“Home”: The Trouble with Transplanting

I lived in West Orange, New Jersey practically my whole life. As much as I appreciated its kitschy, suburban town from a Hollywood movie nature, the family owned ice cream parlor you could walk to after school and the zoo down the street from my house, next to the ice skating rink we all graduated in, I was excited to go to college far away, in a state I knew almost nothing about. (“The Grand Canyon is in Arizona,” That’s all I knew…kind of still is.). It was an adventure that only myself and four other high school kids in my class decided to embark on – leaving their closest friends behind to go off to schools on the other side of the country. I was ready to see a new part of the world and find myself in a new place.

But I never really thought about how difficult being a transplant would be.

transplant (n.) – a person or thing that has been moved to a new place or situation; (v.) – move or transfer (something) to another place or situation, typically with some effort or upheaval

I mean, I knew it’d be hard in some aspects – only coming home about twice a year, making new friends, how do I get my favorite pair of rain boots out there if I can’t fit them in my suitcase…..finding new favorite places to eat… – but I didn’t realize that when you leave one place you’ve been in so long and start to settle into another place, your roots don’t take hold in the ground so easily. The soil you try to grow in, as nice as it is, still feels foreign…but the soil you’re so used to has already started to change without you. I like to call this, the transplant phenomenon.

While in Arizona I’ll see the friends I’ve been in love with for years doing things together that I used to do too, experiencing growing pains, losses and victories, life together, and just being with each other. And my heart aches. I want to be there, I want to be with them. But I can’t. I’m not there. I’m 2,000 miles away. I’ve met amazing people that I’ve come to care about deeply here, but there’s something to be said about finding your footing in life with the people that you used to talk to about how life would be when you were kids. There’s something, unlike anything else, about celebrating achievements with people you’ve been celebrating with over a third of your life and leaning on people who’ve held you up for just as long.

When I go home to New Jersey, and unpack my things, call my friends and hop into their cars (or borrow my mother’s, how high school) it starts to feel like home. The friendly faces I’ve missed for so long are sitting across from me once again. The laughter that erupts out of me fills the suburban air once again and it feels so familiar. But the transplant phenomenon still makes the familiar strange. As much as home feels like home, at the exact same time, it doesn’t. I still feel the distance. I feel my friends going on with their lives without me, not that I expected them to halt for me, but I see it and I feel it. I feel them living life together – what they talk about together, what they’ve done together. And I can’t help but feel like my presence or absence doesn’t really make a difference. That whether I’m home or not, at the table or not, everything will be the same.

But I’ll go back to Arizona and still feel a little out of place. I’ve made friends but not as many as back home. I still don’t always know where to go or who to meet and what to do. And eventually, I end up feeling a little alone and feeling the difference in the soil I’m in. I feel like a transplant with nothing for my roots to latch on to. As much as it’s my home, sometime’s it doesn’t feel that way. It is home, but not always…

The transplant phenomenon is a weird but fascinating fascinating concept – constantly feeling out of place, even when you’re home. But that’s what it all boils down to in the end, isn’t it? A word you don’t really think about when you say it: “home”. The word changes when you uproot yourself and go somewhere else and try to settle in. When you leave your home…but make a new one, where is your home now? What is home? What does home mean?

During my freshman year of college, I refused to say the word “home” whenever I talked about the dorm I lived in, because it didn’t feel like home. I lived there, my stuff was there, all my snacks and dirty laundry, but it wasn’t my home…but sitting in my best friend’s dorm room, watching a movie together or just staring at our laptops together – that felt like home. That single room that wasn’t even mine, with her in it, felt like home.

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My home away from home

As difficult as being a transplant might be, leaving your old friends, missing your old friends, making new ones but still feeling out of place, perhaps the best part about it might be the opportunity it gives you to find out what home means to you. In the same vein as the phrase, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” maybe you can’t really know where or what your home is until you leave it.

Perhaps instead of home being the state I’m from or the state I live in, where I grew up or where I reside, home is actually the people I love and the places I love being in with them. We all know a home doesn’t have to be a house. But maybe a home can be a person, someone who, whenever you’re with them, you’re comfortable, happy. Maybe home is just another word for, “something I need to be happy, something that makes me feel cared for and loved.”

