That summer, I did my usual routine of spending three weeks at the camp I loved, and some time in Florida. At the end of the summer, I found out that my application to return to Akiba was rejected, more for logistical reasons than substantive ones.
The next semester, I returned to the public school. I was taking slightly more challenging classes, but I was still largely unchallenged and unmotivated, which in particular did not bode well for the class that was challenging for time-commitment, rather than intellectual, reasons. I was also still uninterested in the school, with the notable exception of two friends and one teacher. At some point toward the end of the semester, as a condition of maintaining a slim hope of returning to Akiba, I returned to therapy for the first time in nearly a year. I also resumed the long-abandoned attempt to medically treat my ADD, this time with Adderall, a drug which I soon stopped due to its effect of almost entirely eliminating my desire to sleep.
In December 1997, while in Florida, I learned that I would not be allowed to return to Akiba. Only "Everybody Hurts" by REM and the longest IM conversation I've ever had got me through that day. I never told the relatives I was staying with in Florida why I was slightly quieter than usual that day and the next.
On New Years Day 1998, I had the most emotionally overloaded day of my life.
At the end of January, I found out that a decision was reversed and I was admitted back into Akiba. One week later, I found out that the administration at Akiba almost immediately regretted the decision to take me back, but that it had already been made and they were not about to renege. Over the next several months, they backed off of that stance.
In so many ways, it was the worst year of my life. I spent 180 days in a place where I didn't know anyone, didn't belong, and just generally felt out of place. I was generally sleep-deprived, going to sleep near midnight and waking up in time to catch a bus near 7:00. I was rather suddenly ripped from the routine of seeing my good friends daily, and instead only saw them occasional weekends. I was occasionally grounded so that I could only contact my friends via a Hotmail account from computer class at school. I was very likely clinically depressed for at least part of that time.
And yet, somehow, I can't help but look back fondly on that year. "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"? Maybe. I really don't know. But sometimes when I'm in a particularly bad mood, I put in my CD single of "You Were Meant For Me." And I think back to a day in March 1997 when I had that song stuck in my head. A day when I was running on a little less than 6 hours of sleep, something I can't even regularly do now. A day when I had no conversations of more than a sentence in person with anyone. A day when my main hobbies were math, helping my suicidal friends hundreds of miles away, and being alone with my thoughts. A day when I was smiling, for no good reason.
I wasn't happy that year. But in a strange way, I was content, in a way I've never quite been able to recapture.