Tag Archives: depression

A Me Away from School

Do you realize that we spend approximately 20 years in some type of school setting? Daycare, pre-k, elementary school, junior high school, high school, college, and beyond (if you’re pursuing a higher degree). If we live up to 100, that’s a fifth of our lives!

Beyond that, the years that we’re in school are our formative years, the years we learn pro-social behaviors and develop our identities. It’s no wonder students have high levels of anxiety and stress.

I, for one, have a lot of my self-worth tied to school. To grades. To my lack of a college degree. I’ve let my academic mishaps define who I am, and let myself truly believe that I am a failure. Meanwhile, I tell the students I tutor that failing doesn’t make them failures; it is a way for them to learn and improve. Yet, here I am living the opposite.

After years of telling myself that school isn’t as “do-or-die” as I believe, I finally withdrew from college for an indefinite period in November. I tried doing so before, but I kept nagging myself into trying again before I was really ready. I kept doing the same ineffective thing time and again. All for the purpose of validation.

I used the excuse that the industry I want to enter requires at minimum a Master’s degree to justify my continuous stunts in school. It’s not untrue. There’s little one can do in human services without licensure in social work, especially in the clinical sense. But I knew, from the bottom of my heart, I was spouting bs. I’d say I was trying to rationalize because people pointed out the errors in the redundancy of my school approach, but I’m sure it was to convince myself I wasn’t just being stubborn. To pretend that the true motive wasn’t to make myself feel like I’m worth something.

It’s hard for me to take out the school element of my understanding of self because it’s so ingrained in me. The praises I received as a child revolved around my intelligence and speculation of what my future would hold. I spent years being in school being rewarded for good grades and being scolded or disciplined for poor ones. I compared grades with peers, believing that the number on the paper made the person. I couldn’t separate me, my intelligence and my capabilities from the scores on my exams and the grades on my transcripts.

I remember the first time I did poorly on my math test. It was in sixth grade and I got under a 70, maybe in the 60s range, but my standards were much higher at 11 years old. I bawled. I was so distraught and so upset. I also feared the repercussions of a failing grade. My classmates and friends tried to make me feel better, most also not doing very well on the exam. It didn’t work. I felt pathetic and worthless. I felt like a failure. Not doing well in what was one of my best subjects? Preposterous! Impossible! Pathetic! Stupid!

I wish I could say that I developed a way to cope and to dispel those feelings and thoughts, but I didn’t. I haven’t. To be perfectly honest, even now at 26 going on 27, there’s a chance I would bawl over a failing grade in a subject with which I feel confident. Even if I don’t cry, I would definitely despair and my thoughts would spiral into the dark negative side of things. I would jump from “Oh, I did poorly on one assignment” to “I completely effed up my chances at a degree and will fail out of school.” And it sure doesn’t help that I have legitimately been academically dismissed from a higher education institution. I know it’s not because of my intelligence or my ability to excel in a school setting, but logic doesn’t necessarily always go hand-in-hand with emotions.

So, because of this twisted self-defeating relationship with school, I decided to take some time in the workforce. Take some time to get to know myself better. Take time to write and go back to my roots and my interests. Go back to the very beginning of what I want to pursue academically. I hope that this is a worthwhile journey, and that I’m not “wasting my time”. It’s hard not to think that I’m just delaying the inevitable, especially with people from all around constantly pushing the importance of a degree in this current climate.

I have to be strong in my endeavor. Strong against the naysayers and the doubters. Strong against my own preconceived notions of success. It’s going to take a lot… I already want to sign up for the Spring semester. Not even a whole semester off from school and I can’t imagine not jumping back in. I really have to think, is that the best thing for me? Is it the right move?

I don’t want to keep repeating the same cycle as if I’m not learning from my past or my errs. I am. It’s hard though. It’s extremely difficult to not be in school when I don’t have a degree to show for it. It’s difficult because when I’m not in school, all I want is the academic challenge. Then, when I’m struggling with anxiety because of school (not the academics itself, but my unresolved feelings) all I want is to escape — to work and move forward with my life. It really is a vicious cycle… and I hope to break it soon.

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Self First

Growing up, I was told that if I didn’t take care of myself, no one else will. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that no one else CAN.

No one else knows what we’re experiencing. There’s no way to truly communicate that. We can try verbalizing or using other means of communication, but another person can only get the gist. No one else knows what we really need. Heck, sometimes we don’t even know what we really need. But it’s up to us as individuals to figure that out. We’re all different, and we can’t go through life the same way.

