November 30, 2022
The Chaos and Enlightenment That Took Place in the Fall of 2021
College Writing 1
Dr. Jennifer Consilio
It was the fall of 2021, my second year in college, in the midst of what I had considered a life-altering, future-wrecking journey. Threatened with academic probation and being dismissed by my University, my mind was filled with agony. I could feel worry in every limb, and my thoughts constantly racing. Encountering the intense doubts I had within myself accompanied by circumstances that were seemingly impossible to get past, I was filled with hopelessness. I visited my sister in Michigan in the middle of a school week. I had been struggling in almost all aspects of my life. My home life was far from ideal. The vast majority of my time was taken from my demanding job, and the stress I was carrying began to display itself in my academic performance. I suggested she and I have a movie night while I work on my essay. My sister refused and ordered me to go to the lounge and work on my essay there. Annoyed and bothered, I hostilely grabbed my things and headed to the lounge. Having no other choice I gave in and started to work on my essay. The quietness of the room was pleasing and increased my focus. The comfortable seats placed next to the windows with beautiful views satisfied my need to work in an aesthetically pleasing environment. With a fresh cup of coffee on my right and headphones blasting music in my ears to distract me from any thought, I. Got. Writing.
Without notice, there was nothing happening outside of my direct line of sight. It was as if the only thing my hands had ever felt was a keyboard. I got lost in the craft of the project and was taken away from everything else. Suddenly, the concern of being dismissed was minor, the remembrance of my home life was trifling, and the need to escape was fulfilled. My focus was no longer checking off a box but creating a story that I felt proud to share. Beyond all these satisfactions, I felt empowered by what I considered a skill of writing. I gave time and delicacy to each sentence, each word, and each thought I had put on paper. I cared for my writing the way a parent would for their child. I gave it my attention, and it had mine. When I had finished writing my essay, I remember the feeling of contentment and satisfaction which helped me realize why I started writing in the first place. It was more than a grade, it was a way to connect with my inner self. I had been building an understanding of what was happening internally for myself without even realizing it. Writing worked as a therapeutic outlet for the agony I had been holding in. It did not matter what I was writing about. What mattered was perfecting each sentence in order for me to be prideful of my work. There was something about writing about any topic that touched every bone in my body. I never missed the mark on a way to release what I had been internalizing. This experience not only shaped me, but it shaped my perception of the world and what it could offer me, and what I could offer back.
the unexpected setback
Throughout my time in college, I often found myself viewing the end of summer and the beginning of fall as an opportunity for a fresh start. It was a time to redeem myself and make up for my past failures. As one is rested from the long break, there is an urgency to get back into a productive routine. There is also the opportunity to start from scratch—new classes, new professors, a different schedule, and so on. At the beginning of my fall semester, I had everything going for me- or at least I thought. I received a new position at work I had been favorable of, I created a class schedule I saw myself sticking to, and I got back into working out regularly. My days were packed, I was crossing off everything on my to-do lists, and then some. After much delay, I, at last, felt like I was living life to its fullest potential. It finally felt like I was something more than my past shortcomings and setbacks. This was the first semester I had actually thought things were finally going to change forever. Two weeks into the semester, it was a Sunday night and I had been up late for a reason I could not remember. As I was setting my alarm for 8 am the next morning for class, I felt bitter, resentful, and bothered by the idea I would have a short night of rest. More than anything, I did not want to attend my class, I simply wanted to sleep. When suddenly, I had the thought to just skip that class, to give myself a well-deserved break, and to attend the next class I had after. Short to say, I attended neither class that day, and what I thought was a personal day turned into a bad habit that I could not break.
There I was, right back in my previous year- filled with disappointment in myself. My sorrow was increasing my urgency to break the cycle, yet my anxiety surrounding returning was far too strong to allow myself to go back. My heart would begin to race and my hands would shake if I checked my email or saw a phone call coming in with the Romeoville area code. I knew I would be met with questions I wouldn't know how to answer or demands that I couldn’t fulfill. Even when I was offered support, I still had the fear of there being strings attached. I had gotten used to the feeling of others not understanding what I was going through. How my abilities to function had been hindered by the persistent depression I had been experiencing, all while I craved academic success more than anything else in life. How being enrolled in University was an opportunity to build a better version of myself, yet my greatest weaknesses were plastered on a whiteboard for everyone to see. The idea of stepping back into a class I mysteriously disappeared from combined with my rumination on social settings had debilitated me mentally. I wanted nothing more than an out of the situation I had I got myself stuck in. And attempting to figure out a plan to get my life back in order was simply not working out. There were many variables all playing together to keep me where I was. Filled with self-doubt and imposter syndrome, I had no sense of belonging and fell into a deep depressive episode. There were several instances where because I didn’t get something exactly right, I believed that was all I’d live up to. These instances certainly piled up, damaging the self-esteem I thought I had. This was certainly one of the darkest times of my life. I wanted one thing and all I could think about was why it came seemingly easy to everyone but myself. Filled with a deep misunderstanding of myself and the feeling of being an outsider who didn't believe in their place in the world was an experience I still fear will repeat itself.
This takes me to the moment where I can honestly say my life changed in an instant, or maybe I did. When I discovered my love for writing, I was given a type of meaning I had never been familiar with. Dealing with the same difficulties, and still suffering mentally, I had been viewing myself as someone who had nothing to offer. Yet, when I began writing, things changed drastically. I discovered a part of myself that I didn’t know existed. Getting lost in writing gave me a personal meaning I found in life, a passion that I did not know I had. It lit me up, made me feel alive, and most importantly gave me a reason to keep going. Although 90% of the time I write today it is for an assignment, it is still enough for me to articulate a voice myself and others have been suppressing for years. A voice that now because of writing is filled with confidence, a voice that does not stutter or is scared to touch on the hard topics without facing backlash, a voice that will not be interrupted by someone older or louder, a voice that can be heard by my own self, and be met with compassion and love. Writing is the ultimate safe space for me. When I write today, I am back where I was, that day in the lounge where I gladly only existed on paper. One of the greatest challenges one will experience in life is to jump over hurdles that are seemingly insurmountable. Yet even in one of the darkest times of my life, and maybe even because of it, I discovered something that brought about life in myself, gave me the privilege of bringing meaning to my suffering, and enjoy life a little more. Today I get excited to show up to a writing class instead of scared. Today I meet myself with compassion, in spite of the fallbacks and detours I experience in life. Writing has become an opportunity to stop time and be present in a flawed, yet perfect moment, and because of that, I would go through the same thing again if it meant I came out of it with this.