The reason I say that running from the counseling service office was the worst decision I ever made is that things got worse. I decided to put things behind me and continue going to school. I figured that being on the edge of failing and the feeling of embarrassment would keep me from doing the same mistakes again. Oh, how wrong I was!
I began to take some more art courses and along the way I dropped the idea of being a history double major. I wanted to avoid taking classes that would put me in contact with my history professor (in fact, my embarrassment was so great I would often skip out on walking through the areas I figured I could potentially bump into him, deciding to take the long way around campus) so I focused on my art requirements.
I ended up enrolling into beginning painting, my senior seminar class, advanced figure drawing, and an art history course. This is probably when my anxiety started to get worse.
As I had let my history professor know, I was going to start using art as a way to help in my mental health journey. I had so many pent up feelings at the time and since I needed to create something for my senior seminar class, I decided to do it on something personal. It would be my first time doing something on Photoshop and being part of an exhibit. I was fine the first few weeks of class, motivated and excited even, but as I didn’t get positive feedback (not negative either) on my piece, which was about ME, I started to get anxious. Would people understand it? Would they interact with it the way I wanted them to? Was this even art?! What was I doing?
It got to the point where, again, I asked my teacher if I could withdraw from the exhibit.
I would still turn in my project but I didn’t want anyone outside of our class to see it. I was told that I had to present it or I wouldn’t pass the class. Since this was my primary major, I couldn’t back out. I began to get more depressed and at one point lost interest in my project. It started to affect my other classes, especially my beginning painting class because it was the same teacher as my senior seminar.
I only ended up passing half of my courses
The next quarter was in the Fall so I had a few months to myself. I got away from some of the stressors in my life and when I went back to school in September, I felt I could do much better and even face some of my fears (aka. my history professor). I ended up enrolling in three art courses and one history course with said professor
It was a total and complete WRECK
During this time I’d always juggled a job, going to school, commuting, and family business. It had been a while since I was last a full-time student so I tried to focus all of my energy into passing my classes but it felt like the more I tried, the more I stressed out, and the more I failed. I would turn in my art assignments and would hardly get feedback on what I did. Did that mean it was bad? What should I work on? I didn’t know. However, all of this wasn’t the worst part. Looking back I think the worst part is that I noticed all the signs and refused to seek help
I would commute to school only to decide not to go to class right before I had to walk over. I should, but I don’t have anything new, but I was already absent the other day, I don’t have ideas on how to continue my piece, will my teacher think I’m a bad artist if I’m always seeking help, how many times have I asked for help, maybe I should stop, ok I won’t go, no maybe I should, I’m already here, ok I’ll go, but…
This would be my thought process for hours. Sometimes from nights before, sometimes from the morning before class (I was usually on campus two hours before classes thanks to terrible traffic into the city, which I had to traverse through)
Then I began to develop the absolute fear of my teachers. I hated when they would walk around the room and peer over our shoulders to see how we were doing. I was always hyper-aware of where my teacher was in the classroom, who they were helping out, and when they were heading towards me. I’d get super nervous and I would hope they wouldn’t stop for too long. Sometimes I’d pause in my work and pretend I was thinking about something or observing what we had to paint. Other times I’d purposefully take my break when I knew they’d pass by me
The biggest terrors happened while I was in my art classes but my lecture courses weren’t easy either. I’d always hated the mandatory participation rule and dreaded being called on, but I also had trouble volunteering. I would need to mentally prepare myself and by the time I felt “prepared” the class discussion would be on something else.
I mean, even recently, my professor did a book talk and it took me the whole time (plus the day before) to muster up the courage to ask a question. Imagine the me from then who was even more wound up. I felt like I’d forgotten how to speak and then I’d be worried about how people would perceive me. Were they laughing? Wondering why I was even in this class? Even IN college?
With my culminating failures in school, not just in the classroom but my grades (because yeah, my grades were dropping more every quarter), my social awkwardness, and my growing anger, I decided to stop going to school.
