These past 3 weeks have been pretty crazy, so bear with me as I catch up with you all.
I spent my first 2 weeks of college ahead of the game when involved in the Bridge Program. I knew it was going to be a busy schedule, but I didn't realize how busy it was actually going to be. Most mornings, unless I skipped breakfast, I would wake up at 7:30 am. Some nights we would have seminars/activities until 9pm. (Which is past my bedtime because I'm a grandma.) We had free time every day, usually from 4-5. We were all very tired, many of us had a breakdown within the first few days, and it was an abrupt transition. Overall, I could not be happier to have been involved in it. It was insanely beneficial. I was able to experience 3 professors with different teaching styles, and immediately getting into "school-mode." There were less than 40 of us in the program, and by the end of those 2 weeks I knew all of their names, and made friends that I can now say hi to when passing on campus. On weekends, we were able to sign up for city trips, and practice using the T.
Throughout Bridge with one of my professors, we were assigned a narrative essay. The topic for our assignment was, transition. We had to write about a time in our life we experienced a transition, good or bad, and how it changed us. I had many many ideas, because I tend to write about those things a lot, but I wanted to push myself more. I wrote a 4 page essay about my parents' divorce, moving into a new home, and eventually coming to the realization that change is inevitable, but can be for the better. After writing our first draft, peer editing, revising, and submitting our final copy, we were going to share them. During Bridge, we were split into 3 groups and that is who would be in all of my classes. For me, "blue group" became a comfort zone. With my first day of classes we were already sharing deep parts of our lives with each other as strangers. I revealed some personal information and was surprised afterwards of what I had shared, and also that I felt safe enough in my environment to share it. I felt free of judgment. I felt free to write my narrative openly including some unpleasant truths. On our last day of classes, our groups got together with our desks in a circle and one after another we read aloud a passage of our choice within our essays. Afterwards, we were given an index card and were able to vote for 2 names from our group. 1 student from each group, blue, green and orange, would be chosen to read their narrative at the Bridge program's ending banquet.
The 3 professors met together to collect the votes and decide which stories fit well together for presentation. I twirled from side to side in a spinning chair and nervously fiddled with my fingers. Just reading that passage in front of 8 of my peers had left me shaking. Well, if I don't get chosen I can relax, but a part of me hopes that I do. When they came back in the room, my professor Jenne came up to my side and quietly said, "how do you feel about reading your essay?" I tried my best to stay calm. With uncertainty, yet positive surprise I said, "sure" but gave a faint smile and asked "really?" She confirmed the decision, I thanked her, and when she left I realized what I had just agreed to. On the board were 3 names:
They announced us as the 3 readers, and that we would be presenting in the order listed. I sunk back in my seat mumbling "oh my god." My friends were all looking at me. I'm going to be reading a piece of my life story in front of those 30 something students in Bridge, my professors from Bridge, the president of the college, the counseling center, some upperclassmen, etc etc. And I was going FIRST ?
Part of me was trying not to laugh. It was out of nervousness, and cracking up at what the hell I was getting myself into. Another part of me was questioning if I can handle it with my social anxiety, how I visibly shake in front of people, forget to breathe when I speak, going through every possible "what-if" thought. I took a breath and looked at the bigger picture, giving myself some self-talk in my head.
"Ok Haley, that was a really good paper. It deserved to be chosen. If you don't read it, you may feel disappointed with yourself knowing it was good enough to be shared. Just smile before and after you read. If you are nervous, people will be understanding if anything. I will still have people acknowledge me, and maybe people will think 'good for her for getting up there.' I don't present in front of ANYONE by choice. The last time I read in front of a big crowd was at Papa's funeral. It wasn't easy, but I did it and I was so proud I had. I can do it again. No matter how nervous I am, it will be a temporary discomfort, but a permanent accomplishment. Also, what a way to put myself out there at the start of my college career!"
Hours later, I was able to say "I did it. I can not believe I did it."
I did not look up from my paper once, but when I finished and looked up at the crowd, the first face I saw was an upperclassman. She had been crying. I forced a big smile as I returned to my seat. After the banquet, people started approaching me to either shake my hand, thank me, or compliment me. It didn't matter then how much anxiety I was fighting, because I was able to reach people.
I have a long way to go as far as confidence, but I have a long way ahead of where I used to be.
I had told my therapist, mother, and myself that when I got on campus I would get connected with the counseling center. Knowing myself, if I waited too long for when I truly needed it, it would be difficult to get myself there. I stuck to my word, and advocated for myself. Within the first week I set up an appointment over the phone, and am now seeing someone regularly. I am able to continue my skills away from home, and work on new ones.
Now that I have put this long update out there, you can expect my general posts to be coming back on track!
I have been walking A LOT. Well, because I'm in the city so I can, but it is terrific for my mental and physical health!
I have been sticking to my gluten-free diet.
I have been doing yoga, and I plan on taking yoga classes this year.
I'm happy, healthy, and not a bit homesick.
Reminder that the "Ask Haley" column is always running. I'd love to get more submissions in. Talk to me about anything!
College life can be very very busy, but I'm still here. :-)
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.