartment until July, when I moved into my terrible apartment. Terrible apartment was not ready upon move in, so I moved into Gabi and my then-boyfriend’s apartment. Not living with my crazy roommate helped my anxiety and sleeping habits. The school year started and I moved into my terrible apartment. With friends back in town, I was able to mask the depression I was feeling better, but inside I felt like I was dying. Sometime that semester I read Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel. I don’t know if it helped or made it worse.
Somehow in the midst of the blackness, I found the strength to start seeing a therapist. I reached out and very thankfully found Dr. Jenna. And even more thankfully, I continued to see her. Reaching out is the single most important decision I have ever made.
Around the same time I started seeing Dr. Jenna, I also applied at Drexel University as a psychology major. I told myself if I didn’t get in, I would move home to Oregon. I filled out the paper work, but didn’t write the essay. I figured theres no way I’d get in with a semester of Fs on my transcript and no essay. However, I got in. That night I called my Mom and told her I needed her to tell me to move home. I couldn’t make the decision myself, thats why I didn’t complete the application. I needed my Mom to make the decision. And she did. I’m so thankful I moved home when I did. Through the darkness and the fog, I saved my own life.

My depression seemed to get better after I moved home, but really it just changed. The dark fog I was lost in became a pit in my stomach. I stopped eating and started working out late at night in my room. Finally, I decided I needed to get myself together. I struggled a lot, but I fought with all I could. I in no way was recovered, but I stopped actively trying to die.

Eventually I saw through the fog enough to decide to move to Seattle. I love Astoria, but I knew I needed to live some place with more dance. I had found it again and knew it was the only way I was going to live. April 2010 I moved to Seattle and into my friend Lynne’s house. For six months I lived with her family and danced with New Vision Dance Company. One day while walking to the bus from work in Pike Place, my best friend Becky called and asked if I wanted to move in with her on Capitol Hill. I jumped at the opportunity and made plans for the move. Shortly after I moved to Capitol Hill I found out about an audition for 127th St Dance Company. I wanted to go. I was terrified to go. I almost turned around three times on the walk from my apartment to PNBs studios. Going was one of the best decisions I ever made. New Vision was a dance home because it was comfortable. It was a home because I had known Melissa since high school, because I knew other company members since high school. 127th St was scary because it was the first time I auditioned for a company and I made it in. I didn’t know any of the dancers, I didn’t know the director, I didn’t know the choreographer. But they still wanted me. It was scary and amazing and the best thing I ever did for myself as a dancer.
There were a lot of ups and downs that year. I was living with Becky and it was perfect. I was homesick and I was miserable. I was dancing in two dance companies, plus teaching a ballet class. Everyone died. I was going to the gym. I was going to the gym almost obsessively. At the end of our lease, I decided I needed to leave Seattle. I love Seattle, but I was so over not being able to park my car and crack heads yelling in my alley. Daryl and I made plans to move to Montana. Change was on the horizon and I was so excited.

The three year anniversary of Ari killing herself is coming up. Every time I think about change, I think about her. My life was so different, so hopeless, so desperate seven years ago. But I stuck it through and I am so blessed and happy. How would Ari’s life be different if she were here today? What unimaginable joys would be in her life today? I know it’s not necessarily healthy for me to think about the what-ifs, especially in this situation, but I really can’t help it. I have accepted that I wouldn’t have been able to save her life if I had called. Yes, I might have brightened her day a bit – but whose to say if she would have even answered her phone (or if I even had her correct number!)? I would not have been able to save her. She had plans with friends for the next day. She had plans. She killed herself with plans for the immediate future – me calling her would not have changed that. I have accepted this. However, I will always wonder how her life would be different today.

My life today is so different and so much more wonderful than I ever thought possible. I live in a beautiful town, snuggled in a valley surrounded by wilderness and mountains. I am a double BFA in Dance and Lighting Design at the University of Montana, a school that was never on my radar 10 years ago when researching colleges. I am in love with the most wonderful man on the planet. I am loved by the most wonderful man on the planet. I am so blessed. I am so thankful.

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