Watch Me Go by Summer (King) Mattina










Summer (King) Mattina happily serves as an Academic Advisor for Parks College of Engineering, Aviation, and Technology at Saint Louis University. She is a member of NASPA, ACPA, and NACADA, and enjoys rock and roll, rocky beaches, and rocking chairs. She also likes stone soup. Get to know her by connecting on Twitter @SummerMattina.


Watch Me Go

In the past year, I have moved three times, started two jobs, acquired one always-ornery dog, and joined forces and households with one occasionally-ornery partner. As a result, I have been up to my eyeballs in what we euphemistically call “transition,” that happy-sad, up-down, dizzying mish-mash of greetings and departures and scary precipices and learning curves and self-doubt and self-assertion. I am riding a perpetual gigacoaster of choice and circumstance, recursively turning over and over and around through corkscrews and inversions that feel both familiar and strange.

Amidst all of this, I have also been up to my eyeballs in an abundance of digestive symptoms for which there are no polite euphemisms. In the past year, I have seen doctors and specialists and have come away from all of those uncomfortable and awkward conversations with new diagnoses and hunches and prescriptions; I have also amassed collection of stories I will probably never have occasion or inclination to tell. No one wants to hear the tale of the Christmas Colonoscopy Fiasco, unless, of course, The Griswolds are involved.

I am aware that the story I am inclined to tell here will nevertheless invite the sort of postmodern lampoonery that frequently follows any public attempt at authenticity. If there exists a collective, Student Affairs ethos, it certainly values criticism and skepticism and occasional snark in the face of privilege. I hope, nevertheless, you will indulge me, even though my story, at its core, involves nothing new: a complicated woman (me!) making her way through challenging circumstances (life!) in the search for meaning and purpose and wellness…holistic wellness, even. Just writing those words feels silly and self-indulgent and even a little post-Oprah absurd.  Far off in the distance, I can hear one of my more pragmatic friends telling me to “get over it, hippie.” (To which I have only this response: “whatever, dude.”)

Holistic wellness as a concept is neither silly nor self-indulgent though, at least not in the way I define it for myself. For me, holistic wellness is a process, not an outcome; it will empower me to kick ass personally and professionally. It is about creating habits and dispositions that support both physical and sensory health—holistic wellness allows me to live deeply and acutely. It supports an appreciation of the amazing and the mundane, and is disinterested in allure of “normal.” Holistic wellness doesn’t force me into the center of a bell curve or require a particular height/weight ratio. Instead, it draws out those un-plottable qualities that allow me to feel and be uniquely myself, those traits for which there is no standard, and no deviation. This, for me, is the healthiest kind of living I can do.

So, as you might imagine, my wellness goals are more qualitative than quantitative—I want to be ready for adventure, ready to live out stories that do not include embarrassing bodily dysfunction. I want to learn how to quiet my noisy mind and listen to my busy body and I especially want to learn how to cultivate self-compassion during setbacks and successes.

Of course, in order to achieve these qualitative goals, I need to accomplish some pragmatic and quantitative micro-goals that attend to the realities of occupying a physical body that I have learned is beset by multiple autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are a tricky and unkind lot—they are, in my estimation, the Big Jerks of the disease world.

Basically, I have learned that my body is inclined to work against itself—to self-destruct in ugly and unfortunate and unpleasant ways. In the context of holistic wellness, multiple autoimmune diagnoses require I better support my physical body so that my whole self can function more cleanly and clearly. Thinking about this for too long has found me lost in a weirdly cloying, dualistic, and ultimately unhelpful metaphysical-mind/hyperphysical-body dilemma.   If you are a thinker, this is the sort of trippy, non-productive navel-gazing that can turn into inertia, if you let it.

So far, I haven’t allowed that to happen. I have instead created a list of things I need to do, things I can do in the days and weeks ahead. Changing my diet and changing my movement are the top priorities. Specifically:

  • I have to adopt a gluten-free diet.
  • I have to avoid brown rice.
  • I need to identify more of the foods that make me feel physically unwell.
  • I need to stay away from lactose. I also need to stay away from campus vending machines.
  • I need to reduce my consumption of refined sugar, and continue to avoid high-fructose corn syrup.
  • I need to take better care of my liver by drinking more water and eating cleaner meals.
  • I need to take a Vitamin D supplement.
  • I need to increase my physical activity: I need to do more cardio and I need to lift more heavy things.

Since all of these changes will be implemented while I continue my ride on the aforementioned super-intense transition gigacoaster, and since this stuff is difficult and since it also makes me feel like an over-privileged pain-in-the-ass, I have enlisted help from experts and support from friends. I’m learning about gluten and dairy-free living, and I am amassing a collection of resources for irritant-free, budget-friendly cooking. I’m also looking for ways to transform my daily habits so that they support my overall wellness—I’m building a plan to bike to work and have made space in my budget so that I can join and use the campus gym. In addition to building honest, transparent relationships with supportive doctors, I’m seeing a great counselor, and I’m connecting with friends more regularly. Also, I got a fantastic haircut.

Prioritizing holistic wellness and sustaining these changes amidst so much other life transition will be difficult, I know. For now, my commitment is strong and my frustration-level is relatively low, although I am experiencing some generalized fatigue that makes me feel like a failure on my worst days. I suspect more difficult times lie ahead, so I am trying to remind myself to be kind and patient with the process. Even that can be challenging, though—maintaining patience while in a state of physical discomfort is a tremendous challenge. I want, very desperately, to feel physically well and to enjoy a more abiding sense of wellness, yet, intuitively, I know desperation will not yield this result. Both medically and metaphorically, cognitively and physically, I am my own worst enemy.

There is no getting over that, there is only getting through it. My writing here will continue to chronicle this process, and will, I hope, encourage reflection and action and accountability and a few belly laughs. I’m prepared. I’m ready. Watch me go.

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