And if that’s the case, maybe the other best thing about being a transplant is that you have the opportunity to find as many homes as you might need.

When we stay in one place, we have only so many homes, all of which give us something we need and love, but chances are those will be the only homes you’ll have for a long time. As difficult as it is to leave the homes we know, going to a new place gives us a chance to find more homes for different parts of us, parts that might not have received as much love in the place we originated from. Or, it gives us a chance to make bigger homes with new people, or let someone into our own homes and let him/her fix up a few things inside that, maybe we never thought could be fixed. We should always be willing to find new homes. Every person you invite into your life has something to give you. And sometimes, leaving what you know gives you a chance to meet people who you may never have met before or would have never spoken to where you were from, and gives you the chance to find new people to call home.

Buildings and spaces crumble. Rooms don’t remember you when you return to them and sometimes you outgrow them and they make you feel out of place. But the people you love and who love you will always remember you and even though things might change when you leave them, when you return to them, as far as they’re concerned: you are home because you’re with them. And even if you leave them, and they don’t see you, there’s always a light on in the room you occupy in their hearts.

And when you think about it that way, maybe being a transplant isn’t so bad – no matter where you go, no matter how far you go, you’re always home somewhere.

Home. I couldn't fit them all, but all are home.

Home. I couldn’t fit them all, but all are home.

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Rain or Shine: Our Loved Ones And Mental Illness

I’ve lived with me for a long time.
I wake up to me. I eat with me, talk to me.

I’ve lived with me for a long time.
But you haven’t, and that’s what worries me.

Because I know how I can get, how sometimes I’ll wake up and not want to get out of bed.
And sometimes I’ll get sad almost out of the blue and sometimes I know why and sometimes I don’t.
And sometimes I’ll forget my pills.
And sometimes I won’t want to go out. And sometimes when I do I’ll get nervous, won’t speak, and stare at my shoes.

And I know that sometimes I won’t want to eat and I’ll clutch at my tummy and wish I were smaller.
And sometimes I won’t want to do work.
And I know I compare myself to people around me and worry I’m not good enough and say it and believe it.
And sometimes I’ll just want to curl up in my bed and stay there for as long as I can.

I know how I can get.

And so I worry that one day I’ll be too much for you, that one day, another sad face will be the last straw, that you won’t want to deal with anymore quiet answers and sad eyes. I worry that one day another reassurance will be the last one and eventually you’ll get tired of picking up pieces.

But remember that I love you, deep down to my soul and no matter the day or the circumstance I will always love you: when I’m quiet or sad or curled up in my bed I will always love you. I will always need you.
You are the light that brightens my days. You are the smile that creeps across my face. You are my happy places

And if I could, I would make it so you’d never have to put me together.
But if I have to break down in front of anyone, it’d be you.
And I promise that no matter how I feel today, tomorrow, or the next day, no matter how sad I get, I’ll always need you. And I may not be whole, but my whole heart is yours.


Sometimes the scariest thing about having anxiety, depression, or any mental illness is the idea that your illness will push people away. Eventually, even though they say they’ll always be there for you, people will get tired of making you feel better and picking you up and dealing with your bad days.

When I was first diagnosed with depression at seventeen, my parents were supportive and understanding. But after a few months, when I had mornings where I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed, the understanding from before seemed to have worn thin. It wasn’t words of compassion anymore being raised up the stairs to me, it was “Get yourself together,” or “Maybe if you didn’t spend all day in bed you wouldn’t feel like this,” or, “I’m tired of you using depression as an excuse.”

And I’d get angry at them for not understanding or sympathizing with what I was going through but at the same time I couldn’t blame  them. I’d wake up sad and would barely eat. I wouldn’t talk as much as I used to. I’d come down for a glass of water then go back up to my room for the rest of the day. Eventually, I’m sure, they just felt tired of trying to make me feel better and it not working.

I knew it was difficult, having a daughter with depression, just as it would be difficult having a friend with depression. So I hid my feelings from my closest friends and put a smile on whenever I was with them so I’d seem as normal as possible, as put together as possible, so they didn’t have to put me together themselves. But it was always in the back of my head: I can’t do this forever. I can’t keep hiding myself for forever.