I was told that my priority was school. That I had to finish school before my life could start. Finish college before dating. Finish college to find a good job. Finish school first! I haven’t finished school yet. I couldn’t.

It’s hard for me to admit because I think it’s shameful. But the matter of fact is, I did not finish college. In fact, I was academically dismissed from two different colleges. Why? Because I never put myself first. I knew I was struggling, all the signs were there, but I kept pushing. I didn’t get the help I needed, didn’t ask for the support that I needed. I was too embarrassed. School was always easy for me. I’m not stupid, and I did well academically. So when I started slipping, it felt like someone pulled the rug from underneath me. Then I became preoccupied with it. One failure became multiple, and all of a sudden, I lost control of everything. I didn’t put myself first. I put other people’s expectations first… or what I perceived as their expectations. The greatest relief for me came when my sister told me, “School is just school.” Wow. I never felt pressure leave me so fast as it did then. She told me that I mattered more than any degree could, and that I needed to focus on myself. I listened for a while, and then back to fitting the mold.

I had a nagging feeling about not finishing school, so I immediately transferred into a different one when I returned to NYC. Let’s just say, that was not beneficial to me at all. I still lacked the motivation, even though I was excited of the prospect of going to pursue a dream career. And again, it all came crashing down. I was not ready for school again. I didn’t even take the time to really work on myself before I jumped back in, assuming I was doing what I wanted and needed. Then I did take a semester off, and in that time I was itching to go back to school. I missed it. So, I thought I was ready. I did my summer class, and aced it. Then fall semester came, and I registered for 5-6 classes. I could’ve done 4, but I am always the overachiever. I felt that if I didn’t have enough work, it would be meaningless. But turns out, I took on too much too soon. So, some classes gave and others I worked my butt off to complete. That was a pattern. I could only handle so many classes, but I thought I was invincible, that next time would be different. Let me tell you, nothing changes if you haven’t changed in between that time.

So, I realized my passion for school dimmed again. Next best thing? Find a job. Maybe working would make me want to go back to school, and it would help me prepare for the future. So I got a job. It was supposed to be part time, turned out to be full-time. My first actual full-time job and I was ecstatic. I went in, did the job, and did it well. I felt great. Then, the stress of the job and my inadequate self-care piled on. Six months in, and I couldn’t manage anymore. Taking sick days, coming in late, just all the things that I should not be doing. Unprofessional to a fault. That’s where I was. The next step from there? I could’ve kept going, my boss was supportive and caring, but I know I was taking on too much and it was taking a toll on me. So my next step was to quit.

I hate quitting. I am stubborn to a fault, and quitting means admitting defeat. That does not sit well with me at all. I also really liked my job, so I didn’t want to quit. But everything my body and mind were telling me was that I cannot handle it. So that’s what I did.

I had to make difficult decisions in order to focus on myself. I like to think that I’m getting a bit better at it. I’ve enrolled in community college now, yeah clearly school still has a hold on me, but I’m going to take it easy this time around. I’m going to take it easy on myself and be practical instead of hopeful.

Keep It Together

“Keep it together.”

I tell myself that all the time.

We live in a society and a culture where it is looked down upon when you fall apart. We’re supposed to be like well oiled machines that work day in and day out. And once we squeak, well, we either need to repair ourselves or we’re cast as an outsider–the weird one, the defective one.

I was always told that I had to buck up and continue. No matter how emotionally or physically exhausted, I just kept going. I kept pushing and pushing to my limits; and that was how it should be, that was the expectation.

I’ve fallen apart a few times in my life, and they were bad breakdowns. It opened my eyes to how detrimental it was to keep going when I didn’t have fuel, when I was worn down to my bare bones. I kept going because I didn’t want to squeak. I didn’t want to set cause for alarm or worry. Most of all, I didn’t want for people to see or treat me differently.

I’d always been called a crybaby, over-emotional, and dramatic. Those were the identifying personality traits, and I grew up truly believing that. So as years past and tantrums weren’t acceptable anymore, I learned to rein it in. I cried myself to sleep, angry that I could not for the life of my hold myself together. I couldn’t be composed, calm and collected like everyone expected me to be. But once the dawn came, and I woke up, I would try my hardest to pretend.

Pretending to be okay when I wasn’t was the worst. It was using up more energy than if I just slumped around the way I actually felt; but, as always, I had to keep a facade. I didn’t want to be that squeaky machine, remember? So I just kept going like that, like the Energizer Bunny. Truth be told, I didn’t have that ongoing, everlasting energy. I was tired. I was exhausted. And I really wondered why I kept trying.

