I Wish I Knew Then (Let Me Tell You A Story)

I’ve gotten the chance to meet a lot of people since I left high school. We’re all so different, so amazingly unique, but I’m starting to notice a trend and of course, I had to share it on this lovely blog. So if you will, as you always do, humor me. These experiences are not only mine, but also many other people I have spoken to.

“In high school, it is a general assumption that smart people go to college. If you are not smart, you go into the military or find a job at a factory or something.” I heard that quote recently and just laughed it off. Naturally, it started my mind a-wandering and I couldn’t help but think about it over and over and over. I had shrugged it off because loads of my graduating class had been smart and gone into the military. I hold the armed forces in highest esteem. But why is it that I can’t shake that sentence?

“I was told that college was what I was supposed to do.” That’s true. I never really heard anything other than “Go to college” from my high school guidance counsellors. And at the time, I thought I wanted to be a doctor, so college was really obvious to me anyway.

  And some really heavy conversations keep rolling around in my head. So many people who are in no way “dumb” keep telling me their stories about failing out of college, of leaving after a semester or two, or of aimlessly drifting through associate’s degrees because that’s what they were supposed to do.

I watched a video today about the “real faces of student loan debt” and people crying about not knowing better when they took out loans. I have student loans. And by the time I get completely finished with college, I’ll have a lot more. But again, the point remained. It’s what we’re supposed to do.

  WHY?

Sure, you can say: to get a job, to make something of yourself, to become an upstanding citizen, yada, yada, yada. But let me tell you a story that is so eerily similar to the people I’ve talked to.

About a year into college, I began to have a series of “breakdowns”. Why did college suck? Why wasn’t it fun? Why wasn’t it everything I had been told it would be? Wasn’t it supposed to be the best years of my life? Why then was it miserable, expensive and stressful? I almost gave up and left. My husband helped me reason it out, and I almost decided that college wasn’t right for me. I graduated high school second in my class, with a GPA of 3.98 and as a member of the National Honor Society. I had credentials. I didn’t understand why education was no longer something I was the best at. I mean, I was smart. Why wasn’t college easy? It was what I was supposed to do, after all and I hated it. 

  Several years later, I eye my student loans warily, with that suspicious sort of “are you even real?” Attitude. I’m not done collecting loans and they most definitely haven’t even begun collecting me-but it weighs on my mind a lot. And with application season only just beginning for me (I just registered for the LSAT and GRE), I cannot help but look back at what I’ve done.

Why is it that so many people-men and women-leave college? The people I have talked to voiced similar concerns as I had. It wasn’t what had been promised, they felt inadequate, college wasn’t what made them happy. And I think the problem lies in there somewhere. If your high school guidance counsellors were anything like mine, they pushed college on you hard. It wasn’t even really a question. And it was explained to you that smart people went to college, got degrees and got away from the smal town we were in. Smart people became doctors or scientists, and college would be the time of your life. You were in fact, preparing yourself to succeed in college.

 

 I don’t think I was.

You could argue that yes, my grades are pretty decent. I stand a great chance of getting accepted by a law school or a master’s program and academically, sure. I guess, more or less, I am prepared. But mentally? Emotionally? Not a big fat chance. I feel like I have the maturity of a toddler who missed nap time most days and I’m not even sure about the other days. It’s literally like teething academically-there’s a lot of pain, anger and in the end someone gives you a sticker (or in this case, diploma) and hopes you’ll forget how much it hurt. And on good days, when I am a fully functional adult? Those are the days that I just stare blankly at the wall, wondering why someone didn’t warn me beforehand that I needed to work more, go to a cheaper college and live with my parents until I was 30 so I wouldn’t be drowning in debt.

You could argue that I should have known, and I would sheepishly nod my head. But how could I have known? I was a teenager. I didn’t know a thing about interest rates on student loans, the cost of living or even how to love myself. I was asked-or well, demanded of really-to plan out my entire life before I was even able to vote and yet just a few years before, I was being considered for electroshock therapy (I know it’s called something else now-but that’s still EXACTLY what it is). So why is it that so many people leave college?

