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Why Making the Decision to Leave College for My Mental Health Was Difficult, but Necessary

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Last week, I dropped out of college. Wait, I hate that expression. Dropped out. Let’s rephrase. I left college. I no longer go to college. Or maybe, I decided college was not the right thing for me right now. That’s better.

You see what I did there? I stated my action like it was a failure. Like I had taken the weak option, the easy path. When in fact, it was probably the bravest choice I have ever made.

The truth is, I was tired. My whole life had felt as though I had been going through the motions, doing what was expected of me. The stereotypical route through childhood and adolescence. “You’re going to go far,” they said. Doctor, lawyer, university, masters, career, grades, exams, excellence, achievement. Words that had been thrown around ever since I could remember. I learned to associate achievement with academics. Excellence with top exam grades. Happiness with perfection.

But where did it get me? Well actually, it got me a free pass to the psych ward. For four months. And when I came out, what did I do? I threw myself back into the world of education and exams, probably even more vigorously than I had been before.

And eventually, the second inevitable crash came. Although not quite as catastrophic as before, it took me to the depths of the darkness I had come to know as depression. Yet this time, I was different. I stopped. I pressed pause. Sat back and thought, what do I want my life to become? And the answer to that was simple. I wanted to be free. Free from my thoughts, from my struggles, from the restrictions placed on me not only by society but by myself.

So I walked into college, and I left. And initially, I felt guilty. Guilty I had “let people down.”

It can be hard knowing you’ve made a choice for yourself. My parents probably wanted me to stay at college. I know my teachers did. My friends probably can’t understand why I did it. That’s scary. But scary can be good. I have made a choice to help me. To allow myself to grow and discover what it is that makes me happy. And you know what? That’s OK.

If we all spent our lives making decisions based on other people’s opinions, would anyone ever be happy? There is only so much satisfaction and happiness other people can bring us. But at the end of the day, I believe I will never truly be happy if I do not love myself.

So, go. Take a shower. Go for a walk. Travel the world. Eat a pizza. Quit your job. Do the things you tell yourself you’re “not allowed” to do. Free yourself from the restrictions that have trapped you. Live, laugh, love, smile.

Because I believe you will not regret making a choice that gives you the freedom to become what you’ve always dreamed you could be.

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Thinkstock photo via png-studio.

Originally published: April 18, 2017
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