Monday, September 9, 2013

How to Take Forever In College

One of my concept models for a project I placed on the side
of a cliff.

I took a long time to get my first degree in college and some people … many people who know me might be wondering why. I’ve been called ambitious and intelligent, so what’s the deal with college?

Believe me, this was not the trajectory I had set out on. This is not the future I had imagined. Here’s what has happened so far….


One of my First College brothers presenting his final project.

Straight from high school, I chose a college (to which I refer in this journal as “First College”) with a program with a good reputation in my field of study, and my test scores put me about a semester ahead of my peers straight away. I took the program schedule and knocked courses off as soon as I could. Advising took a second, as I knew what I would take the next semester and just needed a signature. I took a full load each semester (I think it was 19 credits?); my grades weren’t all that great, but I was doing well enough. I was on course to have only thesis studio my last year.

In the middle of my program, something happened back home. I was given a choice and I decided to stay home and to work.
Modeling for a friend's
photography project.

One of my coworkers, CB

After working for a couple of years, I decided to go back to school. I didn’t want to wait too long. When I transferred to Second College, the undergraduate program was being phased out and I had to come in under the graduate program. I had a great advisor starting out and did well for the first few years. I was on schedule to graduate in a timely manner with a doctorate and a minor.

And then I slipped more and more into a deep depression. In reality, the depression had its beginnings back in my last semester of First College. There was an incident that I was unprepared to handle and so I didn’t handle it. I started making some poor choices.

A practicum semester in CA;
here with my EBHH friends
Photo by Julie. She sent me pictures
while I was away so I wouldn't be so

Back to Second College, I tried to carry on with studies; I was working at the same time. At one point, I knew that I needed time off to try to deal with what I had left festering for too long. I asked Advisor B and was advised not to take a break. Usually, I would have insisted on the break, but I wasn’t in a state to argue at the time.

At First College, I knew what I had to do and I did that and then some. At Second College, the program changed frequently enough, and with my mental state, I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t recognize the program and I didn’t know me anymore.

So I continued on at Second College. It was ugly. It got uglier. I thought about quitting many times. I doubted my thinking and executing abilities. I’d also like to note that they weren’t all full semesters; during the depression years, most of them were 1-credit semesters, because I was hanging on by a thread in many ways.

I probably would not have gone to Kaho'olawe without
the opportunity through a Second College connection.
All that time, God was reaching out to me. I know some might read this and say “Oh no, not God, come on!” but I cannot tell this story without mentioning God’s intervention (I was a Christian already). God finally broke through in my depression and I decided to trust him and his ways. I got angry with myself enough to say “God, you take my life and I will follow.”

God does not fail. I went back to church. I started building a support circle I knew I would need (in addition to my awesome family) at some point and it seemed that God put certain people in my path for this.

I still struggled a bit at Second College until Advisor D came on, one whose courses I had taken before and whom I had come to trust (this was now the 4th advisor). Things slowly started to come together for me. She told me that I could have taken a leave of absence back when I had wanted to without consequence and advised that I take one anyway, which I did.

This past May, I graduated with an undergraduate degree related to my primary graduate program. None of my previous credits were wasted and I also got my minor certificate. In the last two semesters, I was able to greatly raise my GPA, earning all A-s in the last semester! I have to keep saying it because I still don’t quite believe it myself.


Julie, one of my strongest allies in life
That is how (or one way) to take forever in college: start out, have a traumatic experience, don’t deal with it and make poor decisions, then take poor advice, and continue on the path.

I don’t recommend it.

If you find yourself on a similar path, I hope that you’ll get angry at some point, start fighting to take your life back, hopefully sooner than when I started fighting back.

And if you need an ally in life, message me!

It wasn’t all gloomy. I had my wonderful family supporting me, some true friends, and great experiences during the struggle as well, as reflected in the photos. I am grateful for all of them.

I still have not learned to face the camera
and smile, much to my mother's disappointment.
I still have a few semesters of graduate work to do before I have the doctorate in my hand as well, but I can almost see it already. Also, I still make poor decisions from time to time, I still get depressed (though it has gotten a lot better overall), and God is working on me yet. I can almost see my future again, and in it is Hope!

Friday, September 6, 2013

I Thought

It’s all there in my mind. Behind the quiet door, a room of shelves piled with books, and a desk scattered with signs of a life. It’s all there.

I thought that my key would
Always unlock the door
That the knob would turn and
I’d be let in

Those white walls never got their coat of blue. Colors come from the artwork hung, the pictures on display, and a hint of glow stars.

I thought I’d always be
At home in this place
That I could walk the grounds
And be at peace

The bed is by the window, near to the fresh air at night. A fan stands by for when the wind takes a nap. The pillow is beat up from sleepless nights and tear-stained from peace-less nights.

I thought that I would
Never be alone again
That I could carry you
Wherever I may roam

The clothes hang still; the folded shirts must be collecting dust. Have the spiders made their home? Are they enjoying the shoes?

I stand… (don’t cry) I stand…
Outside, waiting and searching
And hoping, I’m hoping
To be let in

Behind the quiet door, a space I knew, a life I loved. It’s all there in my mind.