“Why am I doing this to myself?”

“Why can’t I just get my act together?”

“I need to get myself together!”

Eventually, all those feelings changed from fatigue to desperation. I couldn’t understand why I could not function the way I used to, but I couldn’t even bring myself to care. I’d lost the motivation and passion that I used to have. I became a shell of who I used to be. At one point, I was cheery and sociable and full of energy; somehow, it became an act.

But I refused to let the curtains close on me. I wanted to keep going. I really thought I could. Constantly telling myself, “Keep it together.” And I did, as long and as best as I could. Eventually, I fell apart.

The funny thing about your psyche is, is that it can only push you so far. That little engine lied to me, just because I think I can, doesn’t mean I really can. I over-exerted my resources and I came to a crashing halt. The worst part of it? I never even saw it coming. Logically, it was about time, but I just thought that I could keep going, like Wonder Woman or something. I thought I could get by on sheer willpower because that’s what I did all along. Except, I didn’t have any willpower left. Everything felt so pointless. I thought it was.

When I finally collapsed, I decided to take a look back. Okay, I didn’t decide, it was a consequence of feeling like a failure. But as I went through the years, I realized for a good portion of my life, maybe ten years, I was just going through the motions. I was doing what I was supposed to do, not what I wanted to do. I was doing what everyone else did, I was the drone that I tried to hard to be. I wasn’t squeaky, I was just like the rest. The only difference was that the other machines were still going, while I was broken.

I became really bitter and angry. I felt so down on myself and I went through a phase of blaming everyone else. Yet, the other part of me still said, “If only you could have kept it together.”

I’m not repaired. I don’t know if I ever will be. Finally breaking down after years of trying to feel normal and be normal took a toll on me. I’m still struggling to figure out who I am, what I want, and where to go from here. Sometimes, I feel like I hit the rock bottom of my standards.

I try to tell myself it’s okay. I try to let myself release all the pent-up frustration or stress when I feel overwhelmed. Yet, that haunting phrase remains deeply ingrained, “Keep it together.”

I can’t.

Let’s Talk About Depression

Recently, an icon of both television and film passed away. If you haven’t heard about it, I’m talking about Robin Williams. We know him as a comedian, the voice of Genie from Aladdin, and the ever-so-charming Mrs. Doubtfire.

The cause of death? Suicide.

And it is for this reason that I make this post. There have been dozens of news reports, countless of interview re-runs, but never is the focus on the illness that caused Robin Williams’ demise. Depression.

I am sick of people blaming him, calling him selfish or even saying that he had no reason to take his own life. I’m sorry, but are you him? What he battled with is just as tangible as cancer and HIV. The battle is just as drawn out. Maybe you couldn’t see it on the surface, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Do you have feelings? Well, are you sure? I don’t see them. Don’t feelings only exist when there is laughter or tears? If you think I’m being utterly ridiculous for even saying something like this, well, you should understand that is how people treat mental illness. They don’t believe in it because there is no proof. By the time something tangible appears, it may be in the later stages already.

The reason why I am so passionate about this is because I saw a segment on Robin Williams yesterday. It casually mentioned that the cause of death was depression, but then tried to shift the focus to his finances. As if the only reason fathomable for him to end his life is because of his cash flow.

Depression doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor. It doesn’t care if you were or are the happiest person in the world.  It can strike, it’s omnipresent, and very potent. Depression takes prisoners and feels no guilt. Imagine how long Robin Williams must have battled with the illness before finally reaching his breaking point.

Some see the action as selfish. Taking your own life, wow, how selfish. But maybe after all those years of living through the torture for others, it’s time to be selfish. Or even more so, maybe the person could feel as if his or her act is actually selfless.

If you’ve never had a bout of depression before, let me tell you, it is not pretty. You don’t see the positive in anything. You don’t think that you can get out of it. But worst of all, you feel alone. And if you don’t feel alone, you feel like you’re dragging everyone down with you. You’re moody and you’re reclusive, friends start getting annoyed at you for skipping out on plans. You barely feel like a person, just a shell. You try to sleep to escape reality, or you engage in other risky and self-endangering behavior.

What kind of life is that to lead?

I am sorry that Robin Williams went the way he did. I’m actually devastated. But his death opens this window for a very important discussion, one about mental health and mental illness. Unfortunately, that’s not what our focus is on, we’re focusing on what other reasons could have caused this event. What we as a society is saying is that depression is not enough of a reason. But it is.

