Tag Archives: school

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.

I Used to Know

I was that kid in elementary school, junior high school, and high school who knew exactly what she wanted from life. I knew where I wanted to go to school, what I wanted to major in, what age I wanted to get married, and how many kids I wanted to have. I had this whole plan in my head. I was set, and I was sure. 

Then life happened.

Now, I’m not sure anymore. I never felt lost before. I never worried about where I would be in five years, if I could even see myself in five years. I always knew. I always had a goal and a way of getting there. My biggest fear when I was in high school was if I wouldn’t be able to have kids in the future. Now, I don’t even think I want to have children of my own. I never worried about graduating on time or what I would do afterwards. I knew.

Then life happened.

College was my turning point from the self-assured, I know what I’m going to do and I’m going to do it person to I have no idea what I’m doing with my life person. Psychology major fell through when I realized, I don’t care about brain chemicals and how they work. English major fell through when I realized, I didn’t want to be a literature major. I was set on being a creative writing major, and when that didn’t happen, I chose to go with what interested me–sociology. And although that didn’t fall through per se, it did leave me questioning what I’m going to do with that degree. No worries, why?

Because life happened.

I fell into a pit of depression and anxiety which became a vicious cycle where terrible thoughts fed upon and fueled themselves. And that took a toll on my academic performance, thus my dismissal from SUNY Geneseo. Upon receiving that dismissal notice, I was distraught. This could not be happening to me! But eventually, I was able to evaluate myelf and my career goals. I decided that I wanted to work behind the scenes to help better the world. I wanted to create my own non-profit, or in the least, manage one. Thus, my decision to take up Public Administration as a major. After that was decided, I looked for schools that had that program. Granted, with a GPA slightly above 2.0, I was worried I wouldn’t even get the chance. Thankfully, I was lucky.  Eve with that solved, I still feel lost. Why?

Because life keeps happening. 

That’s probably the hardest part for me. I used to be able to move with the flow, ride the current. Now, I’m stuck drifting and hitting the river bank and jagged rocks. I have no idea how to move straight with the rest of the water anymore. I don’t like this uncertainty. It bothers me a lot because it’s foreign and cumbersome. Unfortunately, it’s a huge part of life with which I need to get on board. I may be stuck in this spot for a while, and I can’t keep willing for life to stop. No matter how much I wish and pray, life will keep happening. And I cannot foucs on what I used to know, but to start thinking about what I could know.

Life will always happen,

but I don’t have to always fall victim to the constant changes.

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