Eventually when I went away to college, I was lucky enough to meet a girl who I trusted with my whole heart that I was comfortable enough to open up to. But even after being close to her for almost a year, I realized that I was still scared of her getting tired of hearing me complain or hearing me tell her that I couldn’t do it anymore, or cheering me up or telling me that I’m enough. “It’s not your job to do that,” I’d tell her. Because it wasn’t. Even though she was my best friend, even though she said she wanted to be there for me, her job wasn’t to keep picking up my pieces. And I worried I would suck all of the happiness out of her when I had my worst days and I didn’t want to do that to her, or anyone that I loved – in friendship or romantically.

Just as I had feared pushing my closest friends away, I started to consider myself impossible to be in a relationship with anyone. Because who would want to be in a relationship with someone they’d have to constantly pick up or put together? Who would want to date someone that needs reassurance that they have purpose and worth? Who would want to be with someone that sometimes just can’t see the light when they’re having a rough time?

No one, I always thought. And I wouldn’t ask anyone to, I’d tell myself.

When I finally did meet someone who wanted to be in a relationship with me I was terrified of him having to deal with me and my depression. As we started to get more serious I thought to myself, “Oh God, I can’t let him get too close or attached. He shouldn’t have to deal with someone like me.” Eventually I told him about my depression and he said he would be there with me every step of the way, to help me, to support me, listen to me, and most importantly, love me.

Since then, I’ve had my rough days. I’ve had my days where I cried to him over the phone about not being able to do anything or about how I felt like a failure. I’ve had my days where I would be nervous to be around other people because I was too anxious and didn’t want to talk to anyone. I’ve had my days where he’s asked me what was wrong and all I could answer was “I don’t know.”

But he’s stayed. Just like he promised.

And my best friend stayed. Just like she promised.

So to those who were in the same place I was, afraid to open themselves up to others for fear of being too much for them, I beg you not to close yourself off from the people around you. Don’t think that no one wants to deal with you and your illness. Because when people truly love you, they’ll do anything they can to see you be the best you possible. They want you to thrive and they want you to be happy. Don’t be discouraged and think that you have to go through your hardest times alone. Talk to your loved ones about you feel. Trust the people that you feel are true to you and let them in because you’ll end up closer to them than ever and will know you have a true companion. Allow yourself to be helped and to be loved.

And to those who love others suffering from a mental illness, to boyfriends, girlfriends, best friends, and parents, know that the people you love who are suffering from something are still the same people you fell in love with when you first saw them. Your daughter is still the loving little girl you raised. Your best friend is still that vibrant, ridiculous, and caring person you first wanted to be friends with. Your boyfriend is still the sweet, doting, funny man that you fell in love with when you met for the first time.

What drew you to us in the first place is still there. We’re still that person.

Some days, our illness might get the best of us, but our true selves are still there. Know that we know you are doing your best to help us and make us feel better and pick us up when we’re down. Don’t take a depressive episode or moment personally. Chances are we’re being affected by things that have little to do with you and even though we might not want you to see us down or depressed, we know that if anyone will understand, it will be you. Be patient with us. Know that we’re trying to get better. Sometimes we’ll hit snags or slip but we want to be better, for ourselves, and for you.

And don’t get discouraged or think you’re not trying hard enough to make us feel better if we don’t cheer up the moment you attempt to cheer us up. Sometimes our episodes don’t go away that easily. But know that we are thankful that we have someone who cares enough about us to even try. Plenty of people have left us to sit in our hard times alone, but not you. You love us enough to try to make us happy. And even though we might not feel better immediately, please know that you trying matters. Because it means you haven’t given up on us. And when we know there’s someone in our corner, days don’t get as dark as they used to. And we get better, because we have you.

For more info and tips on showing love to someone with depression, check out this article by The Darling Bakers.

The S Word: The “Selfishness” of Suicide

A month ago, many were shocked by the news of Maddie Yates, a high school student from Louisville, Kentucky who committed suicide after posting a video about her decision to do so on Youtube. 

And as events like these do, it brought up many peoples’ thoughts and feelings about suicide. And what always seems to pop up, amongst the outpouring of love and apologies and sorrow, is the one person who takes it upon themselves to call the person who took their life selfish for doing so. “Think about your family,” they say. “Think about the people who love you. It’s selfish of you to do that to them. Maybe they should have thought of them before doing something so selfish.”

