Once, during my freshman year of college, a friend and I decided to take the bus home—my first venture into public transportation. We caught the bus at the transit center downtown, climbed in like kids going on a field trip and made our way down the aisle to the middle. The seats were hard on our butts, but neither of us complained because we were in air conditioning. We watched people get on and get off and on and off. The light above the bus driver’s seat flashed and I heard the ding that signaled him to pull the bus over, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how this was happening. In the end, my friend and just watched our street pass by. We sat there as the bus took us all the way back to the transit center, where the driver parked it with a lurch and stepped out for his break. Then we quietly got out off and walked home. Neither of us spoke up, neither of us asked for help, and to this day I still don’t know why.
There’s a voice inside my head, and sometimes it says really mean things. It whispers in my ear, slowly chipping away at my confidence. Oh my gosh, it says, that was so stupid. Why did you say that? It sucks the air out of my lungs and makes the walls close in so tight around me I just want to scream. What must they all think of you? It punches and kicks and beats the shit out of me sometimes. And I thought maybe--just maybe--once I got a good job, once I got married, once I became “successful”, the voice would go away. Instead I’m beginning to understand that it will never go away, and the only way to shut it up is to practice shutting it up every day.