Struggling with school

Note: this is a highly unedited rough draft. 

In the last post, I explained that it took 17 years to complete my associate’s degree. And that I was proud as fuck about it.

But that’s not the entire story. In fact the story is much darker.

My mental health struggles with anxiety and depression only made college worse for me.

I was still reeling emotionally from baseball and I wasn’t making the best personal choices that summer. Then after a chat with The Faa, he gave me Rutgers head coach Fred Hill’s personal number and said he was expecting my call.

But there was just one problem. I didn’t want to go to Rutgers in the first place.

And after a few weeks on campus my old habits kicked in and it was depression and anxiety hell. Needless to say, I knew I didn’t belong there already. And I compared myself academically to every single person on campus. I was certain they were better, smarter, and deserved being there more than I did. I thought I was a dumb art kid that was lucky and didn’t belong there.

My first choice was Notre Dame, but I never applied because I didn’t want to get rejected from my favorite school. My second choice was Virginia Wesleyan, but I was told I couldn’t go there by my parents.

Looking back this is the right choice, but I definitely blamed them for my failure at Rutgers. Unfair yes; but I was an emotional wreck at the time and didn’t have the tools to communicate my issues at the time.

I knew didn’t belong there already. And I compared myself academically to every single person on campus. I was certain they were better, smarter, and deserved being there more than I did. I thought I was a dumb art kid that was lucky and didn’t belong there.

With all of that insecurity and irrational thought running in my brain. I never called Coach Hill. And Rutgers wasn’t a first-choice school on top of that. Notre Dame was, but I never applied because I was afraid of being rejected.

I was not prepared for such a big campus – I should have attended community college first, but my perspective on CCs back that was immature and irrational.

I was not prepared for dorm-living – I was so emotional all the time that I had to hide it. I had very, very low self-esteem. I thought I was ugly. I thought I was a dumb kid from a small town. I was completely insecure. So I promptly failed out after two years. Then failed out of community college. Went into logistics for two years (read: delivery). I started to pick myself back up, was working out, feeling good. And then I decided I wanted better and went back to school at Hudson County Community College.

That’s when I found web design, I flourished, got excellent grades (Honor Society type stuff), gave a speech at the Hudson County School Board, and ultimately got a scholarship to Seton Hall University.

About the time I was attending SHU my mental health started deteriorating again. So, my college experience went on repeat for the second time. Except insert Seton Hall for Rutgers.

I was majoring in something that I was pretty good at, but knew I didn’t want to do professionally. There were definitely better artists than me. Homelife wasn’t great. A baseball scout gave me Rutgers baseball coach Fred Hill’s personal number and said he’s expecting your call (I never called because the baseball wound still wide open from HS). And to top it all off, I never wanted to go to Rutgers in the first place.

It’s true that I struggled in school for as long as I could remember. Some of that had to do with my lack of sleep. It was not uncommon for me to get about 3-4 hours a sleep a night.

What I didn’t get into was the mental health struggles I went

College is a personal anchor for me for a few reasons. One of them is that even today – after a 14-year professional career in design and tech – I feel that not having a bachelor’s degree holds me back. The same is true in 2010 when I wasted so much time, money, and debt failing at being a college student. I had amassed 121 credits spread out among 3 schools but had no degree to show for it.

First, let me preface this by saying that I always struggled in school. A combination of anxiety, depression, and ADHD can make school difficult for me.

I was just starting to understand the business of higher education and more importantly what the difference was between education and learning, and the experience was.

As a professional, I also began to understand how the “real world” actually views degrees and majors. A bachelor’s degree is no longer a door opener – experience and networks are – but a degree certainly won’t close them so quickly.

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