I should be graduating, but I’m not. I should be getting a diploma from SUNY Geneseo, but I won’t be.
My time at Geneseo could be considered an odyssey. It’s an epic tale of tragedies and triumphs marked by battle scars and memories. It took me four years away from home to realize that I’ve been cowering in fear and running from my true desires. I still believe that I attended Geneseo for a reason, and I think a big part of that reason is creating an independent identity.
Who we are is ultimately dependent on the people in our lives, our environment, and the things we’ve learned. A large part of us is formed through our families and the other part society and the education system. If you were to ask me who I am, I would only be able to answer based on those elements. However, I’m working on figuring out who I am away from family and school influence.
My self-worth was tied to others’ approval and grades. I took for granted all the other things in my life, and could not bring myself out of deep depression because of all my insecurities. Only recently was I reassured by my sister that school is just school, that I am more important, that my happiness comes first. Her little speech changed my perspective on a lot of things, and there were little building blocks along the way as well. I had supportive friends that kept pushing me to do what I thought would help me, I had professors who believed in me and urged me to do my best. After many repetitive conversations and reassurances, I finally made a life-changing decision.
I don’t mean to make it sound dramatic, but it’s a drastic change for me. I had an image in my head since I was ten of what my future would be, where I would be at 30 — detailing my education to the very end — but all those dreams came crashing by the end of my freshman year of college. It took me a while, but I managed to re-form a picture, something not so far ahead… but as life would have it, that too fell through. And when I finally settled with finality in my junior year of college what I wanted to do with my life, BAM another obstacle. And I kept trudging through senior year and not much improved. I’m not sure if this shows resilience or just plain stubbornness at my refusal to change my plans even when I knew they weren’t working. Nevertheless, I finally came to accept the reality of my situation–bringing us to the reason for this post–my new adventure.
I want to start off with the one thing I haven’t mentioned, but was the first thing I decided to do for myself.
On Sunday, May 18th, I am getting baptized. I won’t lie, during these few years I wavered in my faith. I didn’t foster my relationship with God because I was adamant about getting through these trials on my own. In taking this step, I am finally asking and accepting help. I want to show and prove my love for my Heavenly Father.
Moreover, the act of baptism makes me anxious. I have a huge phobia of public speaking, but it is almost abysmal to my fear of being submerged in water. I asked about alternatives, but I was told by the pastor that this particular church only baptized through submersion. Now my baptism won’t only be the physical act of giving my life to Jesus, it’ll also be a way of facing my fears, confronting them. I saw a quote that said
F-E-A-R has two meanings: “Forget a Everything And Run” or “Face Everything And Rise.” The choice is yours.
I choose to face everything because I’m not giving up. Not after all that I’ve done to get to this point. The quote definitely eased some of my anxiety of going through with baptism.
As I mentioned earlier, I will not be graduating as part of Geneseo’s Class of 2014. Instead, I am withdrawing from the college and taking some time for myself, finding a job, and applying to CUNY Hunter next year.
Ironically, the gap year and Hunter College were actually my plans after senior year of high school, but I was too afraid to act on them. So it took me four years to come full circle, and finally give me the opportunity to do what I intended. Now have the courage to go through with it, and for that I am grateful.
It would be a lie to say that the academics at Geneseo wasn’t vigorous, but it would also be a lie to say that that’s the reason I didn’t do well. I never found my courses incredibly hard, in fact, on my good days I excelled in them. I’ve learned a lot in classes and outside of classes, but there were many other circumstances that came into play. Things that were beyond my control, but that doesn’t make me bitter anymore, the obstacles I went through brought me to the place I am now. And it’s undoubtedly a great place to be.
The biggest challenge in making the decision to leave Geneseo was my preoccupation with what my family would say. My parents immigrated from Hainan, China to make a better life for my siblings. I was born via Cesarean section not too long after my family got to America. I became the first U.S citizen and since my birth, my parents and siblings tried their best to push me to my full potential. I was constantly reminded of the care my mom and sister provided, how much they sacrificed for my well-being. I watched and experienced the stress and strain my dad and brother caused to the family, and the hurt within everyone. I believed that it was my responsibility to keep everything together, my responsibility to be as perfect as I could. That being said, withdrawing (or in the more callous term, dropping out) seemed disgraceful, disappointing, and selfish.
But after struggles with depression and anxiety, I finally came to accept that I need to do things for myself too. How was I supposed to keep my family together if I couldn’t keep myself together? This became a motivator for me to pursue the course of action of changing my plan all-together. Originally I planned appealing my pending dismissal, but I figured there was no reason to subject myself to the the repetitions of previous semesters. My brother and my sister support me, I have yet to tell my parents, but they all want what’s best for me. That’s all that matters in the end–my happiness.
So I start this adventure with one goal in mind: learn to be happy with who I am and what I have.