Somewhere There’s A River…


None of us gets to choose our beginning. Instead, we float downstream to meet the world and are gently placed into the arms of strangers. Years pass and we continue to wander and wonder… looking for acceptance and approval, thinking about who we are, and dreaming about what could be.

I am a wanderer, always have been. As a kid, sitting still was hard for me, so the river was a place I would go to think, burn off my energy, and imagine what it would be like to cross over to the other side. I was always alone by the river, alone in my thoughts and in my emotions. I can honestly say that I don’t think anyone knew me. My childhood was spent in solitude and silence…except for recess. That was the place where I would take my anger out on some kids and fight them for their lunches, since I had tossed mine into a ditch somewhere. That usually landed me in the principal’s office where I think my name was embossed on the strap. Being sent home meant grabbing my bike and heading down to the river...and looking across to the other side.

I wandered across to the other side and landed in a foreign country at the age of 13 and stood alone by yet another river. For the first time in my life I felt free! There was no more yelling, just the rhythm of the waves crashing to the shore making me forget. I embraced every day with hopeful expectation and was rarely disappointed.

One day, I wandered up a mountain and standing at the peak, I began to wonder. What was I going to do with my life? Even though I felt free, I really wasn't. I was still trapped by my insecurities, not knowing if I had any value or if I could amount to anything. I had been wandering, but with no purpose. And then it came to me! The ticket to my future was to take charge of my own life by getting an education that could open doors for me. What doors? I didn't know, but the fog was lifted in my mind. I climbed back down the mountain, stood on the shore of that beautiful country one last time, and boarded a plane back to Canada.

Having my plan in my headspace, I worked my tail off, taking day classes, night classes, and summer school while holding down a couple of jobs to build my bank account and my independence. I ended up graduating in 4 years instead of 5, and landed a scholarship to university. The golden ticket was in my hands now!

Within the first week of university, I started to sink. I stood by one of the Great Lakes with my even greater dilemma. I hated my program. I hated having a room mate. I hated being in a big city. All those tapes I had played in my head growing up of not being good enough, being a disappointment, being a waste of space came flooding over me. I had gone from being at the happiest moment in my life 7 days earlier, to sliding into the depths of despair. Even though I was always a loner, this was one of the loneliest moments for me. I had always been tough, been a survivor, and now I felt so incredibly weak and lost.

I couldn't quit because I had nowhere to turn. The only option I saw was to drop the courses I hated and take random courses to fill my time table. I’d stick it out for my first year, after all it was paid for. Call it fate or happenstance, but I wandered into Psychology 101. The teacher had me at hello. I was fascinated by the topics and how she brought the material to life. I just couldn't get enough and hungered for more and more of this knowledge.

I wandered into the hallway at the end of the semester to check my grade that was posted on the door of the professor’s office. She happened to be there at the time and asked how I did. When I pointed to the top of the list she offered me a job. She took me under her wing and introduced me to the world of research, but more than that she helped me find my value and who I was. For the first time in my life, I felt accepted and approved.

In that moment, I realized there was tremendous power in connection, intentional connection. My life took a whole new turn. Somebody actually believed in me! That was all I needed – just one person to take my feeble mind and hardened heart and give me hope.

My life has been very full since that time, filled with incredible experiences and people who have enriched my life and my understanding about suffering and ensuing victory. My future blogs will enlighten you as to my many wanderings into the tributaries of mental health.

As I wander by the river today, near another Great Lake, I can’t help but listen to the waves of freedom crashing against the break walls. I hope that I can continue the legacy of my professor and be that one who can believe in the person in front of me and help them cross to the other side as they wonder about the future and whether dreams are possible.

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© 2016 Head Space: Charlene Mahon