So I’ve been in community college for the past 5 semesters, and I’m transferring to a four year school to finish my degree in January, and moving out of my current city to be closer to the new school. Here are some various thoughts I’m having tonight, as I’ve been looking back on the past 2.5 years of my life.
I have a real tendency towards perfectionism, and my first instinct is almost always to look at myself and my actions with a high degree of self-criticism. I think about the time I have spent back in school so far, and I catch myself sometimes being really harsh towards myself and decisions I’ve made, but the truth is, I’ve weathered some tough shit to get to this point.
I quit my last “grown up” job to re-enter college at age of 25, because I was terrified of getting any further in my life while working a job that I hated and didn’t feel like I was suited for at all, and after finally deciding on what I really wanted to study. I had left college when I was 21 because I was rock bottom depressed, and had something like a 1.5 GPA from a semester of all F’s (I didn’t get out of bed but maybe 10 days that entire term) and got a full time job while I entered therapy. Four years of that, and I was making decent money working a specialized job, but really unsatisfied and knew that it was a dead end. So, I packed up and moved in with a relative I barely knew so I could attend community college in the nearby large city.
I’m not sure if many of you were around back in the fall of 2013, but the relative I moved in with ended up having a horrifically violent drinking problem, and I had to move out unexpectedly for my own safety. I had no money whatsoever, no job, and nowhere to go, but a friend of mine came and helped me pack up everything while she was at work one day. I couch surfed with various friends for four months, and the GT Emergency Fund helped me pay for essentials until I found a job and could apply for financial aid. Somewhere in there, I also had to have emergency oral surgery. Despite everything, I finished that first semester with a 3.75 GPA.
That next January, I got a job at a Starbucks, and worked night shifts while I took classes in the morning. I had been temporarily staying with my friend’s older sister whom I didn’t know very well, but she offered me her spare bedroom and an air mattress. She was barely home but maybe 8 hours a week maximum. I took care of her neglected pets while she worked an 80 hour a week job and stayed at her boyfriend’s place most of the rest of the time. I offered to pay her rent but she refused, she made a ton of money in a corporate gig and guess she didn’t need what I had to offer. Despite this, she kicked me out three weeks before my financial aid deposited, (“nothing personal, you’re a good person, I just want to be alone again.”) which forced me to move home with my mom and grandfather, who had a two bedroom 700 sq foot town home, a 50 minute commute from the school. It ended up working out, because I didn’t have any furniture at that point in time anyway, but it left me in a place where I would get up at 5am to beat substantial traffic into the city for a 7:30am class, would attend school until 2 or 3pm, and work a closing shift at work until 11pm, then drive 45 minutes home, and slept on a pull out couch without a room of my own. I did that for four months until I was able to finally get into an apartment by myself. I cried when the leasing agent told me I had been accepted.
Things got better when I got into my own place again, and I wasn’t having to drive 90 minutes or more a day. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the fall of 2014, I contracted the flu which turned into a very aggressive case of pneumonia, and I had to be hospitalized for four days. I have never felt that physically fragile before and it scared the hell out of me. I missed a month of school and didn’t fully recover until maybe November of last year.
I’m going to fast forward through some of the rest from here: I still stayed enrolled in all of my classes despite the extended illness. I caught up on all of my missed work. I started singing again, in a few different choirs at the college, after a long, long absence (negative associations from my bout of severe depression at age 21. I had been a music major at my first college, my voice teacher was NOT happy with my decision to withdraw, and I carried a lot of shame about that.) and found a teacher who really believes again in my worth as a singer and a person. I started a romantic relationship for the first time in years. I let go of some friendships and started some new, healthier ones, and I cut 80% of my family out of my life. (With all the shit that 2013 dumped on me the last thing I needed, I decided, was anybody sticking around who wasn’t 100% supportive of me or what I was trying to accomplish) I volunteered a lot for a mental health nonprofit. I’ve lived alone in a major metropolitan city, which has been terrifying at times, but I’m leaving here knowing that I’m capable of it.
I think the overriding theme of this whole season of my life has been that I NEVER AGAIN get to say that I’m weak or un-resilient or that I can’t figure things out when the shit truly hits the fan and everything falls apart. The rug has been violently been pulled out from underneath me more times than I can count, but I am still here. I have kept everything together. I’ve held the same job for two years now. I’ve supported myself financially. I’ve taken classes that would’ve terrified me a few years ago. I’ve seen the same therapist and made some huge strides in dealing with the abandonment issues and PTSD that a lot of these experiences brought forth in me. I have built a strong support system.
So I can sit here and nitpick about the things that I wish I’d done better, or think that maybe I shouldn’t have taken out as many loans, or fall into the trap of trying to blame myself for some of what went wrong or doubting my choices, but I handled myself in spite of some major setbacks. I have a 3.7 GPA leaving here and I’m 40 credit hours short of my bachelor’s. My physical health is on track, more or less. I’m in a good, healthy relationship, and I’m learning how to be myself and trust both him and me through that, and it’s so good. I already have a new place signed on in my new city, and I have a wonderful roommate who I’ve known for five years and know I can trust. The school I’m going to has one of the best programs in the nation for what I am studying. I have a lot to feel hopeful about.
I have to admit that I’m nervous about all of the changes that are happening right now, but I can choose to feel proud of everything I have accomplished in a relatively short period of time, and trust that I can handle what’s coming next. I’m just ready to enjoy the next season of my life, and see where the new experiences that are coming will take me.
Thanks for reading.