As an undergraduate I struggled to keep a 3.0. For some that would be a miracle, since they do not enjoy school and or have a difficult time with it. But for someone who aspires to be a professor and attend a top notch university, that is almost like academic suicide.
I made a few poor decisions and made a habit of pushing myself too hard with a ton of things on my plate. Massive amounts of stress, lack of sleep and sometimes a day or to without eating because I couldn’t spare the 3 hours a day one spends eating; which as you can imagine, led to emotional drain and panic/anxiety attacks almost weekly.
Many friends and professors had no idea what was going on only that I seemed different. I just wasn’t turning in assignments. I wasn’t spending time with friends. I am pretty sure I cried myself to sleep a couple times, for a degree I was not sure I even wanted anymore; even as I walked across the stage at graduation a new anxiety gripped me. An echo of a new fear resonated in the auditorium, it overpowered the cheers and mass celebrations of the crowds, and it trumped the sense of victory that finishing the race should have brought.
The same phrase reverberated not just within my head, it seemed to shake the very foundations of the auditorium.
What next? This is just a very expensive paper.
To tell you the truth, I had no idea what I would do next, and I didn’t know what was scarier; either failing at completing my undergraduate studies or the realization that there was so much more beyond that. You see, college students are really good at living a dream, full of the denial of reality. We refer to it as a “bubble”. When you live on campus you are cut off from the “real world”. You rarely hear or see of the news world wide, let alone local news. That is, of course, other than that which crosses our newsfeeds on social media, a platform which is made up mostly of those people we meet at college; so in all honesty how diversified is our network really? It isn’t really, we live, eat, breathe and sleep the college life, and soon all else fades into the background.
It would be foolish to say that the future isn’t thought of, or that students forget that school will one day end and we will enter the “real world”. What occurs is almost like a state of denial, we are mesmerized into a trance that interprets life through the high of the college dream.
So what was I to do?
I was discouraged, drained, full of anxiety and weak. And there I was standing on the winners podium, having vanquished the odds that were set against me, and I felt like I was defeated. I knew that in the state of mind I was in I could make not one level headed decision, aside from seek rest and healing. And so in order to recover from the self inflicted mess I had placed myself in I took a year off of academic studies. I needed to recover.
The road to recovery was not easy, it was even harder since but 2-3 people knew the extent of it all. I had to accept that I had a problem and I had to seek ways to remedy it. I took a less than optimal approach, and self evaluated and self cured. I realized that one of my biggest problems was my desire to “mask and deflect”. I would mask the negative emotions and when I couldn’t I would deflect their attacks by keeping my mind and body busy. I also had difficulties letting others in, emotionally. I was the type of friend who knew and remembered everything about you, and fed you enough information to make you think you knew me too. My intentions weren’t malicious, it was a defense that I had built up in order to continue to deny I needed help. For it is easy to convince oneself of a lie, it is much harder to convince others who have connections to each other an can wake each other up to the truth.
But in time, I realized I had an issue that needed and could get fixed, but even then I was stubborn and didn’t get help from a professional. But I got help of friends and worked to include even more friends. I learned to do nothing, and just be. I stopped filling my “empty space” with “empty actions”. In fact, for a short period of time, in order to break the mind sight and habits, I went to the opposite extreme; I stopped planning life and my days entirely. Where once I had a schedule of my day, down to the minutes, I had no idea even when I would go into work until the night before (I had 3 jobs, school and at one point a relationship. Needless to say I needed to have a well executed plan).
I sought the companionship and relational bonds of other humans once again. I sought to nurture and nourish myself, my whole self. I needed a foundation that had level sides. I needed a healthy spiritual, social, physical, psychological. Not surprising I found the key to unlock it all in my faith in God, which wasn’t always a sweet and easy path which lacked doubt and hardship (see my previous post on the truth about progress). This key was found in the idea of simply being. In the concept of embracing the fact that you exist. In appreciating not just your life, but the air that give you breath to your lungs. Most importantly it was in relishing in the idea of the One that gave breath to my lungs.
I made the phrase, “be still”, my anthem, my heart cry ( Psalm 46:10) and my battle cry (Exodus 14:14).
And while I have found peace and recovery, I know that many other’s do not. But what we may all find regardless of how we suffer, for how long we suffer, or where we suffer, is hope.
For me, this hope was founded in God and in the people who extended grace, peace, mercy and healing. Because of them I am once again on my path to my dreams. I am ending my first graduate class with a 98.8% with but one and a half weeks left. And this post, my triumphs, and battles, my ability to remain strong and carry on in the hope that is Christ is dedicated to them. To the professor who either prayed for me when my face couldn’t hide my struggles, to the professor who extended unmerited mercy. To the friend who magically knew when I needed space and when I needed to be bombarded with love.
And lastly, to the one who currently struggles. To the one who is lost in a world full of pain, loneliness and anguish. I do not know how long you will suffer, I do not know how much it hurts. I cannot promise you that you will realize your dreams, but I can guarantee that you will not be alone. Seek God, seek friends, seek professional helps, and seek rest.
We are never promised an easy or a good time, but we are promised a hope like an anchor
that that will keep us grounded. All you need to do is believe and trust in Jesus.