And I can understand the concept. How could someone think about one of their family members finding their body lying motionless and still find the gall to kill themselves? How could someone imagine the pain their family and friends would feel in their absence and still go through with their suicide? How could someone be so selfish?

At the age of fifteen, I was hopelessly depressed, and had been for at least a couple of years, though undiagnosed. Four years earlier my brother, my best friend and idol, had passed away, slapping me out of a place of innocence and into a harsh world without him. Now fifteen, my parents sent me to a new school that I hated where I had very few friends that felt more like a prison than a high school. I barely saw my former friends and was kept in my house except for when I went to school. I grew to feel worthless and alone. Every day was painful to go through and eventually, I thought of how I could escape it all if I just took my own life. My parents could be rid of the burden I was becoming on them, their lifeless daughter, roaming aimlessly, haunting their home. Everything would be better for us all 
if I were dead.

It was a recurring thought, one that first came into my head a few months after my brother died at the age of eleven, thoughts that turned into action. They were the darkest parts of my life but I’ve made it through to the other side, though not without mental scars to remind me of where I have been. When I hear about others who have taken their lives those scars throb in pain for the ones who saw no other escape. But those scars set on fire when in the presence of someone who insists on the selfishness of a person who took their own life. And though I speak from experience, I speak objectively to the need of change when it comes to how some view these individuals. For there is trouble in the thinking that people who commit suicide or attempt it are selfish, and it comes about in two ways:

One, the idea that these people don’t think about their families and their friends when they think about or make the decision to take their lives. The biggest problem: it is almost impossible to assume the feelings and thoughts that these people might have unless you have been where they are. It is so simple to say, “How could you not think about your family and how they would feel, what this would do to them?” when you’ve never hit that bottom.

Even Maddie Yates had trouble struggling with the idea of selfishness in her video, possibly convinced because of the words of others that insist that people who think about it or plan to take their own lives are selfish, but her words don’t express selfishness. They express pain, a loss of hope; they see no other way:

“I know this is selfish. You know, the doctor prescribed Prozac for depression and anxiety, but those are just fancy words for “selfish”. I know that I’m going to hurt everyone who loves me and I really do love them too. But I’ve been like this for so long, and there’s still a chance that the worst day might still be coming. And I just don’t see how this is a bad idea because it’s like someone’s on the 12th floor, and the room behind them is on fire. And they’re standing on the window ledge and they have a choice whether or not to jump and get away from the fire or just stay and die a slow, excruciating death. It feels like that.”

She felt that there was no other way to escape the pain she was feeling, the hopelessness, the loneliness. She saw no other solution but to continue suffering and let her pain burn her alive. And that’s what being suicidal is like. No one immediately jumps to taking their lives on a whim. It’s a perceived solution that comes about after being battered and battered, over and over again until your heart and mind are weathered and worn and you can’t go on.

People who think about attempting suicide or who commit it do think about their families. They sit on their beds staring at the instruments they might use to take their lives. Stare at them and think about the ones they love. They think about their mothers and fathers trying to explain to their little brothers and sisters why they won’t see their big sibling anymore. They think about their pets who will go looking for them. They think about their friends who will all wonder what they could have done. And the visions of the people they love being crushed by their death hurts. It pains them immensely. Imagine that burden, the burden of knowing you could hurt those you love in such a way. Why would anyone put themselves through that? Because it’s the only way to escape the burden of the pain they are feeling. The love of our families and friends is one that can lift us up but if you are stuck in the deepest hole you’ve ever been in, stuck there for years, that pain can hurt you and hold you down even more.

The other trouble with thinking that those who think about or commit suicide are selfish is a familiar one, related to the troublesome way that many people view those suffering from mental illness, the idea that suicidal people are thinking about suicide with a mind like theirs – a healthy mind. But the mind that is seriously considering suicide is not a healthy mind, like that of the person who can decide how selfish the committing of suicide is. A person who commits suicide is often depressed and suffering mentally. They are suffering from an illness that is affecting even the one organ that controls everything about their bodies, the central command center. Calling a mentally diseased person selfish for thinking about or wanting to commit suicide is like punishing a sick child for vomiting on their bedsheets. It is a symptom of something serious and sinister under the surface. No person is programmed to want to take their own life. What person would want to? Unless their mind wasn’t working the way it is supposed to. Unless their mind is affected by something that would convince their mind that the only solution for the pain they are feeling is to kill themselves, to take themselves from the people they love.

