For months, I had been hiding in a dark place inside of me, irrationally thinking that if I just ignored everyone and everything, all my problems would go away. But they didn’t, and instead I waded deeper into the sinking pit of teenage angst.
It didn’t have to be that way, but it took me a while to realize that.
My grades slipped to encompass just enough Cs to lose my Bright Futures scholarship, which I’m petitioning to get back. The store I worked at near USF closed and I was transferred to a store in Wesley Chapel. I lost a person I thought was my friend over a lease dispute for what would have been our apartment, and I’d been getting caught up in the sophomoric drama of losing my boyfriend to someone else.
In the midst of all of it, I lost myself. I ignored my friends and the blinking red light on my phone indicative of new text messages. I stopped checking my e-mail and MySpace. I existed in a selfish little bubble, only participating enough in life to get by. I’d been fighting the battle of depression that was waging inside of me like two wolves, tearing apart my innards, tangling up my heart strings and snapping at the fragile remaining pieces of my inner strength.
I also lost focus of what is most important to me: my studies. My despondence lent little drive to my ambitions and though I attended my classes, did the work and studied for exams, my heart wasn’t in it and my grades reflected that.
I came out of high school as a borderline arrogant overachiever who graduated with honors, ran the school paper and had been published professionally. I walked out of my second semester of college considering the possibility of dropping out.
I attempted to drown myself in a sea of self-pity, waiting for someone to rescue me until the realization hit — no one was ever going to come. I had to save myself. Life had been pushing my head under the water for too long, affecting my attitude and keeping me from reaching my full potential.
So I took summer classes to bring up my GPA and the loans to fund them sobered me up. My managers at work continued to work around my class schedule and encouraged my primary focus to be school. My friends persisted in calling, e-mailing and texting even after I had locked myself away. My parents also put up with my brooding attitude, stepping in to give me advice and kick me in the butt as needed.
The problem with me was that I thought college, and adulthood, would come as easy as high school.
I thought that independence meant doing everything by myself, and I lunged at the opportunity to move out. I put work over school so I could afford all of my bills, and I blew off studying to “fix” things with my boyfriend, when all it did was push him farther away. And, as often happens when you bite off more than you can chew, everything fell to pieces.
Through all of this, I’ve learned what adulthood actually entails: knowing when to ask for and accept help and advice, knowing when to walk away from an unhealthy relationship and start anew and, above all, accepting that I am going to make mistakes, which is perfectly OK if I learn from my experiences.
Do I regret anything? I can’t say that I do. I’m a firm believer in the idea that things happen for a reason, and I’m convinced that every mistake I’ve made is a stepping stone in the direction toward the person I’m supposed to become — someone who is more intelligent, more humble and definitely more wise than the 19-year-old girl I am today.
My parents always told me that the purpose of sharing their anecdotes was to help me learn from their mistakes so that I would not make the same ones. Unfortunately, newly independent college students are stubborn and fickle, and often choose to learn things the hard way. However, if this is the only thing you read for the remainder of your college career, take my words to heart.
We are all adults in the same boat, educationally speaking at least. We all struggle with relationships, friendships, finances, and balancing work and school. The most “grown-up” thing to do is accept that there will be an abundance of struggles and wrong choices and continue to pursue your aspirations despite these hardships.
Daylina Miller is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.