I dropped out of university in 2017. It wasn’t exactly something I planned on doing but it happened. 2017 was a tough year for me, my mental health started to go downhill more than it ever had before and I went through two really bad breakups. Most of the time, when I think back on that year all I see is the bad because it was a turning point in my life that I never saw coming but I also had so many experiences that year that I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to have. I studied abroad in London for three weeks, I saw totality of an eclipse, and I even designed a book cover! That year was a turning point in my life because even though there was so much bad, it also started to teach me about myself and helped me get to the point I’m at now. I’m nowhere that I ever expected myself to be at 24, almost 25 but this is my reality and I kind of hope that in talking about it that maybe it’ll get to someone else who needs it.
Just a note before I get further into this post, I will be talking candidly about mental health and other possibly triggering topics so if you’d like to tap out of this now feel free!
The other day I was on Twitter and read a tweet that said something along the lines of “the ocean is on fire and you’re going to grad school??” and I had a panic attack. Natural disasters and climate change cause so much existential anxiety for me that it’s been difficult to find motivation to keep moving forward. (Shout out to my teachers in elementary and middle school that showed us movies like Twister, The Day After Tomorrow, and the one about Yellowstone erupting.) In the past year and a half I’ve done a lot for my mental health and for my future. I found a new therapist and I’ve recently started EMDR with her in order to start reprocessing trauma. I got diagnosed with ADHD. I got back on medication and found a psychiatrist that I don’t hate. I applied to go back to school and I got in.
I applied to go back to school and I got in.
Honestly, after dropping out in 2017 I wasn’t sure if I’d ever go back to school. Every time I started to think I was working my way back uphill I fell down again. When I look back at that time period I know I was running on fumes just trying to survive each day. I was desperately trying to figure out who I was and that struggle made me hurt not only myself but a lot of other people. My roommate at the time was honestly the main reason I stayed alive and I’m forever grateful for her. It’s the little things but she kept me fed and there were so many nights that we would stay up hysterically laughing about the weirdest things or watching American Horror Story. We created a home for ourselves and even though it was a difficult time period for both of us I look back on it fondly. (I know she still reads at least some of my posts so if you’re reading this, thank you for everything, seriously. Ugh, our neighbors must have hated our middle of the night shenanigans lol)
Leaving school was my own choice. I was overwhelmed financially and mentally and got caught up in trying to make other people like me because I couldn’t figure out how to like myself. Even though I had just switched to a new advisor and was excited to finally have an idea of what I wanted for my future nothing I did felt like it was enough. My therapist at the time and I discussed it in depth and decided a break from school would be beneficial. I just didn’t expect the spiral that came afterwards. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly happened. Piecing together my memories from that time period have been more difficult than I expected.
Now fast forward to this year. I knew I needed to do something to move forward with my life. My job was sucking the life out of me and I was desperate to move forward. Not everyone needs to go to school but ever since I dropped out I felt the need to go back. I love learning and school used to be a place I thrived and I wanted to get back to a place where I felt productive again. The biggest problem I had was that I had no idea what I wanted to do. Let’s be real, I still don’t know what I want to do but I’m working on it. When I first went to university I was majoring in religion… And then education and history… Then history… Then history and communications… And finally communications with a focus in media studies. I have a lot of interests but I had no idea what I wanted to do with my future. Growing up every time someone asked me what I wanted to be my answer changed frequently. The only thing that ever stayed consistent was that I wanted to write. But I wanted to be a teacher, lawyer, zookeeper, youth minister, librarian, artist… The list goes on. I battled constantly with my passions and being “practical”. There were plenty of my classmates who pursued artistic degrees, I just wasn’t brave enough to follow in their footsteps.
When I finally started looking into reapplying for school I sat down and made a mind map of all of my interests in order to narrow down what I might want to do. As the map got bigger and bigger I realized how important to me that nature was. I’ve always loved being outside but it was my first backpacking trip in 2015 that sparked a hunger for adventure in me that seems insatiable. So I spent a few weeks watching videos from Kristina Lynn on YouTube, she’s a wildlife biologist and has made numerous videos about jobs within that field and more. Those videos as well digging into lists of majors and classes at any university that I was even remotely interested in attending started to get me to form a small seed of a future working in nature in my head.
The first time I went to university I applied to two schools and got into both. This time I also applied to only two schools but I only got into one. Luckily, it was my top choice. I’m going to be attending a state university in Minnesota and will be majoring in biology with a focus in ecology. Classes start in just over a month and I’m getting more anxious by the day and my brain is starting to shut down. I had just registered for classes when I saw that tweet about grad school and the ocean and I wanted to give up. In a matter of weeks I had a lot of new stressors introduced and then the more that I thought about the world and life as a whole I wanted to stop moving. I was back to feeling the same sort of hopelessness and loss that I had been experiencing on a regular basis since 2016-2017. I’ll be honest when I say that some days I spend hours in a state of dissociation because I don’t understand anything.
Even though I’ve finally started to take steps forward for myself, it feels like the world is taking steps backward for me. I’m a nihilist even on my best days. I often struggle to find meaning with my life because “we all die in the end anyways”. This is why I’m thankful to have a therapist who can help to hold me accountable. I have to assign myself goals each week and my desire to please people almost always overrides my need to do nothing so I slowly work towards goals that I come up with during those sessions. Which basically means the world is on fire and I’m going back to school.
It doesn’t help that I’m a returning student and even though I’ve knocked out essentially all of my generals I still feel like I’m behind. I know that there’s no reason to follow a standard path for school and even though I was never exactly pressured to jump straight to college after high school there are still frequent moments when I feel terrible for dropping out in the first place. And every time I get a letter or email addressed to the “Parents of” me it knocks me down one more peg. I don’t think they should require parental interaction or even assume parental interaction with university because it’s not a given, ever, but I understand why they do assume it.
I’m not sure when it will hit me that I’m really going back to school and that this is a huge step forward for me. Even though I’m years off the timeline I had tried to create for myself this is the first time that I ever truly feel like I’ve made some decisions for me and me alone. Finding the motivation to move forward is hit or miss and I’m trying to give myself some grace when it comes to my bad days. I’m also striving to keep my pessimism away from other’s successes. Just because I find everything I do to be pointless doesn’t mean I should make someone else feel bad. It doesn’t always work out that way but it’s important. We shouldn’t hurt other people mentally just because we’re hurting.
When this post goes up I’ll be touring my new school and getting some things set up for the new semester. I’m stressed about it, especially because I have a long drive there, but it finally feels like things are moving forward.
I hope you all have a nice day. I’ll talk to you in my next post.
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