The closer I approach my college graduation date, May 9th, 2015, the more I realize that my college experience is not everything I thought it would be or everything I wanted it to be. Growing up in a reserved, city nestled into the comfortable lifestyle provided by the Silicon Valley, I expected college to be a liberating time, a time to be carefree– it was going to be glorious and I was going to cease every single damn day. In my final lap before the real world, I realize that college has not been filled with the kegs or “YOLO” attitude I had dreamt of. My college experience has developed into a time of ambiguity, anxiety, self-doubt and uncertainty.
I live my life in extreme black and whites. My approach to people, places, experiences are all strictly positive and negatives. I love passionately, and hate fiercely. Some days I can’t sleep, some days I never leave my bed, some times I have a lot to say, and sometimes I am speechless… Everything falls into one of two categories: right or wrong, good or bad. But for me, college has been neither good nor bad, but a muddled sea of gray. Uncertainty about my future, anxiety over grades and relationships, mixed in with a jumble of character defining moments and wine. Lots of wine.
I have never been able to rationalize gray areas. Because of this, I often found myself on the verge of giving up. There were 5 moments in the passed four years that stick out in my memory where I was this close (if you could see my fingers, they are really close) to dropping out of college. But, I didn’t and here’s why. This is my journey, one that ends with me walking across that stage and receiving a piece of paper that once seemed so impossibly out of reach.
- When I realized how alone I was
Going into college, I had parted ways with my two best friends of over a decade and entered a long distance relationship with my high school sweet heart. Cue anxiety attack, after anxiety attack. I spent much of my freshman year nestled in my dorm room bed, the only thing truly familiar and comfortable to me on campus. My anxiety and panic attacks became so frequent it often inhibited me from going to class, sleeping at an acceptable time and even going out on the weekends.
Knowing I would not survive much longer living inside my head, a close high school teacher suggested I see a therapist, and if necessary seek out medication. So, little known to any of my friends at university, I did. And it helped. Eventually, I mustered up the courage to break off everything that inhibited my growth in college including breaking up with my high school boyfriend, and instead of missing my high school friends, I created memories with my new ones. Over time, I got back on track with my studies.
- When I failed my first class
I entered college a Sport Medicine major. I had no idea what the hell I wanted to do with my life. It was a gray cloud that loomed over my head for a long time, but in high school I had a passion for physiology and decided to roll with it. I did not, however have any desire or will to learn the physics, earth science and calculus required by the major. My sophomore year, I failed a Biology course. In my defense, it was a class failed by many, but growing up in an extremely competitive school distract, I had never once failed anything. Anything. I felt defeated. I cried, a lot. I reevaluated the courses I had to take, and thought to myself, “ There is no effing way in hell I am going to be able to do this.”
The same semester I was enrolled in an elective class, “ Sport Globalization.” This class looked at sport from both a sociology and sport business perspective. I absolutely loved every second of that class. I owe a lot to my University Advisor. Without his willingness to take me under the Sport Management wing, I would not have found a major that I so genuinely care about. He allowed me to cry in his office under stress, took extra time to help me sort through my dreaded gray areas and instilled within me a passion to succeed as a women in the sport industry. It took some defeat and some error, but I finally found what I am passionate about.
- I got scared
There was a point in my collegiate career where dropping out just made sense. To you, it may not, but there came a month were I was so unhappy, becoming a university drop out seemed to hold more promise than an undergraduate degree. My anxiety attacks had resurfaced, more frequently than before, I had just lost one of my best friends and while my friends all seemed to have college defining moments, I had yet to have any. I was not in a sorority, nor was I on a sports team. Instead of trying to branch out and make my own friends, I stuck by my boyfriend side, hanging out with his friends. When we broke up I spent a few months lost in some dark abyss. I lived with passive aggressive roommates and walking through the house felt like walking on eggshells. Panicked phone calls to my friend became more frequent, and trips home were no longer a luxury but a necessity. The uncertainty of my future was weighting down on me, and holding a college degree seemed to add more pressure on success. Consumed with the fact I have yet to do anything to prove myself worth, I spent time dealing with bad anxiety, completely alone and unnoticed to most people here.
In hindsight, I realize I could have made more of an effort to get involved. I returned to therapy and was thankful to have the support of my friends from freshman year (appropriately labeled my Core 4). I joined clubs, I got a job. I made a conscious effort to make myself happy for once in my life. I had always relied on others for my happiness, and the second I realized I had the power to control my own smile, I once again felt invincible.
- After the best break of my life
I do not know what it is about my best friend, but just the simple sound of her voice manages to settle any ounce of anxiety in my body. The summer we spent together after college was the best one yet. We lived together and had matching twin beds that we pushed together. She constantly challenges my perspective of normal, reminding me of my worth when I forget it and showing me how many different routes can lead to happiness. There is no gray area when I am with her, everything is just good.
Returning to school after the high of break was an extremely tough transition. I went from spending every day with my best friend, to nights alone or with friends who did not necessarily understand my anxiety or fears to the same extent. I went from waking up next to my best friend, exciting about the day ahead to rarely gathering the energy to leave my bed, let alone see my university friends. I wanted to drop out and move to Chicago with her. She would not let me. I phoned her, daily, sometimes many times a day, often crying. In six months we would both graduate and be together. She constantly reminded me that time is always passing, and when I am stuck in one of my manic stages of depression, simple things, such as time are often forgotten.
- When my Grandpa Passed away
When my Grandpa passed away, I missed 13 consecutive days of school. Almost an impossible number to catch up on. My Grandpa and I had a unique relationship, he was my best friend. A great man, who never got a high school diploma, my grandpa taught me more lessons than any class I have ever sat through. When he passed away I was devastated. I still am. I wanted nothing more than to sit at home, be surrounded by people who missed him as much as I did. Leaving to go back to school, seemed like a distance to far to bear. Every time I went to visit home my Grandpa would be there, and leaving to come back to nothing was heart wrenching. Catching up on school added another stress. I needed time to grieve, but I almost needed time to finish a few papers, a project and study for upcoming tests. My first day back I spent 13 hours straight in the library. The second day I was up for a consecutive 30 hours, and still felt as if I had barely made a dent.
At school, I was swamped in work, and completely out of every social loop I managed to weasel my way into. My professors were gracious in my missed time, allowing me to disregard assignment or adjusting deadlines. My friends understood the anxiety brought upon me by the loneliness. Things still do not seem completely normal in this aspect, but I have managed to carve my way through this mountain. Most of all, my Grandpa would have been so damn proud to watch me walk across the stage. This one is for you.
I can’t whole-heartedly say that I will miss college. It’s difficult to tell if you are going to miss something you don’t fully understand. But, this school has provided me with preparation and support over the passed four years. The stress, pain, and anxiety it has caused has become the better parts of me. I made it. I almost gave up on five different occasions, if not more. But I made it. In May, I will have my undergraduate degree, and the world is mine for the taking.
This school does not hate me; it just wanted me to grow. I no longer torture myself, or get riled up over little things. It has provided me with the knowledge that even your worst days are only 24 hours. The best thing about life is that it is always moving. And so onto the next chapter.