As I mentioned in my last post, my journey to graduating college was an entirely different story/blog post.
I wrote this the day before I graduated & it fully encompasses my feelings about graduating college with depression.
To some people, graduating from college for a bachelors degree is just the end of one chapter before going to grad school or any credential program.
For other people, graduating from college for a bachelors degree is a huge thing because people have gone through so many financial struggles and some are the first to graduate in their families.
Graduating from college is something so special to me that only a couple of people and myself know the significance of it.
I have stated it so many times in this blog and many other blogs or journals that I have gone through so much to get this degree.
It’s means more than a degree and finishing school (finally).
It means that even though I had depression and had all these circumstances that have come into my way, I was able to get through it and finish school.
It has been a long journey and it has taken me a long time to be okay with it.
Every detour and alternate route that has occurred in my life brought me to where I am right now.
I wanted to kill myself a couple of times within the past 7 years.
I didn’t think there was not anything worth living for anymore.
I thought that ending my life was the best answer, because I didn’t want to feel pain anymore.
Everything happens for a reason.
I didn’t graduate from CSUSM in biology to go to med school and be a PA.
I didn’t go to college for 4 years.
I didn’t marry that one boyfriend from 5 years ago that I thought I would spend the rest of my life with.
However, from that breakup with that boyfriend and all the horrible feelings that came with it… I began working with children to get away from my ex boyfriend that I worked with. I decided to take that one child development class because I started working with kids. That one child development class sparked an interest of taking more classes. Then eventually, I changed my major. I decided to apply for SDSU. I got in. I took classes and had experiences in child development centers. I decided to become a teacher. I took classes, had internship experiences and worked.
Tomorrow, I graduate.
Whenever I think about this journey, I look at it from the perspective of a treasure map. Where the red X at the end of the dotted lines was the end of my college career and graduation. During my journey, I never knew when I would reach the red X. But, with some detours and downfalls, I was able to graduate 2 months ago.
When I was a senior in high school & applied to colleges, it was already decided for me to be a biology major from my parents.Then I was supposed to graduate with my bachelors within 4 years, go to med school and become a doctor. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, so I just let my parents decide my college path. With my whole college education decided for me, I always thought my path would go smoothly from one phase to another. It didn’t.
Phase 1: Cal State San Marcos
Like mentioned in my other post, depression hit hard during my first year of college. I went to a university that was about 20-25 minutes away from my house. I didn’t live in the dorms and did not completely live the “college life”. I was a biology major. In my first year, I was struggling a lot in my GE classes. I was already falling behind in my classes because it was difficult to find classes available. With depression, I had no motivation in school and I skipped a lot of classes because I was too depressed to be at school. There would be times when I would leave in the middle of class to go home to cry. At the end of my first year and the beginning of my second year in college, my family started struggling financially and somehow I lost my financial aid. I couldn’t afford the university anymore and I had to leave.
Phase 2: Community College
After losing financial aid, I spent a couple of months going to a fast-track college because it was too late to apply for community college classes. During that time, I worked full-time and went to those fast-track classes at night or online.
Later in the fall, I was able to register for classes in community college. I was finally able to get classes in the biology major at that time. Alongside, I took some photography classes because it was something I loved to do.
As I was taking biology classes, I was not motivated to study the content of the class. It felt like I was forced to take it and I was not interested in it. I felt really dumb that I couldn’t understand simple concepts like the rest of my classmates. Even with depression, failing those classes lowered my self-esteem even more. During this time, my ex broke up with me and I became so overwhelmed that I wanted to end my life. I prayed a lot and asked God to give me a sign that I was supposed to be here.
Then one year, something happened that changed my pathway. One semester I decided to take a Child Development Class, it sounded interesting to take and it also accomplished a GE requirement. That ONE class changed everything. I wanted to learn more about Child Development and I wanted to take more classes on it. I began to become motivated in my child development classes over my biology classes. With my grades of A’s in my Child Development classes, I noticed that I was not as successful in my biology classes. For the first time, depression did not affect my motivation to study.
Phase 3: SDSU
One day, I decided to change my major to Child Development. In one of my classes, I heard from my teacher that SDSU had a great child development major. SDSU had been one of my top schools to go to, ever since I was younger. In my senior year of high school, I applied to SDSU and didn’t get in. The next fall, I applied to SDSU and within a couple of months did the supplemental application for transfer students.