Some people say of suicidal individuals, “I’ve had rough times too. I’ve had a hard time and life hasn’t been easy for me. It’s not easy for anyone. But I didn’t kill myself. Plenty of people haven’t.” But this type of thinking emphasizes the difference between the mind of someone who suffers from a mental illness and the mind of one who does not and this is what we need to understand and explain. Individuals who think about or commit suicide are people who need help. They are suffering from things that alter their minds in ways someone without a mental illness couldn’t imagine. Mental illnesses distort the mind, make it see and hear things that aren’t there, and feel things it shouldn’t. They turn capable people into sacks of skin that can barely get themselves out of bed and out their front door. 

 

Instead of punishing these people and calling them selfish, we should look into fixing what’s wrong. Instead of punishing them for exhibiting a symptom, let us go to the source and help free them from those symptoms. These people are not selfish, they are ill, hurting, and often alone. They don’t deserve our judgement but our help, our open arms, our open ears.

We might not be able to save those who are already gone.
We might not be able to save Maddie.
But we can save people like her, like fifteen year old me. 
We can save so many others, but first we must put away our pointing fingers and be willing to give them our whole hand.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, seek help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
You have worth. You deserve to live. The world needs you. We need you.

Mental Health Awareness Month

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“When we hear mental illness we think of the more severe persistent mental illnesses, and I think what we forget is that mental health effects all of us and often times we ignore our mental health,” – Melissa McCauley, Mental Health Liaison.

When our bodies are sick, we will go to great lengths to repair them. Our friends and families will rally around us to see us get well with endless support and pride.
But when our minds get sick, sometimes we aren’t supported, or believed, or even understood.

May is Mental Health Awareness month, a time where, hopefully, for even just a month, we can try and look through the stigma of mental illness and the shadow it casts on some of our citizens, friends, and family members, and seek to understand how it affects the people we love, the people we know and interact with. Mental illness is a monster that can stunt the growth of capable minds and keep the brightest faces from walking out their front doors. But with understanding, we can see the illness as the monster, and not see the people suffering from it as the monster.

Educate yourself. Talk to someone. Open your mind and learn. This is a really important month and I hope people become aware and make the most of it.

Look for mental health and mental illness related posts on Adventures With Adulting, as I feel that through stories and conversation, we can learn so much about how mental health affects the people around us by talking to someone who goes through it every day.

 

Stop The Ride, Please: The Struggle Between Work and Well-Being

If you ask me, the end of the school year is the worst time of year: papers on papers on tests on tests on study guide on study guide after study guide.

I don’t do well with pressure, but I do even worse with pressure when I can’t let off any steam which is why I don’t do well with pressure…(et cetera, et cetera, as the vicious cycle continues).

The worst part about not being very good with pressure at the end of the school year is the part where something that throws me off emotionally happens between my final on Tuesday and my final on Wednesday morning and I barely have the time to process it, let alone deal with it. Instead, I have to stiffen my upper lip and walk home to do more studying, all while my eyes sting and I’m trying to sniffle quietly, so as not to freak out the guy standing next to me at the crosswalk. But even when I get home and open a book to study, I’m in a place emotionally where I couldn’t concentrate if I wanted to, with my body drooping over my notes and notecards, my stomach grumbling but having no desire to eat or move, all while a part of my brain shouts, “I don’t have time for this, I have a final tomorrow!”

Dealing with depression and depressive tendencies while being a student is and always has been tough, but it gets tougher when you feel like you don’t have time to even think about what’s happening to you or what’s affecting you at the moment. You can’t address how you feel to try to make yourself feel better and you end up sinking further and further into a melancholy place, which is the last you want to be when trying to study or get work done. And it’s something that I so look forward to being able to put behind me, the constant struggle to keep up with both my work and my emotions, as well as the half-hearted attempt to seem like I have everything under control.