One symptom of depression, one very well known one: thoughts of suicide, or harming yourself or others.

If that’s the thing most associated with depression, than can you explain to me why it’s still not enough of a reason? When someone says that he or she is depressed, isn’t our first reaction to worry?

Instead of looking for loopholes or excuses, can we please talk about the real problem? How little we understand about mental illness, and how little we do to expose the dirt on such prevalent diseases. Millions of people suffer from mental illness, hundreds of thousands die.

If those numbers aren’t tangible to that numerical part of you, then I don’t know what else to say. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not real.

And for those who say that it was a choice… Yes, to a rational and reasonable person in the right state of mind, yes it may seem so. But to someone so far gone, overtaken by an illness like depression… it may not seem so.

Sometimes a choice isn’t really a choice. Depression is irrational and unreasonable. You can’t explain it, you can only feel it. And when it gets to you, you can’t even figure out up from down, so how can you understand what’s real and what’s your distorted point of view? And what if your distorted view is your reality?

Let’s talk about depression. Feel free to leave me comments.

This is an important topic to me. It’s near and dear to my heart, and I want for others to understand that Robin Williams lived a wonderful life and did wonderful things. His name, and any others who end their own lives because of mental illness, should not be shamed or tarnished over something they could not control.

 

Understanding Depression

Understanding Depression

I want to start a non-profit organization to help people with mental illnesses, to help them move forward. It’s a personal interest of mine, so every Wednesday, I will share a post about different diseases. To start off my new Wellness Wednesday segments, I’m going to start with the mood disorder closest to me:depression.

Depression is probably one of the most prevalent mental illnesses out there. It affects 1 in 4 people in their lifetimes… That’s a lot of people. You could know someone who’s depressed, maybe that person is you, but he or she may never confirm it. There’s a shame associated with depression as there is with other mental illnesses. There are misconceptions, misinformation, and stigma attached to it that prevents people to come forward and seek help. People keep it hidden like a deep dark secret; and honestly, that’s what depression is, a deep dark secret. People would rather live a life of lies than to be recognized as abnormal in a negative light.

Everything I learned about writing comes down to one basic rule: show, don’t tell. That’s exactly what I’m going to do, to show you what depression feels like instead of telling you. Telling you would make no difference, you’ve heard stories before, you’ve witnessed people struggling, but you will never truly understand the experience until you’ve been through it.

You’ve seen those cliche scenes in movies where someone’s being bullied, he or she is surrounded by peers taunting, jeering at, and attacking them. The victim is always helpless on the floor while all he or she sees are the mocking faces of his or her attackers, that’s kind of what depression feels like. Except the bullies aren’t other people but yourself.

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(Image from charlesjturner.com)

Struggling with depression feels like you’re using your energy to charge pass these bullies only to be pushed down to the ground harder. You use all your energy reserves to fight and end up being exhausted. There are so many moments when you just want to give up. You just want to escape it all–that’s where self-medicating, hypersomnia, binge eating, self-harming come to play–you begin to depend on methods to help you leave it behind, hide it in the back of your mind. You end up fluctuating between feeling too much to feeling nothing at all. And while all of this is happening inside, you have to put up a front for everyone else so they don’t worry, so they don’t suspect anything. After all, there’s a shame to being a victim. It means you’re incapable and weak. Day in and day out, your completely drained, and anything else seems better. Wherever you look you see people happy and you just think, why cant that be me? Why does everyone else have it together while I’m breaking apart? You feel stagnant and there’s nothing you can do, you’re stuck in this rut. Some days you don’t even get out of bed, don’t eat, don’t take care of yourself because it’s all just pointless. In those moments death seems better than life, not because you want to die, but because you want the pain to stop. You want to stop facing these demons, your tormentors, that won’t let you have peace of mind.

And for those courageous enough to tell people that they are indeed depressed, they get these similar responses: “It’ll get better;” “Stop being so dramatic and get over it;” “You have too much free time on your hands;” You just have to change your perspective.”
Those words to the downtrodden don’t make them feel better, no, those words make them feel worse. It’s not that they don’t want to get better, it’s that they don’t know how or have the resources to do so. No one is taking their issues seriously and they feel alone. Depression is an isolating illness.

