a orillas del lago michigan me senté y lloré

photo of lake michigan on a sunny day; plants are visible at the lake shore, some with flowers. the image is bright, purposely contrasting with the content of the post.
title inspired by paulo coelho’s a orillas del río piedra me senté y lloré; photo of lake michigan taken from loyola’s information commons… where I cried many a time in undergrad.

(cw: suicidal ideation)

to be perfectly honest, I don’t know why I’m writing this here, of all places—or now, after all this time.

I don’t know a lot of things right now.

perhaps that is why I’m writing this, after all… so I can try to make sense of things. thus, this will most likely be messy and it might not ever reach a conclusion—but I can promise you it’ll be honest.

and so, in the interest of honesty, allow me to (re)introduce myself: I’m elle, I’ll be 33 in six weeks, I’m divorced and jewish and queer and neurodivergent, and I’m an educator and doctoral student…

…and last thursday, for the first time in over two years, I wished I were dead.

I don’t think there was anything special about thursday other than it was just… the day where enough was enough. perhaps it was because on wednesday, I’d joked that three of my sisters had each given the group chat excellent news, one per day, and that I was feeling nervous about our weekly chat on friday because “all I’ve got is a headache.” perhaps it was because I’m stressed about being the one in charge of all the bills in my apartment at the moment. perhaps it was because I’ve been struggling with whether I want to finish my dissertation and graduate with my PhD or just… quit.

or perhaps it was because I woke up on thursday morning to an email that just… essentially threw the last decade of my career in the gutter by dismissing the materials I’ve created and lionizing someone else’s work instead (while continuing to use some of my ideas and work without credit).

I felt so dismissed and devalued by that email that I cried in the bathroom during my lunch break—and then, after a team meeting where no one seemed to care about what I had to say, I didn’t even make it to my car before bursting into tears. (I’m supposed to be their team lead. which is hilariously laughable when I think about how no one seems to take me seriously.)

the worst part is that I literally sobbed in the parking lot for like 30 minutes before I could drive home…. and so many people walked past me and averted their eyes when they saw what was happening. I don’t think they realized how painful it is to know that the people you work with, for whom you toil nonstop—the people you go out of your way to try and protect from bureaucratic bullshit—don’t see you.

at that point, I felt so superfluous in my own life that I wondered whether there was a point to staying alive… and, when I saw a flatbed tow truck on my way home, I had a chilling moment when I wanted to drive into it.

I pulled over instead, cried some more, messaged a friend who talked me off the ledge… and then got the rest of the way home, where I climbed into bed and cried even more, had a chance to talk to one of my closest friends even though they’re abroad and our time zones keep us apart—and dragged myself out of bed for kclub aka where I lead some friends through their korean 101 lessons and review the concepts myself as I explain them.

(yes, korean. I’ve been studying for… almost 18 months now? the why deserves an entry for itself so… I’ll be back to talk about that.)


over the weekend, I thought about why I’d been feeling so fragile and exhausted lately—I made it through 2020, after all, and that was the year from hell for me before the pandemic even showed up. surely, if I got through 2020, what the hell was that fucking thursday and why was it messing with me so much?

I couldn’t really answer it until I started the entry for my korean journal on sunday.

2년 전, 세상은 그만했어요.two years ago, the world stopped.

I realized that, in a lot of ways, that’s the problem—that the world stopped but also that it didn’t; that our understanding of the world, our personal narratives about the world stopped and changed but the world itself has kept spinning… just like it does when we lose someone and we are left with that void while everyone else goes about their day.

it makes sense, then, that—just after my father’s sudden death—I feel mired in a grief that I sometimes struggle to comprehend… that I am feeling adrift in ways I thought I had overcome.

“but elle,” you might say, “you have overcome grief, haven’t you? and you have overcome…”

and I will say yes, I have no matter which noun comes after that verb, because the list of things I have overcome is long and heavy—but so is the list of things I have yet to overcome.

you see, every time I walk into the closet of my mind—as I’ve taken to describing it for my therapist—there are things falling on my head from the top shelves… things that had been balancing precariously on top of each other and that have, due to the momentum of some motion I can no longer perceive, crashed against one another and then into me… as if we were part of an oversized and poorly-engineered rube goldberg machine. and, much like the boxes in my actual closet, there is much to unpack in each of the containers that falls: the she-ra dollhouse full of inherited malaise; the polly pocket compact with tiny fragments of my childhood; the caboodle stacked with teenage angst and young adult missteps, the suitcase that was a gift from my wedding registry.

and, well. perhaps some of that unpacking will be laid bare here—but, even if it isn’t, I wanted to do this publicly… to name that I am mostly well, but sometimes not; that I am not the person I was two years ago but I am better for it; that I have been through my own personal hell and come out on the other side with the understanding of myself that I had been longing for my whole life.

if you’re still here with me, thank you… and buckle up. I think we’re in for a hell of a ride. ♥

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