Because I don’t, and rarely do I, over circumstances or outcomes of happenstance, or sometimes my reactions to those circumstances. I can’t plan my episodes or try and pencil them into my schedule and I’m tired of having to struggle with the pressure of dealing with school and all its parts and my emotions, my mental health. And work will come when I’m out of school, of course, along with depressive episodes, but in that realm, for the most part, I have a night to unwind, to be comforted, to figure myself and my emotions out. But semesters often feel like a carnival ride I’m strapped to that keeps turning and turning all night and all day, despite my attempts to breathe or at least keep my lunch down.

And I just don’t do well with that. I need time, and as easy as it sounds to say, “Make time,” sometimes, you can’t make something out of nothing – and if I don’t have time, where am I even supposed to find time to make it? (That’s just science people). I’m just ready to stop having to put myself and my emotions behind so many other things. Long after the papers are graded and my diploma has been hanging on the wall, I’ll still be living with my mind and I don’t want to suffer then because I had no room to detoxify my mind now. I want my mind and its health to be a priority and I crave the ability to stop putting it last because I shouldn’t have to and I no longer want to.

Tip Time:

If you find yourself feeling held down by pressure, depression, anxiety or even if you just had a bad day, there’s still things you can do to make yourself feel a little better, even when you’ve got a full to-do list. You shouldn’t have to force yourself to bury your emotions or pretend they aren’t bothering you just because you have work waiting for you. Stand up for yourself and take a small step or two for the better. Try one or a few of these tips to help you feel a little brighter so you can work a little better:

  1. Take 30 minutes to talk to a close friend or relative – On the phone or in person, whatever is easiest. Sometimes when we’re having a rough time, we need to turn to the people we trust the most or the people who we know are always there for us. Call or talk to that person and say, “Hey, I’ve only got about 30 minutes, but I really wanted to talk to you. I’m feeling a little bummed,” and let them help you feel better or at least feel like you can accomplish the tasks you have waiting for you.
  2. Watch a show that makes you laugh – What’s your favorite sitcom or cartoon? Studies have shown that laughter can help make depressive or bummed out feelings dissipate for a bit, releasing some endorphins and helping you smile. After watching an episode of your favorite funny show, you might feel a bit more perked up and feel like you’ve released some stress, putting you in a better place to do some work.
  3. Take a short walk – A lot of people list exercise as something to do while you’re feeling down but sometimes it’s even tough to get up and lace up a pair of running shoes, so instead of, “Go exercise,” I say, take a stroll. Walk to a nearby park or store or just around the block, even. Fresh air and sunshine can make your body feel better as well as your mind. Plus, you have time to think about whatever you want or to not think at all.
  4. Play with your pet – Let’s be honest: sometimes it’s hard to be sad when a cute and furry creature is pawing you or panting happily at you. Playing with your pet for 20-30 minutes is not only a great way to take your mind of things that might be making you feel down but it’s also fun! Not to mention that petting a cat or dog can enhance your mood, reduce stress, and just make you feel loved.

“Do you think maybe I feel alone because I lost a special part of me?” Charlie asked the woman.
“I don’t know,” she said kindly.
“I think so,” Charlie said.

An excerpt from a story I will probably put off but plan on writing.

Children have such an innocence about them and that innocence makes the poignant things they might happen to say so magnifying. Sometimes I think things or feel things things that will go unnoticed if I told someone else, almost under the radar. But when I think about them again later, I hear my inner child say them and it seems to mean so much more, almost as if I’m affected down to my very core, where my inner child lives. Maybe we should all start to speak from that place.

An Open Letter To The Class of Graduating A Year Late

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It’s the last few weeks of April.
Friends are taking graduation photos with peace signs in university gardens.
Your instagram feed is flooded with pictures of caps and gowns and “Omg, last drunken night ordering pizza #sosad #adulthood” posts.

All while you’re casually avoiding registering for the classes you have to sign up and thus sign your soul to your school mascot for ten more months of your miserable college life.

Congratulations, you’re graduating late.

Your friends will be walking down the graduate aisle, receiving their diplomas, throwing their graduation caps. And you’re sitting here, trying to avoid attacking the next person who asks, “Are you excited about graduating in a month?”

All your friends getting ready to move on with their lives and you’re left feeling like a failure, like you aren’t good enough. “Am I defective?” you might say to yourself. “What’s wrong with me?” “Why aren’t I like everyone else?”
“I suck.”

