Choosing Yourself Over Your 4-Year-Plan
By: Sophia Gallegos
Every year, especially when it comes time to register for classes for the next semester, the anxiety of meticulously putting together the perfect schedule to fill all your graduation requirements settles in all students. My friends and I have all at one point put ourselves through emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion (like taking a 20 credit hour semester, pulling regular all-nighters, etc) just to stay on top of the rigorous courses and packed semesters we have chosen. Every time summer ended, I prepared myself to throw self-care out the window. I believed that if I had time for self-care, I wasn't doing my best. Rarely have I met a student who has been comfortable with mistakes when it comes to college. I’ve felt that exact way up until a few months ago.
In the Spring semester of 2019, I withdrew from classes I loved, dropped everything and went to treatment in Bellevue, Washington to work on recovering from my eating disorder, which has been living with me for over 9 years now. I was an unwilling participant in making myself healthy again. In my mind, I was being dragged out of a comfortable world that felt like home and being thrown into something that I never planned on doing. It wasn’t until it was called out by my health care team and loved ones that I realized how long I was putting myself through constant hell just to fit into my perfect narrative. My eating disorder was my tried and true coping mechanism, and the scary thing is that it still is, but that’s something I fight with every day.
The biggest panic set in when I realized that I would have to retake all the classes I had left behind since I needed all those credits to graduate. Staying in school was my constant excuse to not get help, particularly because I’ve felt like graduating in 4 years is the goal and putting any pause on that would only make things worse. But when you’re told you the path you’re on could provide you with maybe 2 more months of living, things change a bit. After spending months in treatment, I was determined to come back to school. Knowing that I wouldn’t graduate in the exact time I planned on still upsets me from time to time but it’s not something I can change at this point, and it doesn’t make me a failure.
Before I had the strength to come back to school, I had support. Without that, I don’t think I would’ve been able to return to school as quickly as I did. I had lots of fights with myself and lots of doubts. To be honest, I still don’t have a gauge for what and how much I can handle academically, socially, mentally, emotionally, etc. but I continue to learn and adjust. And because I went to treatment I gained more than just essential weight, I gained coping skills, and a peace of mind that my life didn’t fall apart. I really never believed anyone when they told me that seeking external help was nothing to be ashamed of, but after meeting the people that I did, I know that it takes an incredibly strong person to get help.
We are students, we are professionals, we all hold so many titles we‘ve picked up in life but none of those matter if we aren’t here to see them through. And that’s something I took a long time to care about. The best takeaway I can offer to anyone from my experience is to not be afraid of adjusting your timeline. Don’t be afraid of asking for help or taking a day off (or a week/month/year) and don’t fear how others think of you when you do something for yourself that might end up causing you to change your plans. A change of plans is okay and sometimes it’s necessary. If you don’t graduate in 4 years, your world still goes, if you don’t have a job lined up right after graduating, there are plenty of jobs that will value you once you find them. At the end of the day, nothing matters if you can’t contribute your best self to what you value. We all owe it to everyone else to know the true and authentic person we are. The person who deserves it the most is ourselves.