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Being A College Burnout

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anxiety and college
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It’s been ingrained my mind that college is a MUST. Higher education is completely necessary for success, and as smart as I was throughout my school years, I thought I had college in the bag. But I was dead wrong.
            It’s a common trend in most successful high school students- once we reach college we become total burnouts. It’s like we’ve completely forgotten how to hold ourselves together. Maybe it’s the longer class periods or the overwhelming feeling of adulthood that does it. It’s a crushing weight of deadlines, essays, midterms, and debt.
            I could just be being dramatic, but am I wrong? Is success really the answer to life? Are we doomed to continue paying out the ass for secondary education so we can clock in punch cards for a few extra dollars each hour? Is it worth the breakdowns, the hair loss, the bodily strain to have what society deems “the high life”? Why am I asking you all these questions? There’s no clear answer, but here is my opinion.
            It’s all a load of crap.

            Now I'm not saying we should all just up and quit on ourselves, but sometimes you can reach your goals on a different and unexpected path.
            I began school as a Journalism major. I was thinking that getting paid to travel and write would be the ultimate goal and I could do everything I wanted. For me, being rich and successful wasn’t the goal- doing what I loved to do was. And after dragging myself through three years of college, I realized that I hated journalism. I lacked the ability to approach people, which is what 90% of investigative journalism consists of. No matter how much I tried to push myself, I always froze before I spoke to anyone. I imagined them brushing me off or making rude comments about my questioning. I wound up sleeping instead of going out and doing assignments. And in order to avoid the embarrassment of not having anything to turn in, I just skipped class.
My grades reflected my struggles, although to most it looked more like laziness. I didn’t avoid everything because I didn’t feel like doing it; I avoided it because I had such a terrible mental block I physically couldn’t bring myself to speak to anyone. It blows my mind that there are people out there that can walk up to anyone and jut start talking like it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even faze them. I repeat to myself “It’s just a conversation, and you do it all the time” but something about interviewing a person is different. It feels so much more official, and I guess that’s what makes it so much more terrifying.
I was determined to stick it out anyways, so I made an attempt to see a counselor on campus and got on some anxiety meds. The medications helped with the general anxiety symptoms- my symptoms then were a lot milder than they are now. I spoke with a counselor about my inability to complete my assignments, and she recommended ways to overcome that. These methods involved things like touching calming materials before or during speaking. For a while I tried to keep something in my hands to fiddle with when I talk to people, otherwise I would tear the skin around my fingernails to bits.

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She also suggested calming essential oils to smell when I felt anxious. I most often use peppermint, but scents like lavender, chamomile, frankincense, ylang ylang, and vetiver also help to relax and soothe anxiety. Since I live in a house and not a dorm anymore (thank God), I like to put my essential oils in a warm bath. But before that, I carried it around in my purse and would whip it out to sniff when I felt some panic coming on. I'm sure it looked pretty bizarre, but I had to not think about it or I would increase the panic.
Even though I made the efforts to rectify the situation, it was all still too much, and halfway through my junior year I withdrew. I talked about going to school somewhere else, but honestly I was just so burnt out I didn’t even want to think about it. I was glad I didn’t have to deal with it anymore, and I felt relieved. That is, until the reality of what I had done set in.
The semester ended a couple of months later, and even though I wasn’t attending anymore I was still stressed because I didn’t know what to do with myself. The bulk of my learning was for a job I could never accomplish, and regardless of my anxiety I found myself working several different customer service jobs and I absolutely hated it. I had to go off all my medications because I couldn’t afford to go to a doctor (I was seeing a campus doctor for free while in school) so the feelings of hopelessness and despair were falling heavily on me. I cried before, during, and after work; I rage quit two jobs because I just couldn’t deal with people.
More than anything I just wanted to lie in bed and sleep the rest of my life away. Having weekly meltdowns took a lot of energy, and doing anything was just too much. I kept beating myself up because I had quit on my education, and I debt I couldn’t afford to repay loomed over me. I was a loser.
 
It’s been a year and a half since I stopped attending school, and I only slightly regret it now. I’ve come to realize that if I put my mind to it, I can accomplish the things I wanted to do without school. Of course I learned some useful things in the few classes I did take, but I’ve also discovered that there’s nothing Google or the public library can’t teach. I’ve learned more seeking out the information myself than I did spending $16,000 in education for a few tidbits.
All I want to do is create, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. Maybe one of these days I’ll go back and finish just to say I did it. But is it necessary? Only if you need it to be. In my case, it’s not worth the blood, sweat and mental dysfunction.
College is not the holy grail of success. It’s your passions and determination that get you where you need to be. I’m not gonna encourage everyone to just up and quit school, but it’s important to know that just because you never went, or couldn’t finish, it doesn’t mean you’re destined for failure. Maybe there’s a different path that will work the best for you. Stay true to your dreams, and you can accomplish anything.

Comments

  1. Your post totally resonates with me! After coming out of college with massive debt and anxiety and no job prospects, its hard sometimes to wonder if it was all worth it. I know it was, but I definitely feel like now college isn't the end all be all!

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  2. Honestly, I have spent 5 years at a university studying to become a teacher. After I finished my first year at a primary school after receiving my degree, I have decided that teaching is not for me... I also wonder if I have wasted my time, despite everyone telling me "you gained experience by going through it"... What a thoughtful blog post!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! It's hard going all those years just to find out you're meant for something else. But it's worth it to get on the right path 🌸

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