“I’m the worst.”

et cetera, et cetera until you’re barely getting out of bed because, “What’s the point? I’m not doing anything with my life. I might as well just stay here and watch Law and Order re-runs until I get kicked out of college for being too old because I was too stupid to graduate.”

Image(It’s a slippery slope).

But I’m going to tell you something, you might not have thought about amongst your “My life is over” thoughts:

Wait for it…

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Graduating late is okay.
Graduating late is not the end of the world.

It sounds outrageous, an impossible idea, I know. But it’s true. It’s okay to graduate a year late.
Really, late isn’t even the right word. The “Class of 20xx” title is a suggestion, a generalized assumption of how long it would take a general amount people in your age group to get through the rigamarole of classes and papers and homework. It isn’t law. And it is not one size fits all. It doesn’t take into account that people are different. It doesn’t take into account that some people will hit snags or have family crises. It doesn’t take into account that some people deal with situations that make doing work like “everyone else” so much harder – depression, learning disabilities, low self-esteem, anxiety, the list goes on. The schools and administrators who obsess over their students graduating in four years may put it at the utmost importance, but it’s easy for them to forget that the students going to their schools aren’t robots – they’re people. But that idea gets passed down to us, the students. Then we start to believe that we have to graduate in four years, and then we forget that we aren’t robots and we put ourselves down for not doing what we’ve been programmed to do.

But you aren’t a robot. You are an individual. You aren’t everybody else. You are you. And you do what you need to do to get where you need to get to. And your worth has to do with what you accomplish, not how long it takes you to accomplish them. Rome wasn’t built in a day but look at it now. Do you think people visit the Colosseum and say, “Sure it looks nice, but I heard they finished it in 80 AD, but they were supposed to finish it in 75 AD. Amateurs.”

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No one says that. All people say is, “Dang. Look at that Colosseum. Look at how amazing it is. They worked their Roman tails off and made this masterpiece and I’m lucky enough to see it.” And that’s what people will say when you graduate. “You worked so hard. You got this degree. I’m proud of you. You should be proud of you.” That’s all. No one will mention that it took you longer than you expected or than you were told it would take. And if anyone does, punch that person right in the face and rub your diploma in their faces. Because you earned it.

“But what about all my friends? They’re all moving on with their lives and I’m stuck here…”

It’s okay to not be on the same pace as your friends. It might feel a little lonely and it might not feel right, but it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you. You aren’t defective. You’re just on a different path.

You were always meant to take a different path from your friends, weren’t you? You had different majors, you had different interests. You even had different friends. You and your friends, your peers, and other kids on campus, are not the same. You have different goals. You have different strengths, different weaknesses. You are different.

Maybe that’s the scariest thing about graduating “late”. It’s daunting because it forces you to think about the fact that you’re an individual, that sometimes, you’ll stand alone on your path to whatever goals you have set for yourself. And that seems scary. Sometimes it’s scary to be different but sometimes that’s life. Sometimes it feels like you’re the only one working towards what you happen to be working towards. And sometimes you might get discouraged. But in those situations, what’s most important isn’t what others are doing: what’s most important is keeping the focus on yourself. If you focus too much on others and their accomplishments, you start to put yourself down or maybe feel like you won’t match their accomplishments and you can’t achieve anything if you don’t believe that you can do anything. But if you focus on yourself and don’t worry about anyone else, and don’t compare yourself to others, you give yourself the opportunity to shine in your way.

Being on your own path isn’t negative. It gives you the chance to do what’s best for you and show the world just what you’re capable of in your own way. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
You fought through your depression and graduated.
You dealt with a family crisis and you graduated.
You changed your major three times until you were happy and you graduated.
You took time to find yourself, came back and you graduated.

Graduating “late” doesn’t say to the world, “I’m a failure”. It says, “I took the path that was best for me and here I am. A graduate, ready for the world.”

The American Dream 2.0 Report on the college dropout crisis, published in 2013, said 46% of American college students don’t graduate college within six years.

But you aren’t a statistic. You aren’t a percentage. You’re you. And you are no less than anyone who graduates before you, or who graduates “on time”.

So, hang in there. One more year. A few more semesters. And you’ll be okay. You’re on the right track – your track. And there’s no time limit for that.