An Open Letter to College Dropouts Who Wonder if They Made the Right Decision
To the College Dropout Who Doesn’t Know if They Made the Right Decision:
I know graduation season is probably triggering for you. I know it is for me. This was the year I was supposed to graduate.
However, this did not happen. I left school after a severe mental health breakdown and many periods of disillusionment last year. I go between being glad I did and being sad. I realize the amount of time I wasted in college, but I also realize the worth of my mental health.
Like many other academia-related decisions, it wasn’t easy for me to leave. I had switched my major five times and transferred colleges. I remember having to pick colleges that would have a bearable commute because I could not afford to live in a dorm. I thought after the last switch of majors, after the last time I transferred, I could hold on to my piece of sanity and maintain a decent GPA without having a mental breakdown.
That didn’t work.
I ended up having a major breach of trust, which lead to a falling out, which lead to triggers upon triggers upon triggers. My already fragile mental health was falling apart but I kept trying to hold on. My therapist, my psychiatrist and all my loved ones were able to see right through me. When I was starting recovery, I was told that healing wasn’t a straight line; it was a spiral. I didn’t know at that moment if the spiral would ever stop going downward.
I entered a severe major depressive episode. It involved a lot of suicide attempts, medication dosage calibrations and near-hospitalizations. It involved my chronic pain intensifying, feelings of betrayal and chronic crying spells.
And then I realized: if I was suffering this much because of personal shit and academic shit, I had to leave. I weighed the pros and cons of staying in school. The pros were extremely short term. Meanwhile, the cons were much more long term. Yes, I would have instant gratification, but would it have been worth all the hospitalizations? All the shit on my plate?
With that, I left college. I took care of me first.
There is consistent emphasis in our society on how your college education helps you to shape your life, how you will be able to get a better paying job and have wonderful things just drop down onto your feet because you now have that precious degree. However, they don’t account for the waste of time some classes are. They never mention how college is not designed for mentally ill people or that the “real world” — depending on the circumstances — might be more kind.
They never mention how college isn’t for everybody. Never. But it isn’t.
It’s completely fine to feel resentful because you had to leave. Whether it was for mental health reasons or because you realized you didn’t have enough money left in your account to cover the cost, it’s completely valid. Even if you know you made the right decision, graduation season might still make you cry and break down. Graduation season might bring back memories of the good times in college as well as the bad. Graduation season might make you envy the peers whose graduation photos you see on Facebook.
However, your worth does not decrease because you have no degree. It does not decrease because you couldn’t finish. It does not decrease because you are not what society thinks the ideal adult is supposed to be. You are thriving, you are surviving and you deserve to exist. Your intelligence is not diminished because you didn’t graduate college.
Mickey Valentine <3