Don’t they say that in the case of addiction there is no such thing as ‘recovered’? There is just continuous recovery.
Well for me, dropping out of college feels kind of like that. Despite the fact that I have now been accepted for my third year in an Institution of Technology, I will always always always be a college dropout.
It’s a label that I have worn for over five years now; a label that I have worn (for fleeting moments) with pride, and a label that I have worn (for much longer moments) as a badge of shame.
Of course, some people carry it off with a lot more style than I do. Dropping out seems trendy and courageous when I hear of how my fellow dropouts have handled their circumstances.
‘Good for you!’ I think to myself. ‘Good for you for not settling. Good for you for recognising what’s best for you and going out to achieve it on your own. Good for you.’
And then there’s me.
Let me be clear: I 100% stand by my decision to drop out of college. Both times. (Yes, both. Twice. I have dropped out of college twice… and hopefully the trend ends there.)
It wasn’t right for me. I was hasty and I chose the wrong course (twice. Yes, twice) without thoroughly considering, or maybe just misunderstanding, what it is that I want to do. Instead I went for what I thought was simple, and turns out it was simple. Simply disastrous.
I was miserable. Why-am-I-here what’s-the-point dreading-waking-up-every-day miserable. I felt like an inmate of my own life. So I know that I didn’t belong there and I’m glad I broke free, but my liberation came at a very high price. When I dropped out I found that some of my most important relationships were irreparably damaged; people were disappointed, feelings were hurt… and most importantly, I felt totally unsupported during the most difficult period of my life to date.
It goes without saying that dropping out of college was (and still is) inextricably linked with my mental health.
From early on in my experience with university the depression came as an anchor; a sinking weight that started in my chest every morning and made its way down and into my stomach as the bus neared my college on that anxiety-inducing forty-minute commute.
The weight should have been lifted one fateful day in February when I made my ‘deferral’ official, and in a way I guess it was. But it was shortly replaced with feelings of failure, inadequacy and worthlessness. It has been the root of a lot of unrelenting insecurities and fears that I still carry with me into everything I do, making it considerably more difficult to accomplish, well, anything. And that’s why I’m writing this.
My experiences with third level education may have been unique (I hear it’s pretty unusual to do four first years in college before ever moving on to second year), but the feelings I experienced during that time certainly are not.
The ongoing conversation about mental health is finally gaining some volume; the whispers have turned to mumbles and the mumbles could stand to get louder.
I’m not a psychologist or a doctor or any sort of professional for that matter, but fortunately I don’t need a qualification to enter into this conversation. None of us do. What qualifies me is my experience and my voice. So this is me, using my voice to make the conversation that little bit louder.
In Joanna Trollope’s modern take on Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility she writes, ‘You’re stuck with yourself, so you might as well be someone you can stand to live with’.
Well, I’m a college dropout.
I’m stuck with the label and so now, after five years, I’m reclaiming it as my own. It’s time I learned to love this little quirk of mine because it’s made me the person I am today. And between you and me, I’m pretty okay with that person. I maybe even like her a bit. Hopefully you will too.