I’m one of those people that absorbs accents very quickly. Not intentionally, mind you, but if I talk to someone with a strong enough accent I invariably pick up on a few of the nuances for a bit. I spent a week and a half in Ireland vising family a few years ago, and you should have heard me when I got back.
But what does this have to do with Catalyst?
I had the pleasure of driving back to PA with the lovely and wonderful Ashley Manta, who is the whole reason why I went to Catalyst in the first place. As a total noob, I had far more than a car ride worth of things I wanted to discuss with her, from questions about things I didn’t understand to unpacking some of the emotions from the trip. One of the things I mentioned to her was that I feel like Catalyst (and the people in attendance) have their own language. I don’t just mean all the words I didn’t know (although flash cards would have been helpful), what I’m talking about is the way people communicate with each other.
In the three-four days I had been there, I started to feel my language shifting. Some of it was intentional, like trying not to say shitty things about myself. But there was also an element of reflection pre-speaking that I quite frankly don’t usually employ. All of a sudden, in the car with Ashley, I really heard myself for the first time that weekend.
I heard myself making clear, concise statements about how I felt. I heard myself being honest and unashamed of the things that were going through my head. I heard myself being gentle with myself. I heard myself being open and forthcoming and doing so in such a way that I didn’t feel ashamed or terrified. I heard what my voice sounds like empowered. And I fucking loved it.
That was Monday. This is Friday.
It’s easy to sustain that kind of emotional connection and communication when the people around you are modeling it for you. It’s easier to do it in an environment where you know it will be received well, and even congratulated and supported. But Catalyst isn’t real life. It’s real, for a few days, but it isn’t life. At least not for me. It’s just a part of my life. A new, exciting, wonderful, feels-inducing part.
The real world, my real world, is a very different place, and I’m really not a fan of the way it’s making me feel lately.
The easy answer is change your world. Because that’s easy. For the longest time I didn’t know how to place or enforce boundaries. I still really don’t, but I’m getting better. The end result of that boundary-deficit, though, is a rather large group of people who don’t know the status quo will have to change. I am not looking forward to this. But it is a necessary push, because I can feel the Con Fade setting in.
All of the exuberance, the acceptance, the self-awareness, the motivation and affection and goddamn empowerment that had been coursing through my veins for 72 hours… Is fading. I can feel it, still there, but less and less. Like when you can tell your vibrator battery is dying, only more disheartening. I feel it fading when I go into work and I take shit I wouldn’t have dreamed of letting slide 6 days ago. I feel it in my interactions with my parents and partner and every single feeling I don’t express or wish I had the balls to say.
I told Ashley in the car that I was scared of backsliding once I got home. I was right. But now that I’ve seen this way, felt this way, the day-to-day issues that I never once addressed in my own life are becoming unbearable. Words that would have flowed so easily over the weekend are getting lodged in my throat, and I think they might just choke me (and not in a sexy way).
It just cements the feeling, for me, that I need to bring my “real” life more in line with those feelings I felt at Catalyst. I’m a girl of extremes. I can’t be all in touch and self-aware half the time, then stick my head in the sand for the other.
In the immortal words of Ron Fucking Swanson, “Don’t half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”
I choose to whole-ass Catalyst.