How I survived my return to college after briefly dropping out, because repeating classes isn't shameful
When I was a sophomore in college, my anxiety and depression —which had reared their ugly heads the previous year — finally overpowered my will to sit still in a place where I didn’t want to be anymore. I was training for a life I no longer desired. Each commute to school felt pointless and all-consuming. Every minute of my young life felt old, like it was withering away whenever it was spent on class-related matters. The future I had pictured for myself in high school had grown into a nightmare I had to escape, but I kept running right towards it.
So, finally, I stopped.
I began to skip some classes. And then I skipped some more.
And one day, I was a college dropout.
It wasn’t a planned decision, nor one made with the soundest of minds. I had no idea what I was going to do next, or if there was even a “next” anymore — all I knew was that I had to get out.
Oddly enough, I was back in school the following year. I had to give it another try. I had worked too hard to get in; I panicked at the idea of losing everything because of an impulsive decision I made at age 19.
I knew this wasn’t the time to make any kinds of life-altering choices, so, given the chance to return to school and repeat my courses, I took it.
Getting back to class was hard, initially. I spent the first couple of months feeling numb and detached. I feared seeing the situation too clearly — that I was struggling or incapable. That feeling faded eventually, and I ended up doing just fine.
If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation as fall semester begins, you might feel nervous and deflated — but don’t worry.
Here are some things you can do to ensure that you’ll survive these classes (and you will!):
First, be practical: don’t assume that you already know things you don’t. When you repeat a class, the course material might feel familiar enough for you to let your brain sleep-walk its way through. Staying present can be a challenge — especially if, like me, you find that reviewing information feels boring and unnecessary.
But try and recognize this as a second chance, a second start, and study accordingly.
If you have any, use your free time! You might not be retaking all of your courses — but that can deepen the feeling that you’re wasting a year on these classes. However, that needn’t be the case. When you’re not studying, you can also learn to play an instrument! Flirt with a new language! Read all those classic novels you were saving for retirement! (I say, grandkids can wait, Jane Austen cannot). The possibilities are endless.
Don’t beat yourself up.
Whatever brought you to this point in your college career is just part of your journey. Embrace it.
If there’s a lesson to be learned, a chance to turn a wrong into a strength, then learn it and move on. Read some feminist poetry and let the gospel guide you home. Onward!
Most importantly, you have not fallen behind. Your life hasn’t been cut short. I know it feels that way, but I promise you, it hasn’t.
When I had to face the aftermath of dropping out of college, it felt like my life wasn’t mine anymore. I couldn’t recognize it. As dramatic and eye roll-inducing as it sounds, it truly felt like my life was over, that my fate had been sealed.
But it wasn’t. I’m still young! I still have so much time! (I mean, sure, who knows, but fingers crossed!)
And here’s the thing: I didn’t lose any time.
My life kept moving forward. For better or worse, time never stops. I looked at the bullet hole-sized wound I thought that dropping out had caused me, and I realized it was nothing but a scratch. Not my first, and not my last.