Because we aren’t being honest with our young people. It isn’t the end of the world if you decide to get a job after high school and postpone college until you know EXACTLY what you want to do. It isn’t the end of the world if you never go to college. It’s not even the end of the world if you do what I did and stay in college even when you’re sometimes miserable. (For the record, I am no longer miserable, although I do feel a bad case of senioritis coming on!) You want to know what is the end of the world? Feeling like you have absolutely no choice in the matter because you were told that smart people have to go to college. That’s total rubbish. You do you the way you want to do you. You have your entire life ahead of you. And in the words of the great philosopher Ms. Frizzle (winky face)

Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy!

  

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The Day I Was Honest

I’ve held onto this post, mostly becuase I couldn’t give it all it deserved. I had to be in the right frame of mind. I’m not entirely sure it’s today, but I think I’ve got a good grip on what I want to say and I think it’s a lovely way to open the new calendar year.
Last semester (and thusly last year) I had a lot going on, as we’ve discussed. I had just transferred to the big city, made new friends, was working on establishing myself in the ways of the world. And I began to blog seriously. I watched this video today of an interview with Jada Pinkett Smith, which I absolutely loved and the idea came bubbling up in the back of my head. That’s why I’ve decided to blog on it today.

In the interview, she was talking about how to balance your life. That’s something I really struggle with. I live too much in the future and not enough in the now. I think about how to fix the problems I may encounter and not so much on how to prevent them. So when she said “focus on yourself. Do what makes you happy.”I really felt like we were approaching a revalation. Her argument was that if you do not find a way to keep yourself in balance, to take care of yourself, you will look to others to do so. You will blame them for sacrificing your entire life for them and not getting happiness out of it. And it blew my mind (metaphorically, of course). 

Now that you’ve had some background info, on to the actual point.

Last semester is by far and away not the first time I’ve had to take sick days. I’ve had bronchitis, strep, the stomach flu and a host of colds throughout my life. But I don’t skip irresponsibly. I take pride in my ability to attend school and work with punctuality and integrity. But last semester was the first time I was honest with myself. As I was crafting my email to my professors for the day, I began to reason out what my excuse for missing class was. Was I suffering from a 24 hour bug? Had I awoken with a flat tire or a low battery? Had I merely slept in? And I realized that I needed to stop kidding myself and respect myself as much as I respected the professors.

 

 

Good morning!

I will not be in class today. I need to take a mental health day and will return to class tomorrow. Thank you for your understanding.

Best,

Michelle BB.

For the first time in my entire life, I used that excuse. I’ve always been ashamed to, like it was some sort of cop-out excuse for being lazy. But it isn’t. And in fact, when I returned the next day, my professors went out of their way to make sure I was alright. Two of them even stopped by the office where I work and made it a point to see if I needed anything. They didn’t see me as a lazy, incompetent student. They saw me as an individual who responsibly needed a day to regroup.

  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at their reactions. Mental health has been quite a large topic lately, and I was taking a bunch of anthropology classes, so they all understand the value of psychobiological health. And as I said, I do not skip irresponsibly. There is always a reason-a real reason. But it got me thinking. How can I stand here (or sit) and tell you all that we need to take steps to mental health help and then be ashamed of the fact that I have to use that reason myself? Why was I ashamed in the first place?

Because it still carries the connotations. I don’t want anyone to see me as weak, unbalanced, incapable. I fight hard for people to see the bright, driven, passionate individual that I am. But I guess I got caught up in being a super heroine, without flaw or needs. And I viewed my own mental health as something along the lines of an excuse to be used as a cover up for the fact that I didn’t have the motivation to do something. That isn’t even the case. But I’m glad I learned that. Because mental health isn’t separate from physical health. It’s a facet of the same diamond. I was scared that my professors would use that against me in the future. But all that happened was me finally letting go of the fear and replacing it with the statement “I have to take care of myself-holistically.” And once I did that, I think I managed to do just that.

  So thank you, Jada Pinkett Smith, for reminding me that I do indeed need to find my balance and stop sacrificing myself away. No one else is responsible for my happiness and health.

What’s My Age Again?

