I think I've learned more in the last year than in 4.25 years of undergrad. 2013 has been an incredible year. Here's my story.
I graduated in December 2012 with the world ahead of me. I was free. I could pursue anything I wanted. I spent the next month traveling: LA, New Mexico, Arizona, Las Vegas, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. In Alexandria, Virginia, I told my friend Ana, "I haven't exercised at all in the last 4 years, but I love being athletic. You know, I could run a 5K. It's only 3 miles." I traveled to Puerto Rico, laying out of the beach with my NASA friend Denise, and saw my life ahead of me. I thought, "This is what life is supposed to be like. Peaceful. Exciting, yet peaceful."
The next week I saw myself in an office. A gray, bland, stereotypical office. With computers. And copiers. And everyone shrinking away in their cubical or office. I saw life at the office as "all work, no play," nervous to do anything that might result in me getting fired. A higher up came in, and I was shaking all morning that I would get laid off. Despite reassurances, I thought eyes were on me, and every action was against me.
I also decided to train for the non-existent 5K. I woke up at 5:30, and ran 1.5 miles for 3 days in a row. On the third day, I fell flat on my face. I limped back home, determined to come up with a different plan. Instead, I decided to run after work. Nicki Minaj on Pandora is definitely a savior of mine :-) Thank you, Nicki Minaj. I never thought I would say that, haha. I also discovered TurboKick. To this day, it kicks my butt. Thank you, Fiesta Dance and Fitness and Denise.
After my fitness routine, I had to keep busy, or else I got super down. Usually I cooked dinner, watched a show, and went to bed. If I didn't do that, my thoughts would consist of the following: Where am I going? What am I doing? I don't feel useful at work. I had a 3.8 GPA in college, and now I'm stuck in an office. I walk down the same aisle...every...day, and use the same bathroom stall...every...day. I could just leave all this and go to Stanford; but what if I'm not good enough. But then where would I go? To another office? Nobody cares about me. I knew in my heart that I needed to continue going to work, despite my brain screaming to run far away...for no reason. Alex helped me through a lot of these terrible nights. Thank you, Alex.
In March, I moved to a new place. Beautiful running trails; great roommates; I bought a CrockPot (my favorite appliance so far!). Work had me really stressed out that I wasn't learning fast enough. Everyday, I left work everyday unable to concentrate and my "brain hurting" due to sitting at a computer and working on problems all day. But when I went home, I was able to conquer the 2.5 mile route I mapped out for myself.I thought I could do everything BUT get help for my depression. I was getting plenty of sleep, eating right, exercising 3-4 days a week, hanging out with friends, yoga, everything!
One week, everyone had it against me; two guys decided that they demanded answers. The inexperienced-me was unable to answer, and the depressed-me was unable to tell myself that "It wasn't me" let alone standing up to my aggressors. The same day, I ran on my famous 2.5 mile trail. About 1.5 miles in, I start crying. I felt like someone died. People were looking at me like I was crazy. 2 miles in, I was balling. I walked home to lay on the floor and just cry. I have to get help, this isn't working.
Getting help was WAY harder than I thought. I could barely muster the energy to actually call. People weren't returning my calls. It took 3 weeks to even find someone.
In therapy, I've learned so much about other people and myself. I learned that other people are separate from me. Usually, it's their problem. I've also learned that I'm responsible for keeping myself sane and strong. I don't necessarily have to be happy; I can be sad but still know that I have self-worth and confidence. Finally, I've learned my life's passion: helping others. It seemed WAY to obvious for me to notice. The engineering world often puts down those who are social and excited- they dismiss it as a "touchy-feely" and not real. I am totally an extrovert. And for the last couple of years, I've denied it- I thought I was having too much fun.
I've changed the way I do things at work. I'm not afraid to be social and help others. Because I know that will help my self-esteem and self-worth. And I'm excited to do it. I do my job so much better, too. I've also joined Girls Who Code as a Volunteer Instructor- and I absolutely LOVE it!
I've started to do projects just for me. These include decorating my room, sewing a sofa cover, sewing a wallet, painting, making dinner for myself, coding for me, read, and losing fat (I've lost 15 lbs so far). I'm back to the excited, motivated, smart, awesome Serena. I'm completely myself- and I love it.
2013 has been a hard, much needed, year. I've developed the tools to go out and conquer the world. I'm excited for what this next year brings.
P.S. I'm running the Hot Cocoa 5K in SF next week, exactly 1 year from stating I would. I guess you could call that my New Year's Resolution :-)