Still Me

photographyBy: Harvard Project HEAL Chapter

This morning I woke up with a terrible cold, the kind that plasters you to your bed as your legs sink into the mattress, your head throbs, your joints ache. After finally pulling myself up at ten am (good thing it’s vacation!), I stumbled downstairs and made myself a cup of soothing black tea. Sick of television and not wanting to reply to e-mails, I plopped down on the landing at the bottom of the stairs and began to sift through albums, looking in particular for old photos from my days as a serious ballet dancer.

What drew me to these photographs? What made me skip over the many many baby photos and seek those pictures of me on stage? Who or what was I seeking?

I cannot be sure—no one can ever be sure what drives our emotions, what pushes us to certain feelings—but I suspect I was looking for the Me of many years ago, the Me I remember as successful, graceful, comfortable in her skin, driven. Drowning in shivers and discomfort this cold cold morning, I was looking with an intense curiosity for clues as to what made me—the middle and especially high school Me—able to accomplish so much while still floating in pointe shoes across the stage. Was it my slight frame at the time? Was it my mind, my brain? Was it my ability to have control over my dancer body, both on and off stage? No longer able to dance as often as a premed college student juggling so many other responsibilities, I often feel I have lost a part of myself, have given up something which identified me, held me in place, kept me….floating, despite all of the school work and other challenges life tossed my way. I miss myself. It is a strange feeling, missing oneself, but the feeling is real and sad, and at times inescapable.

But this afternoon, now, as I write, drinking yet another cup of tea, I am reminded of something my roommate told me earlier this year, when I shared my thoughts and emotions with her: you are still the same person, just as driven and successful, just as graceful. You are simply older. Even as people mature and inevitably change, they retain certain innate qualities. It is important for me to remember that the qualities I associate with the ballet dancer Me, the Me I miss, have not disappeared. They are simply manifested in other ways. Six years ago I could not have understood the material that now, presented in college-level science classes, seems almost second nature. Six years ago I was not working in a research lab. Six years ago I did not fully understand the meaning of recovery.  Six years ago I was not helping to run a Project HEAL chapter. Six years ago I could not drive. Six years ago I was still a child.

I should not miss anything about myself, for the most important and healthy and best parts of me are still here, I am here, writing, more mature, floating in new ways across the now larger, and often more complex, stages of life.