Wow, what a wild ride.
Ten years ago, I barely graduated high school. I was traumatized, sad, broken, lost and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I often thought I didn’t even have a future, so why bother? Even if I wanted to go to University after graduation, due to my grade point average I wouldn’t have been accepted to very many places, if any.
A few years after high school, I decided to enroll at Lakeland Community College but ended up failing out of all my classes. Everyone told me to drop out and not fail out but again, I didn’t think I had a future so it didn’t matter either way to me. I went through those next few years dissociating through life not really experiencing what it had to offer me, still trying to cope with what traumatized me, while many of my high school classmates went off to college and were living their best lives. However, college was the last thing on my mind at this time.
At 21, I got my first very own apartment and for the first time in my life realized how much I actually loved learning. I watched SO many documentaries on Netflix, taught myself how to crochet, tried to teach myself guitar (to no avail), and so on. The cool thing about that is I also developed a lot of coping mechanisms to deal with my mental health. I actually began to think of college as an option and decided to reenroll at Lakeland Community College to take some gen ed classes. I unfortunately had to pay out of pocket for my classes for a bit due to failing out, but the future looked brighter nonetheless. I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my life, but I was ready to start exploring.
After Lakeland, I transferred to Cleveland State. Lakeland’s transfer program made it easy, and all of my classes transferred. Upon starting Cleveland State, I was met with a pandemic, and all of my classes were remote. I sort of enjoyed this at first because I was nervous to do in person classes at a University where I thought everyone would be much younger than me and I would be judged.
To my surprise, when classes started up again in person I saw people in my classes who were around my age and even older. However, the masks (though necessary) made me feel so awkward and my social anxiety even worse. I often sat in the back of the class and didn’t talk to anyone. I did make one friend at the time though, and we bonded over shared jadedness of being the older folks in the class.
Thankfully, nobody made me feel weird for taking classes in my late 20’s. Like Lakeland, Cleveland State offered small class sizes where the classes seemed more personal. It was clear that the teachers actually cared, which made me care more about my classes. I remember one of my professors even reaching out to me via email when I missed a few classes to make sure I was okay. It’s no wonder non-traditional students, like myself, make up 15% of Cleveland State’s undergraduate population.
Additionally, Cleveland State focuses strongly on community. The many different services offered at Cleveland State allow for people to feel welcome and okay. Including the LGBTQ+ Student Service and the Cleveland State Counseling Services.
A few years into Cleveland State, I started to find my footing more. My junior year I became a part of The Cauldron as a writer and my senior year, an editor. This made me feel even more welcome to be at University and gave me an outlet for my voice. I wish I would have joined sooner and even more so wish I could stick around and become better friends with the awesome writers and editors that are a part of The Cauldron. But alas, 6 years to get a bachelor’s degree is enough for me.
After my three years studying at Cleveland State and years of seeking therapy, for one of the first times in my life I feel like I have a future, and I feel confident in that future. I know I will be successful in my endeavors and be happy.
This isn’t all to say I’m completely healed and no longer struggle with mental health, just that I know I will be okay.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is you can start over at any age, whether that’s college, a different career path, moving across the country, or whatever else. My whole college experience was unexpected and unpredictable in so many ways, but it’s mine to cherish forever. Everyone has their own timelines in life and there’s no rules for this. Do what makes you happy and follow your heart.
As I look in the mirror with my cap and gown on, I can’t help but cry. My younger-self never thought I would make it this far, that I would graduate with my Bachelor’s degree, but I made it here and I made it here alive.
I don’t write this for pity or for praise. I write this for all those who are feeling lost, who don’t think they will make it out. Things do get better and there are people, places, and things you can always lean on. Nobody actually knows what they’re doing in this world, give yourself a break. You got this and I’m proud of you.
Thank you Cleveland State for being a part of my journey.
The Cauldron’s first Community Editor
If you or someone you know is struggle with mental health or suicidal tendices, dial 988 for help and resources.
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