You go out with your friends because it’s a social obigation. While you’re there you laugh and smile and joke around. Everybody believes that you’re okay, that you’re fine and you’re enjoying being there. The reality is much deifferent, you sit there going through the practiced motions while on the inside you feel so distant. Even though you’re physically present and laughing, you don’t feel anything. Then someone says something wrong, a trigger word, and gone is your happy-go-lucky facade, no instead you’re bawling your eyes out. It’s like someone flipped a switch and you can’t stop the sobs wracking through your body. You realize your friends are looking at you, so you run. You find some deserted location like the bathroom and lock the door. You continue to cry and you don’t know when it’ll stop. You’re plagued by memories or feelings that those words brought up, and you’re back to square one. When you’ve finally calmed down, you return to your group. The atmosphere is tense and they look at you, expecting you to explain your outburst. Instead you smile and say that you’re fine, that it was no big deal. They look at you uncertain, but they shrug it off and decide not to push. Everything returns to before, but there is a tension in the air and you catch them sending you glances. You return home later and you cry yourself to sleep because you feel like a mutant.

As I mentioned before, people who suffer from depression often look for ways to take away the pain. What they’re feeling isn’t physical pain, but emotional pain, a pain that they can’t describe in words but know that it’s killing them on the inside. Sometimes these methods are healthy: drawing, painting, excercising, writing, etc. And other times, these escape methods are dangerous: self-medicating, self-harming, engaging in reckless behaviors, over-excessive eating or spending. All of the above are considered coping mechanisms, but people don’t realize that. There’s a stigma on those who follow the more dangerous route of escaping.

There are an insurmountable misconceptions about self-harm, and particularly, cutting. For the record, cutting is not the only method of self-harm but it is the one that garners the most attention. Other self-injurious behavior include scratching, burning, picking at scabs, pulling hair, etc. Basicaly, anything that you do purposely to feel pain would be considered self-harm. As I was saying, self-harm comes with a lot of negative stereotyping. Common beliefs about self-harm are:
1. It’s for attention.
2. It’s only a problem within teens.
3. All self-harmers are suicidal.
4. It’s a habit that can easily be stopped.
These statements are false. I will go through each of them individually and explain why these statements are not the reality.

1. It’s for attention.
Many people believe that cutting or other self-injurious behaviors are attention-seeking behaviors. This is untrue. More often than not, people who engage in self harm try to hide their scars, and are embarrassed by it. In fact, they’re afraid of what people will think of them if the scars are revealed. Self-harmers go to great lengths to cover their scars and hide them, and some even injure themselves in locations people will not see (the inner thigh for example). I am not saying that there aren’t people who may confess to self-harming as a way to seek attention, but that is definitely not the majority. Keep in mind that depression to the person suffering is shameful, and anything associated with it is shameful–especially self-harm.

2. It’s only a problem within teens.
False. Absolutely false. Self-harm, like depression, does not choose its victims based on age, gender, race, etc. Self-harm is a coping mechanism, it’s a way to stop all the craziness inside their heads. So it doesn’t matter if your fifteen or fifty-eight, the chances that you’ll engage in self-ham do not dwindle. Just because you know that’s it’s illogical and that it’s dangerous doesn’t prevent you from engaging in the behavior. It’s the desperation of the moment that takes over, and all rational though flies out the window.

3. All self-harmers are suicidal.
Some self-harmers may have suicidal intent or thoughts, but do not generalize those few to encompass everyone else. Most self-harmers are not suicidal. Sometimes self-harming is their way of staying alive. I like to believe that scars from self-injury are battle scars–physical manifestations of the inner struggle.

4. It’s a habit that can easily be stopped.
You would think so. Unfortunately, self-harm is not completely all voluntary, and like any other addiction, it’s hard to quit. Self-harm is addictive. It may seem bizarre to think hurting yourself would be something you’d be attached to, but it’s true. Humans are creatures of habit, and we often continue to engage in things that make us feel good. Self-harm for someone who struggles with depression does exactly that. As I said before, self-harm is an escape, and that relief that comes with it becomes ingrained. So, when things get tough, engaging in something that makes you feel better is the no-brainer.

I don’t encourage self-harm and I don’t romanticize it. I’m just trying to explain the reality of it. I don’t want people to judge someone who is already criticizing him or herself much more harshly than others could. When it comes to mental illness, we have to be understanding. I hope reading this post helps you understand a little bit of what it’s like to suffer from depression.

Depression is sometimes a precursor to suicide, so if you think someone may be going through depression, or is suicidal talk to him or her. Sometimes they just need someone there for them, because depression makes you feel a great deal of loneliness, so knowing they have someone can make a huge difference. There are also many resources available. Here is a link to the National Institute of Mental Health for more information about depression and resources you can seek or share: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml

A New Journey

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.

PART ONE
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.

PART TWO
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.

-Ling