When things get difficult, I find myself wishing I could skip to the end. Not so far forward that I will have accomplished everything, because there would be no satisfaction in that. I want to fast-forward just enough, to the moment where I’ve broken the threshold of the last page, to where I have just hit ‘send,’ to where I can breathe again.

I can’t imagine anything more difficult than right now. I want to be in the moment where I submit my final, in whatever broken, nonsensical state that it ends up. I want to be in the moment where this incredible weight temporarily lets up and I can move my shoulders again, fleetingly free, before it settles back in. In the moment where I’m cooking a meal that I can actually enjoy, sipping a celebratory glass of wine, finally packing my bag to go Home. I want to get to the day after survival mode.

When I get there, to that brief moment of rest before I must brace myself again, I hope to have learned enough. I hope to truly quantify what I’ve taken away from this first year. Before, I gorged myself on every word, every idea, just so that I might be as full and saturated with knowledge as everyone else seemed to be. Even then, I couldn’t keep it down. Most of my harvest has shrunken away, save for a few rich morsels that are incomplete. In these past few weeks, I have only gleaned crumbs. They did not break away easily.

I have thrown those crumbs and morsels to the bubbling, boiling test that is right now, in the hopes that they will transform into something better. They hover between reduction and evaporation. They separate themselves from the impurities, distractions, intrusive thoughts that are waiting to be skimmed. I must remove this false progress even if it is the only progress that I will see for some time. I have to make way for something better. Things are difficult, but there is no end. There is only after. Someday, long after the day after survival mode, it will be ready. Rich in flavor, deep in color, frothy at the edges.

I am slowly, so slowly, unlearning the desire to disappear and resurface when things are, momentarily, less difficult. I will instead keep pushing toward that place just beyond after. I will always encounter moments of frustration and anger at the fact that paths of little-to-no resistance have never been an option—not for us. And then I thank God when I realize I can have no “there” without a “here.” When I realize that I may have emerged damaged and smaller and in many pieces, but I have not disappeared. When I realize that it is not possible to make me disappear, not even if I naively intend to reappear on the other side.

No “here” has ever been powerful enough to prevent us from getting “there.”

To disappear is to choose evaporation when things get difficult. There is no way to get to the delicious space just beyond unless I choose to stay, to be reduced just a little longer.

I have shrunken, and I will shrink.

I will not disappear.

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