2 weeks after sending in that supplemental application, I got a small envelope in the mail from SDSU. I immediately thought that the small envelope meant “bad news”. Then, I read the letter and the first words of that letter were “ Dear Melissa, Congratulations and welcome to the class of 2014″. That letter was the answer to my prayers, it was my “second chance” at life.
Months later, orientation came for SDSU. It was a completely different experience from my orientation for Cal State. Because this time, I was extremely excited to be at this school. From that first day at orientation until the day I graduated, I always walked around campus so extremely grateful to be at this school. During my year of applying, there were about 10,000 (ish) transfer applicants and only 3,000 got it.
Throughout my years at SDSU, I still had depression….. it never leaves. But this time it was different. When I first started college, I used to leave class whenever I felt depressed. However this time at SDSU, I used school as my “distraction” from depression.
As I took more and more classes in my field, I gained such an immense amount of passion and interest for Child Development. I DID NOT WANT TO FAIL. Whenever I had school, I put all my energy, mindset and effort into school. Whenever I had a negative thought that could have escalated into a panic attack, I shifted my mind into school instead.
My main priority was always to work on my school stuff before anything else. I worked extremely hard in my 3 years at SDSU. I was exhausted every single day.
In my 3 years at SDSU, I had between 5-9 classes per semester + 3-4 hours of internship experience per week (150+ hours total) + work 15-20 hours per week.
It was extremely exhausting, but it was worth it.
When I found out that I was eligible to graduate, I spent my last year reflecting and taking every moment in.
Graduating from college to me was a huge dream of mine. It was so huge that I did not know when I could graduate. My entire college education had so many ups and downs. Applying for graduation became very surreal for me.
I did have bad depression moments throughout my last year. But I kept on thinking about graduation. I had to push through until May 17th. Nothing was going to stop me from walking across that stage, not even depression.
During my last semester of college, I felt so surreal about everything. In March, grad fair came. During my other years at SDSU, I would always pass by grad fair and didn’t know when it would be my time to go there. Then my time came to go there and I wanted to cry. They played highlight reels of last year’s commencement ceremony and I got so many butterflies. I got my tickets, cap and gown and it became real.
The time came for my last month in college ever. I felt so emotional those last weeks at school. This was my life & then all of a sudden, it was ending. I was so used to: school + internship+ work. I didn’t know what life is like without it. I cherished every single moment at SDSU, up to my last day on campus as a student. It felt so weird to have my last exam, paper, CLASS and even writing notes.
During my senior portfolio presentation, I talked about my pathway of college. I explained all my detours and downfalls to get me to graduation. I am usually very shy and afraid of talking to the class, but I really wanted to explain my story. And I did the presentation with ease, no “umms” and without looking at my notes.
May 17th came. BEST DAY EVER.
I woke up that morning and immediately said, “it’s graduation day”.
That morning I was more concerned with getting everything done on time. I went to church that morning and prayed. I thanked God so much for listening to my prayers and giving me that sign to be alive. Then I got ready and headed to SDSU for one “last” time.
I was not nervous that day. It felt right.
Standing in line behind the sign “CFD Bachelors”, I saw all my classmates in their caps and gowns. We all struggled and worked so hard to be in those caps and gowns. I was so proud of everyone. I saw the line next to me walk in and I knew it was time. We walked into the backstage area before the arena and I heard “Pomp & Circumstance” begin to play. I turned to my friend and told her, “OMG we’re graduating, it’s happening”.
We walked into the arena and it was the best feeling in the world.
I DID IT.
I could not stop looking around and taking every single moment of that ceremony. From the speeches to walking across that stage hearing my name being called.
IT WAS TRULY THE BEST FEELING EVER.
It was worth it.
All the bad things that I experienced from heart breaks to “friends” that used me to unexpected bad occurrences and panic attacks. All the exhaustion from school and work, 5-9 classes, 15-20 hours of work plus internships.
IT WAS ALL WORTH IT.
My college pathway to graduation may not have been smooth and have so many detours. But, it lead me to where I was supposed to be.
It’s okay not to graduate in 4 years after high school. Everyone is different and have different paths in life. We do not really know who we are and what we want to be immediately. It takes time and patience.
Depression has always been in my life. It has made me feel so bad about myself that COULD have ended in suicide. But, it has been an important aspect of motivating me in school.
Now I have to understand on how to deal with depression after graduating from college. I don’t know how to deal with it. But, I am going to figure out ways that will help me.
One thing that I always say about my life is “EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON”.