Thursday, February 5, 2015

On Undergraduate School and Graduation


I've got some news. Some good news. Back in December, I somehow, by the magical grace of Expressive Kitty,

managed to complete my undergraduate career with a dual degree in English Creative Writing and Psychology. My official graduation ceremony date was January 22nd.
I didn't go.

I haven't even officially celebrated it yet.

Nor do I know how I will. Or if I will.

Nevertheless, I'm done with that phase of my life, and I can reflect on it with a month of distance. Unfortunately, school wasn't exactly my favorite thing. I went through a lot in the past 4.5 years. I learned a lot about myself - my strength and my shortcomings - and I'm definitely still learning. But school wasn't always helpful in that learning process. The words that come to mind when I think of my undergraduate career are: difficult. Scary. Sad. Anxious. Annoying. Enlightening. Interesting. Terrifying.

Needless to say, the best four years of my life, they were not. But I do not consider them a waste. I merely think of them as an experience. And, because I'm me, I turn to Expressive Kitty for help.

Expressive Kitty Stars in: My Undergraduate Experience - What I remember most! 

The First Thing: Going to the emergency room.

Best first memory of college EVER. As the story goes, while others in my newly-arrived-to-college situation were doing the appropriate 'make bad decisions as a freshman' shtick,

I was struggling with something that I couldn't control and I didn't understand. Going to the gym for hours every day. Skipping meals. Eating lots of vegetables and salads. Tired all the time. Crying daily. Sad. Dull. I truly had no idea what was happening to me. I thought I just wasn't trying hard enough or doing enough to be happy.

It got so bad that, the week before Halloween, I ended up in the hospital. I got there mid-afternoon, had about six doctors feel my stomach, talked to a very nice lady in a lab coat, and by nighttime, was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa.

It should have been scary, but I was past feeling any intense emotion.

Funnily enough, though, the thing that sticks out clearly in my mind about that night was the people that came to my rescue. I was in the hospital for six hours and I had four friends stay with me the entire time. I reached out to old friends via Facebook and got about a million voicemails. This night was the official start to trying to get better physically and mentally and emotionally, and what still gets to me is how much people care. Every time.

The Second Thing: Pledging a Sorority.

Okay, this was something I did as a second-semester freshman because I was trying to fit in. And, boy, was it a mistake. I went through an entire semester of being forced to do endless amounts of meaningless work. Of being verbally degraded by people who, for some reason, thought they had the power to do so. I was still recovering from The First Thing and this was absolutely not helpful.
What did I get out of it? Never to let anyone feel they can treat me that way again. I pledged the sorority, got in, and dropped out the semester after. It was a learning experience in how much bullshit one person should not take. And then I drew this:

The Third Thing: Leaving Rochester
One of the most difficult things in life is coming to terms with the fact that a situation to which you've been trying to adapt for a long period of time is simply not adaptable. I reached that conclusion five weeks into the second semester of my sophomore year. I had quit The Second Thing and my eating disorder had creeped back in full force. I was just sad, and I needed to take time to heal. I needed familiarity and care and friends and family. I needed to not feel like I had to take on the world alone. So, I made the decision to leave. It was the first big decision I've ever made for myself, and one of the best.

The Fourth Thing: Healing
This is still a Thing in progress, of course. I'm now on stage...what is it, 389265488683 of recovery? Something like that.

But I was able to pull myself back from the point of no return. I thought I'd hit rock bottom during The First Thing, but apparently I'd just hit a rock on the way down. I took the rest of that semester off from school, and started working full time. I was so set in my disordered ways, in my insufficient eating and intensive exercise and depression, that a large part of me didn't want to change, despite therapy and nutrition appointments, and the fact that I was alienating everyone I knew. But then, one day, I was sitting in my workplace over the summer and something just clicked. I opened my notebook and started writing down everything I'd be able to eat if I got better.

It sounds weird, even to me, but that day, that list, whatever revelation happened in my brain, is the reason I decided to actually work at recovering. It's when I decided that I wanted to actually LIVE.

The Fifth Thing: Deciding to be a Psychology Major
The first few months of attending Hunter College are months that I vaguely remember, but my decision to study Psychology is clear in my mind. I took a class on Social Psychology, taught by an amazing professor/mentor turned even more amazing friend, and fell in love with learning about how people think. Of course, a large part of my interest stemmed from my own disordered thinking, but learning about the ways in which people's minds are affected by something so simple as being surrounded by other people fascinated me. So, I decided to learn more.

The Sixth Thing: Finishing Eleanoria
Obviously this has to be included, seeing as this damn novel had been in the works for three years. It was the day before my 22nd birthday when I decided I really needed to sit down and finished revising the thing before I got another freaking year older. So, I did. And, soon, hopefully, something can come of the years I spent writing and revising a novel that stars a fat cat with an acting problem.

The Seventh Thing: Learning About Trust
Not only have a dated a bunch of untrustworthy guys through my undergraduate career

but I also managed to put my trust in the wrong sorts of people as friends, and ended up paying for it later.

And between learning to shield my heart, as a friend put it recently, to learning to let friends go when they're doing more harm than good, as another friend taught me, I'm now completely closed off and vague about my feelings. Hooray!
The Eighth Thing: 21 Credits

This was my course load for the entire last semester of Hunter, and it was intense. It was stressful. It was manageable, but barely. I had to study all the time. I had to go on a weird special diet because the anxiety tore apart my stomach.

I had to take Geology, of all things.

And my writing, my business, my social life, and breathing were all put on the back burner to make way for a 4.0.
And, after taking all of these classes and processing all of this information, the main takeaway was that I need more sleep.

So, there you have it. My necessarily long rant on my undergraduate experience. It was tainted by disordered thinking. It was filled with anxiety. But it was also a time in which I was able to learn more about myself. To get closer to good people and push toxic ones away. And, most importantly, to realize that I am gorgeous and strong and smart and hardworking and creative and an all-around amazing human being.

And thus concludes yet another serious post about my life as of late. Never fear, readers, next week I'll try for something a little more lighthearted.
Dun dun dunnnnnn

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