Year 3; 2015-2016
I entered my third and final year at UO with mixed notions of confidence and intimidation. Maintaining secure and healthy relationships with close friends brightened my optimism. At the same time, I had no clue what I was getting into, in regards to work and classes: a full load of upper-division classes each term with two demanding jobs to boot. I had never pushed my workload that far before. Keeping my knees from buckling was a challenge in itself. I wore my Coachella bracelet even into the winter months to remind me of my motivations and times of joy.
A major milestone was that I was finally living in a space where I felt I could truly be myself. Living with two of my closest friends, I was excited to spend quality time around people I cared for. Our living situation was comfortable for the first few months, but deteriorated over time, to the point of unexpectedly collapsing by spring. I’ll detail my lessons from this experience in a piece about sociopaths, but overall, my living situation ended up being an unwarranted and heartbreaking challenge. As I was facing other trials, I had hoped to rely on the support of my roommates, but I suppose a smooth sea doesn’t make a skilled sailor.
What tried me the most was others’ expectations that I pushed myself to fulfill. There was no amount of self-care that could keep my hair from falling out from stress. I had more panic attacks fall term than I had in years. I needed clones of myself to be in multiple places at once: senate meetings, activist gatherings, classes, group projects, close friends’ parties, favorite concerts, even just in my bed.My schedule was blocked back-to-back from early morning to midnight with something new every day. It was exhausting; I relied on the emotional support from my friends to keep my pieces together. While these challenges pushed me in ways I felt I didn’t quite deserve, they were much needed to build a foundation for my independence and resiliency.
My schedule was blocked back-to-back from early morning to midnight with something new every day. It was exhausting; I relied on the emotional support from my friends to keep my pieces together. However, it simultaneously took a toll when friends of mine didn’t understand my workload and felt I was neglecting them. While all these challenges pushed me in ways I felt I didn’t quite deserve, they were necessary to build a foundation for my stamina and independence.
It seemed ironic. I was accomplished with many friends cheering me on. Yet I found myself frustrated every day after work, and unmotivated to complete school assignments other than as a means to an end. The notions of the upcoming festival season and eventually moving to Berlin were the lights at the end of the tunnel. I knew that if I invested myself into the work now, it would be worth it in the end.
All my accumulated lessons from prior years surfaced during this time, putting me in a position to either drown or apply my wisdom. I was forced to practice everything that I had ever learned about healthy living, achieving goals, and self-love. The challenges solidified these practices in my everyday life, and today I feel secure in my abilities to live a well and balanced lifestyle.
To symbolize this period of significant growth, I imprinted a tattoo that I had wanted for six years on my ring finger. A permanent band to dedicate myself to myself; my happiness and self-care would no longer be sacrificed for anything. I couldn’t be more grateful for this constant reminder.
By spring term, a wave of relief washed over me. The hardest parts of my jobs were over, and I could finally enjoy my last months at UO to the fullest. I’m not sure if I ever really got to that part, though.
Summer term, my final term, was hands-down the most challenging period of my entire life (thus far– knock on wood). I was taking 16 credits of the hardest classes left in my requirements, a challenge I overestimated my abilities to handle. I had not cried over class-related frustrations since high school trigonometry, and there I was: in my living room, questioning if I had completely ruined my hard-sought graduation plans.
Never before have I been so overcome with worry for myself and my friends. Two of my closest friends were suffering under serious, grave conditions. I gave myself to these people in ways I had never before; a generosity from an unwavering supply of love.
In the midst of these challenges, these few friends and I also were upset to learn that people close to us were more malicious than we could have ever imagined. For the first time in my life, I had to shut the door on someone I thought to have been a friend, and lock her out of the house she lived in for the safety and well-being of myself and others.
Extreme situations in all aspects: school, work, relationships, romance, health, and finances forced into fruition a strength and courage within me I didn’t realize I had.
We survived, but boy, I wish my time at UO ended differently. Nevertheless, college is for learning, is it not?
In such a concentrated environment, growth is so rapid one can’t even fathom it all as it’s happening. Reflecting upon my time now, I am grateful that my experiences humbled me, yet fortified my strengths in ways I never could have imagined. Thank you to Eugene and all of the people I’ve connected with there. I wouldn’t be the person I am today, someone I love and am proud of, without the adventures you all generously provided me. It’s bittersweet leaving you all so early, a place that I truly felt at home. Nevertheless, I’m beyond excited for the endless upcoming adventures I will share with the life-long friends I made there.