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!