This week, I sent out a new newsletter for the first time since New Year’s Day (hey, if you’ve avoided signing up for the newsletter because you’re afraid of getting too much email, now would be a good time to go ahead and get over that concern and sign on up; at this rate, I’ll probably send out two more before the year ends). In case you didn’t receive it, or for some inexplicable reason, received it but didn’t read it (how could you!), here’s the message I included:
The months following college graduation were pretty bleak. I was in love for the first time, so the bleakness was, at first, buried under a mix of other emotions, but it didn’t take long for it to rear its head. Almost all of my college friends who’d graduated along with me fled town the moment they got their degrees. It was a mass exodus of my closest friends at a time when I probably needed them the most. I was done with school but had no idea what came next. I couldn’t find a job. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. And skipping over a bunch of details, I’ll say my relationship took a nosedive pretty quickly, and having just said good-bye to my closest friends and feeling completely lost, I clung to the one thing I thought might save me, or at least make me feel less alone. But if there’s anything that will make you feel more lost and alone and confused than you already are, it’s being in a lonely and confusing relationship.
When I look back at that time, I feel so fucking sad for 21/ 22-year-old me. When the boyfriend finally dumped me, after months of fights and tears and threats of leaving him, I hit what I thought was rock bottom. My friends were gone, my family was in another country, I was still unemployed – unless you count working as a telemarketer, with your newly-minted college degree in hand “employment,” I was broke, I still had no idea what I wanted to do – well, I knew I’d like to write, but the idea of making a living as a writer seemed as far-fetched as hitching a ride to Mars, and now I had a broken heart to boot. Worst of all, I hated myself. All that time in college I thought the world would be my oyster once I graduated, and there I was: a total loser with nothing – nothing! – to show for anything. Nothing to show for all the classes I took, and the money my parents spent, and the friendships I made, and the way I put my heart on the line.
Of course, with the perspective of an additional 15 years, I see now that what I was going through isn’t all that unique. It’s classic, coming-of-age growing pains. There were lessons I had to learn. The only way to a better life was through the challenges. There weren’t any shortcuts. I had to put one step in front of the other, pick myself up when I stumbled, brush myself off, and keep moving forward, despite the scrapes and bruises along the way.
But you know what helped? I found a community of like-minded women on the internet whom I turned to for advice and friendship. That community is long gone, and I’d sort of outgrown it during its several early incarnations anyway, but for a year or two, it was a safe haven for me, and even to this day, a decade and a half later, I keep in touch with one of the friends I made (I heard from her just this morning, actually; and last week, a couple days before I found those old photos, she sent me an email I wrote to her many years ago to illustrate to me how far I’d come).
It was my hope when I started Dear Wendy, and especially when I launched the message board, that it could be the same place of support and healing and sharing that helped me. And when I read your comments and your forum threads and the letters you send, I think it is. I think it’s actually more than what I envisioned – and that’s to your credit.
I know I haven’t kept up with this newsletter like I thought I would – life has a way of getting in the way of good intentions, sometimes – but these things were on my mind this week and I wanted to take a moment and share them with you. And to say thank you. And maybe serve as a reminder to anyone who is feeling doubtful or hopeless or at the end of her rope that, if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, eventually you do get somewhere. And sometimes the place you get is even better than you imagined.
Thanks, again, everyone, for being a part of DW. Happy Friday and have a wonderful weekend.