Mental Health Over A Degree
Last year, I had the gruesome experience of witnessing a man committing suicide by jumping off a parking structure in downtown Ann Arbor. As horrified as I was that this happened, I was even more horrified to learn that this is incredibly common & happens roughly once a year or so, closer to the University of Michigan campus with students. Hearing this made me reflect on my own college experience & how I honestly can believe that this happens more often than many realize. How college can be the best & worst time of your life....
Roughly six years ago, I was giddy & excited because I was finally college bound! After spending my whole life in a small town - I was looking forward to a fresh start at college where nobody from my high school was attending. Even if it was only an hour away! 🤣
[Photo by Dan Cherry]
I loved almost everything college had to offer - of course the basics like parties, football games, not having class till noon, etc. but, I also enjoyed the ass kicking part of learning self motivation, responsibility & becoming independent. The things college is really made of.
What I didn't love? The complete mental toll being a full time student & basically working full time to pay for college took on me.....
Like many - I had to pay my own way throughout college. Coming up with the money to pay for rent, school, bills, food & gas was incredibly stressful. I worked long hours at a restaurant where the pay wasn't always great or even guaranteed. If the weather was bad - people didn't come out to dinner, therefore you didn't make hardly anything. If a table sat all evening, but didn't tip me - there went money. On top of stressing out about money, I had to stress out about maintaining a good GPA. And I have to admit, on nights where a table sat late into the night & I got home later than expected resulting in me missing my assignment deadline - I truly began to feel defeated.
[I know some are reading this & thinking boohoo - if you're a perfect individual & can't empathize with someone & their experiences then exit out ↗❌ Not every college student is a confused, lazy kid looking for a safe place. Some of us do bust our asses & forgive us for getting down when busting our asses still isn't enough.]
Moving on.... What really took its toll on me was how ridiculous college & the education system got.
Just a few examples of the normal life struggles in college:
I was always very good about following deadlines. I took online exams early so I was able to get the maximum time during the test. Welp, that went to hell one night when my computer completely blacked out in the middle of an exam. For those of you who aren't aware - when taking an online exam - if you refresh, close out, etc. it will submit the exam as is aka not completed, therefore resulting in you getting a shitty grade. As soon as this happened - I emailed my professor immediately explaining the situation about what happened. The next day they got back with me & simply said too bad. Mind you, I was not trying to turn in this exam late or retry for a better grade - I simply had computer issues. The professor never emailed me back & when I approached them in class they basically said too bad so sad. "Next time take it in the library." Kinda ridiculous considering the computer grades the test for the professor.
Another struggle that used to irritate the f*** out of me was cost. No, not just the cost of tuition, but the cost of classes. A pen & paper are no longer sufficient when attending your classes. Nope. You need the $300+ textbook that's online (more if paper copy) & a $150 access code to get to your assignments online. This pissed me off to the core. I chose to take an on campus class over an online class because I learn best the old fashion way. If I wanted to take an online class I would of! Unfortunately, a lot of colleges have crossed over to this "hyperlink" style of learning. Which is basically you are required your physical attendance for lectures, but EVERYTHING else is online. Sad that the education system can't take into consideration that some individuals don't learn best that way. And they wonder why we're glued to screens?
Lastly (well for now), the bullshit classes you're required to take that have absolutely NOTHING to do with your major. In my personal experience - I found History of Jazz contributed nothing to my Paralegal Studies courses. Ya, I know they're electives, but so damn what? Why are we allowing colleges to milk us for more money than they're already getting? Not only are we paying for these classes, but they're slowing down the process of getting a degree. These dumb, extra, unnecessary courses are what slows up the process of getting your degree, getting your career & getting on with your life! Maybe it just bothered me more because that stupid class I was forced to take could of been a shift at work I could have picked up to pay bills with.
...I could bore you with more examples, but I won't do that.
//Now some will read the examples & think "tough shit" or "that's life" & I admit, someday's I felt I was being overly dramatic about all of it. However, it wasn't until I was sobbing one night at home because the Comcast internet had gone out throughout my entire complex in the middle of an important exam & despite my proof from Comcast & my apartment complex, the exam cost my grade in the class & I failed it. Now, I would have to pay the money to retake the class & re-buy the access code because it was only good for a semester. I was done. Not just financially, but mentally. It was at that point that I decided my mental health & well being was far more important than degree or career. If I wasn't happy now, whose to say I was going to be after I got that degree or that so called "dream job"?
You guessed it... I walked away from that shitty job, that degree & I walked away from that college & all the mental stress it brought me. I admit, my ego & my pride took a huge hit because I felt ashamed that I had basically given up. I felt like a drop out. Like an absolute failure. I am even more ashamed to admit there were a few times the stress got so bad I contemplated my own life(Yes, it got that bad at one point). However, the level of peace & happiness that came by simply walking away was truly the biggest wave of relief that's ever washed over me.
So what's the point of this post?
My hope is that anyone who is reading this post that is or may have gone through the same struggle, can find the same peace I did. Too often we're all afraid to make a decision for ourselves out of fear of what others will think. Fear that we will look dumb for flunking out of a class, fear that you won't graduate at the same time like other friends at their colleges & most of all scared to admit that college isn't for everyone & that's okay too.
So to any struggling college students that are reading this -
Know, that no degree, college, career or amount of judgement from others is worth your happiness. Yes, there will be ups & downs, that part is life. However, if you find yourself at the complete end of your rope & truly struggling, know that it is okay to say that you've had enough. Know that it is okay to be selfish. It is okay to take a step back if you feel it's needed. I'm not saying drop out of college or to do something totally irrational, but making decisions that will benefit you & your problems. Do what is needed for you.
...And lastly - hang tight. While college brings a ton of stress & problems, it also is one of the best times of your life. Take it slow & take time to do the things that make you happy. While my college experience wasn't the greatest, it definitely shaped me into the person I am & I learned a lot during those four years & you can too. Just keeping going as long as it makes you happy.
Mrs. Northern Belle
P.S - To anyone who didn't attend college - more power to ya! The only time my husband set foot on a college campus was with me to attend a football game! And he makes double the money I make! 🤣