9 December 1992. It was a cold day in December, flurries and snowflakes abounded and as the sun disappeared, a lunar eclipse kissed the moon. In the chill, the bitter cold of night, there was a silence. A single snowflake fell to the ground, having caught the light of the blood red moon, and the world held its breath. Seconds passed, each one bringing the moon closer to the culmination of the eclipse, the tint caressing the moon with no inclination of saying goodbye. And right as the moon shone brightest, a scream rippled through the stark white hospital. The lights were dim, the sounds of Christmas carols humming through the radio and in a flurried rush, as the snowflakes outside the window, a baby was wrapped in a blanket, the jam-like innards having been sucked from her nose, her bottom having been smacked. That child, covered in goop, being rapidly wiped off and swaddled, was me. I came home in a Mickey Mouse shirt, which my mother graciously lets me keep in my clothes drawer with my socks.
My mother was told she could never have kids. I was both a surprise and a blessing (or so my parents tell me). I’m sure they really had no idea just how many surprises were to come to them on my behalf. I’ve been through every emotion and hair color, I’ve grown fond of coffee (if you couldn’t tell), I fell in love with music. I learned to play almost a dozen instruments, I even thought about being a music major in college, even auditioned. We always put the Christmas tree up after (or on) my birthday). And now, I live with my husband and life has changed so much since my earliest memories.

Last year on my birthday, I anxiously awaited the minute I turned 22 so that I could buy the Taylor Swift song. But as I approached this birthday, I realized that finding a “23” song would be much harder. So I began my search. As the title suggests, I found Blink-182 first and then Jimmy Eats World. But that song just wasn’t enough for me. I’m sure my sister would love for me to claim the R5 song “Wishing I Was 23” but I just can’t connect to it either. Next to reach the chopping block was “23” by Shakira. I’m a huge fan of Shak, and I really thought maybe this song would be it. But I kept looking-just in case. And then I landed on “Waiting” by Jamie Campbell Bower. And I think I have my song. 

Being 23 is already pretty stressful. I have another year just gone. I spent it being sucked down by my cowardice and anxiety, I found myself changing my mind-a lot, and I picked myself up after tons of times being metaphorically beaten down. But it’s gone, for better or worse and I can’t get it back. That’s really something to think about. It’s a scary world out there and I’ve missed another year. Or am I just another year closer to the best me I may ever be?

So my goals for year 23, are personal,more so than they have ever been. I want to break my shell once and for all. I want to get out and meet people, make eye contact and not be afraid of everyone. I want to work out more. Not so I can be skinny, but so I can be healthy. I want to be able to go into the next parts of my life in the best shape I can. I want to do something-like get my book published, or sell a song to a famous person, or even just go somewhere. And more importantly, I want to succeed. Less thana year from now, I’m applying to grad schools and law schools. I want more than anything to get in. I want to smile at the acceptance letter and realize I did it. I want to not be scared to drive. I have a CRAZY story to tell you all sometime about why I have worries driving, but today I shall not get into it. And I want to enjoy life. I don’t need to have “everything”-the perfect body, makeup, hair, and material goods. I just want to spend more mornings looking at the sunrise, more evenings staring up at the heavens and maybe, just maybe, finally learn how to play guitar.

All that I need is to be true to myself. And that is my favorite reason why I’m 23.

So come close, and I’ll scream

Oh just let me be me

And I fail to see

The dark skies aren’t all that dwell inside me

-Jamie Campbell Bower, Waiting

  

Thought For The Day

I attend university, there is no secret to be hidden there. But last night I received an email from security with very vague instructions-there was an anonymous threat. And while that seems to be the case quite frequently with large city campuses, the notices kept coming. More information was released and soon enough, a picture started to form. A bomb threat and a school shooting had been announced.

So I guess my thought is one of reflection.

I went to school today not knowing about a potential bomb, or that I should have packed my kevlar just in case. I went to school and then went home. That’s all there is to this story. But what if there HAD been an incident? I mean, campus security did a phenomenal job being present and in plain sight, but suppose that had not been enough to scare off said attacker?

How many buildings? How many lives? How many hours of wondering why?

I’m not going to sit here and say that I pondered my own existence today-because that would be a lie. But I did stop to wonder what might drive someone to make such threats? Was it a bully? Were they attacked themselves? Was it religious extremism? Do they just really hate our university? And the answers I came up with weren’t answers at all, just more questions.

So as I sit in my home, getting around to homework, I’m glad that there were many factors which led to today going off without a hitch, and that students and faculty and staff were able to carry on with their day as though nothing were amiss. Turns out, the only thing stronger than the fear of death is how strongly we hold onto life.

Interesting.