On my walk to class today, I was thinking about how glad I am that I waited to start college until I was really ready. While there are some downsides to being an undergrad at the age of 26, I know that I made the right decision. Take that, naysayers!!
I have a lot of thoughts on the subject, so it needs to be broken up into several posts. Here’s the backstory of why I didn’t go to college straight out of high school:
In 10th grade, I got really depressed, and it got worse as high school went on. High school was really awful for me. It was extremely lonely, but not for lack of friends–I lost interest in spending time with other people because I just didn’t have any energy. I pushed everyone away and spent most of my time in my bedroom.
I had always liked learning, but I was so depressed that my grades really slipped, especially my senior year. Nobody was pushing me to succeed academically, so I just stopped. I didn’t take the SAT or ACT, kind of because I wanted to see if I could get away with it, and it was easy not to. My guidance counselor told me I should take it but made no effort to convince me. In retrospect, I feel like I slipped through the cracks, because it was clear that there was something really wrong with me and nobody really reached out to help.
I had no energy or motivation to think of what I’d like to be when I grew up. I was spending a lot of time researching mental illness to try to figure out what was wrong with me and how to feel better, so I had the vague sense that I wanted to be a psychologist. It wasn’t something I felt passionate about, though, and I was just so burnt out from school that I knew I’d be wasting my money (and my money it was, as my parents wouldn’t be helping me pay) and getting bad grades if I took General Education classes while I figured it out.
I caught a lot of flack from the adults in my life who weren’t my parents about my decision. The all told me that if I didn’t go now, I would never go. Although I was a little nervous that they were right, I knew that going to college eventually was something I wanted to do, so I brushed off the criticism and continued with my plan to wait.
Over the next couple of years, I worked at various jobs and moved from Iowa, where I grew up, to New York. The move was the best thing I ever did–it was when I truly started feeling happy. Driving myself out here and setting up my new life was so empowering.
For the first time since I had become depressed, I became really social. I made friends easily at work, and spent a lot of time with people. I stopped feeling so sad all the time. A friend of mine was a Spanish major, and between her encouraging me to pick my high school Spanish back up (and then forcing me to by telling local Spanish speaking people that I knew Spanish, prompting them to start conversations with me!) and my brother plugging his career of translating that he loved, I got excited about the idea of studying Spanish.
At this point, I was 20 or 21, and I was really in a better place mentally to start school. Turns out, though, that it wasn’t going to be as easy as I had hoped to go back to school now that I was ready. I ran into the challenge that I think a lot of people face: funding.