Nothing had changed for 4 quarters, so why continue? I was just wasting money and time.
I threw myself into working when I stopped going to school. I found a couple of jobs and pretty much just woke up, went to work, went to another job, and came home to bed. I had four jobs during my break and I worked at least two at a time, filling my schedule as much as I could.
They were mundane jobs as well. Jobs where I just went in, did my job, and then didn’t have to worry about anything until I showed up the next day. I got enough money to treat myself to what I wanted but on my off days, my mood would always drop, especially in the summer. I began to frequent the use “I’m tired” as a way to express how low I felt without actually saying anything. My family attributed this to my working a lot or even sleeping for too long on the occasions I had off days.
I would just laugh it off and continue on my day
I guess the worst part about this period, was that my parents believed I had been doing well in my classes and that I was ready to graduate. They didn’t know I’d failed the majority of my classes the last quarters I attended school and every time they’d ask when I would get my degree and start working in something in my field, I would try to redirect the talk. I didn’t want to talk about school or think about anything relating to how far away I was from graduating
In fact, at some point, I stopped believing I would go back to school. I’d be a dropout and it hurt so much because my family believed in me. I was supposed to be the first university graduate. They had put so much faith in me, invested in me, and I just let them down
That’s when my job at the theatre came in to rescue me
In a way, my job at the theatre was also another mundane type of job. I would go in, do what I was told, and leave whenever my replacement came (or if I was closing, whenever everyone finished up). But there was just something about it that lifted me. I felt like an integral part of a team. Like I mattered. My supervisors and managers would randomly comment on how well I was doing and they made it a habit of celebrating team successes
When it came time for important things like inspections, I was scheduled to work, which isn’t all too rare for me. I was always one of the “chosen ones” at my Dunkin’ job but it felt more genuine and important at the theatre. I felt like my managers trusted me and I didn’t want to fail them
I started helping out whenever I could. I would ask questions, always hoping to do a better job. And not just for my managers. I started watching as many movies as I could, especially if we were showing them in order to help guests figure out what to watch. A lot of people would come by with questions like is this a good movie for my kid? is this movie scary? did you like this movie? which do you recommend? Being up to date with the releases really helped me out
If it was a new release that was popular but that we didn’t have at our location, I made sure to know which other theatre had it.
As I got more comfortable I also started taking the first step at talking to new crew members. I always made myself available to answer questions and since I had worked every position, I knew a fair amount (especially with how quickly we seemed to get new people). At some point, I got a raise and ended up as Crew Leader and I helped train new members
But I think the best part of this experience was that my supervisors and managers saw enough potential in me that they recommended me to apply to a supervisor position at another location (which was actually closer to my house).
I was even the person who had the most sales in membership signups! And that was something I never expected could even happen. I mean, sometimes I can’t even muster out a cohesive sentence
Now, I don’t want to make it seem like this was the BEST JOB EVER because it’s not, but it was a very important experience for me. I got to meet a lot of people and practice skills I always believed I could never do. I mean, I actively went to new crew members to introduce myself, to ask them how they were feeling, to tell them I was available if they had any questions (and who else they could rely on), I went to see movies with my coworkers, went to the team outings, and just…I felt like a new me!
And I’d never applied to a position that wasn’t entry level but this time I did. I took the plunge and hoped for the best (it was a bit disastrous, maybe I should practice my interview skills…)
My job at the theatre encouraged me to go back to school. I felt like I could truly succeed!
And well, this is where we’ll wrap up for today. The next post will be out tomorrow and I will be talking about my return to school ^^ Like always, feel free to share your stories! What have been some experiences that have really helped you? Motivated and pushed you forward?
This is a general disclaimer. I am not a doctor or professional of any kind. I am just sharing and talking about my own experiences. If you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please seek help! You can receive help at your nearest ER or by calling the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If there is someone that you trust to help you, also contact them to seek help! Remember that you are important, one of a kind, and to take care. Self-care is important for everyone!